Paul Gascoigne untold tales: When Gazza crashed the Middlesbrough team bus

Paul Gascoigne was England's most talented footballer of the last 50 years – and a world-class clown off the pitch.

In a new book, Our Gazza: The Untold Tales, a dizzying cast of his former team-mates, managers and club officials tell the stories behind a genius and his relentless appetite for pranks.

A unique collection of anecdotes, compiled by top journalist John Richardson, will make you laugh and cry at the wonderful madness of King Gazza.

Bryan Robson couldn't wait to lead Middlesbrough's first Premier League away trip on their shiny new executive team coach.

But Paul Gascoigne took it for a spin and crashed it, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage.

Boro set off for Aston Villa four hours late after they had to summon a replacement vehicle for their journey and lost 3-1.

Those garden sprinkler tears at the 1990 World Cup defined Gazza's career, but off the pitch he was incurably hyperactive – and an accident waiting to happen.

As a player, Robson was England's very own Captain Marvel who went to three World Cup tournaments. But as a manager, he never thought he would have to fine his best player for hijacking the team bus.

The former Boro boss said: “The lads took to him because the moment he arrived he was full of enthusiasm. He was always passionate about his football.

“But the danger for Gazza comes when he gets bored or he wants to stage a prank. One day at training he decided to jump on to the team coach and take it for a ride. He ended smashing it up!

“It was a brand-new bus that the club had purchased. Gazza couldn’t resist it because it was so new and had that lovely ‘new vehicle’ smell. He intended to drive to the local bookies to put some bets on, but he didn’t get out of the training ground.

“Instead, he went headlong into a big rock. When he came into my office all sheepish-looking after the incident I told him I hoped all his horses would come in first because he was paying for the damage to the coach and would be forking out two weeks’ wages in a fine.

“I knew when I signed him he would be up to something but I suppose not many managers have had to punish a player for crashing the team coach.”

Robson's memory of Gascoigne crashing the team coach was shared by team-mate Paul Merson, who revealed: “It must have cost a gazillion quid because it had just about every appliance known to man on board.

“We were all looking forward to making our first journey but as it sat there gleaming in the training ground car park, Gazza noticed that the keys had been left in the ignition.

“He hopped in. Then he fired up the engine and started the one mile drive to the nearest high street to put some bets on for a few of the lads.

“But when he got to the end of the road that led out of the training ground, he turned right and crashed the bus into a concrete bollard.

“The side of the coach was caved in and the locks on the compartments that contained our kit for the next match had been mangled so the doors were wedged shut.

“We ended up on another coach and having some new shirts sent straight to Birmingham for the game against Aston Villa.

“Gazza was now s****ing himself. A big fuss had been made of our new bus when the club bought it and Gazza wrecked it even before the team had made a journey on the motorway.”

Like other managers, Robson learned to forgive Gazza his pranks and japes – even the costly ones – because he was such a talented footballer.

Robson's only close encounter with Sir Alex Ferguson's famous hairdryer was at the expense of 20-year-old Gazza's twinkling feet leading him a merry dance at St James' Park in 1987.

“He played so well in the first half that it was the closest I ever came to being on the end of the hairdryer treatment from the gaffer.

“I could see him coming towards me in the dressing room and he was raging. I said, 'Gaffer, the kid’s a good player, I’ll get a grip of him. Do you think I want to play this badly in front of my family and all my Geordie mates?' He just exploded: 'Get him sorted then!'

“In the second half I got a grip a bit and managed to tie him down but by then the damage had been done and Newcastle ended up winning the game 1-0.”

*Our Gazza: The Untold Tales, by John Richardson, published by Reach Sport

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