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Our writer Derek Clark spoke to six players who had the thankless task of facing up to Rangers hero Paul Gascoigne.

They share their memories of the enigmatic genius.

Genius is a word often used to describe Paul Gascoigne and no wonder.

Scottish football was fortunate enough to witness him at his scintillating best - and just how spoiled we were.

The Geordie arrived in a blaze of bleached blonde glory when he pitched up at Ibrox from Lazio in the summer of 1995.

His first season in Govan was spectacular as he helped Rangers win their eighth league title in a row, single-handedly doing so in that penultimate game against Aberdeen when he netted a hat-trick as the Light Blues came from behind to win 3-1.

He would dazzle on the sun-kissed Hampden pitch that summer too as he and Brian Laudrup tore Hearts to shreds in a 5-1 Scottish Cup final massacre.

We were graced with moments of unadulterated magnificence but there could be flashes of madness flung in too, that was Paul Gascoigne in all his glory.

As we marvelled at his brilliance in the stands, just what was it like to go up against him in battle?  It’s fair to say life was never dull when Gazza was facing you.

NICK DASOVIC - Ex-St Johnstone

“Paul Sturrock always kept saying to me, ‘He’s yours! He’s yours! You take him! You take him! Wherever he goes you go.’ “That was kind of my role with him and we got into some heated battles.

“It was awesome playing against him and I’ve been very fortunate in my career to play against the likes of Brazil at the top, the team that won the 94’ World Cup, the Spains, Turkeys, Hollands and Germanys.

“I’ve got to play against some of the top players and countries and I can honestly say Gascoigne is the best player I’ve ever played against.

“He was just an absolute magician.

“I mean this in the nicest possible way but he could be a psycho on the pitch. He could go from shaking your hand and saying, ‘How you doing mate?’ to literally 30 seconds later being studs deep into your chest. That was just how he was.

“I remember one day when I had to mark him at Ibrox and Paul Sturrock’s like, ‘You mark him wherever he goes.’

Rangers Review: Gascoigne evades a tackle from St Johnstone's Paul Kane as Nick Dasovic looks on Gascoigne evades a tackle from St Johnstone's Paul Kane as Nick Dasovic looks on

“Gascoigne was getting tired of me, he’s like, ‘Get off my back!’ and he starts calling me Quasimodo and all this stuff, this was my pet name.

“It got to a certain point where he says, ‘Listen, let’s go for a jog Quasi!’ and he started running and jogging around the pitch aimlessly to show how stupid I could look.

“He did a good job of it to be fair but it was always a pleasure and a battle playing against him for sure.

“I learned very early in my career that you let the sleeping dogs lie, you don’t poke the bear, you just leave it.

“I can honestly say, at that time, Rangers for me, in all the five or six years I played in Scotland, that Rangers group was by far the most talented group of players assembled at the one football club.”


“The first time I played against him was at Ibrox.

“I never knew the boy but I remember walking down the tunnel and he’s saying to a couple of our boys, ‘How you doing? Where you off to tonight after the game? Are you going into town for a few pints?’

“The boys are pishing themselves laughing going out before the game. You’re all psyched up and he’s asking you where you’re going for a night out.

“But even during a game, he talks all the time.

“I remember a couple of times when we were playing, if you did something good or you had a shot he’d run by you and pat you on the head and say, ‘Unlucky wee man.’

“But he was some player, the talent he had, he could take a game by the scruff of the neck and just destroy teams.”

Lawrence played a starring role, unknowingly, in the iconic photograph where Gascoigne appeared to be nipping his backside and it’s something that follows him even to this day, a mere 25 years later.

“What I can remember is, and this is incredible, the morning after the game, it must've been Sunday, I think it was midday and I got a phone call from a boy from the News of the World and he says, ‘Have you seen your picture in the paper this morning?’

“I had been out the night before so I said, ‘No.’ "He said, ‘There's a picture of Gascoigne kind of nipping your bum and making a face to the camera, are you happy with that or do you think he’s out of order?’

“I said to the boy, ‘I’ve not seen it right, see when I’ve seen it, give me a call back in a couple of hours and I’ll tell you.’

“I’m away down to the shop, I buy a paper, have a look at it and everybody’s messaging me by then saying, ‘Some picture with Gascoigne’ and I’m going, ‘Brilliant! Brilliant!’

“I phoned the boy back and I said, ‘By the way, are you phoning me trying to get Gascoigne to be disciplined?’

“He said, ‘No, we’re looking to know what your feelings are?’ I said, ‘Nah, I’m not even going to mention it, he is what he is.’

“It’s strange because he looks as though he knows the camera is on him at that time.

“I don’t know if it was just pure chance or if he’s seen the boy going to take a picture of him and I’ve been standing next to him and he’s thought, ‘Right, I’ll do something,’ but it’s my claim to fame now!

“It was in 1996 and you still get people putting it up now on Twitter, Facebook and other social media.

“I’ve got a copy of it on the wall in my house, it’s an iconic picture and the good thing I like about it is, it’s not the fact I’m in it but it’s Paul Gascoigne so if I’m ever out and people recognise you and you get talking to them, it’s always a good picture to show them.”

Nipper, who had lost two previous Scottish Cup finals with Airdrie, had hoped it may have been third time lucky when he came on for the injured Gary Locke in 1996, unfortunately, Gascoigne and Laudrup had other ideas.

“Him and Laudrup that day, honestly.

“People were saying it was the Gordon Durie final because he scored a hat-trick but see Gascoigne and Laudrup that day, fucking hell!

"On that form, they would’ve destroyed anybody that day.

“The thing is, I was optimistic because that was my third cup final in about five years because I had played in 92’ and 95’ with Airdrie and lost them and I thought this is my chance, third time lucky.

“We beat Rangers a couple of times that season, the 3-0 game at Ibrox when Allan Johnston scored a hat-trick, we annihilated them that day so we knew we could beat them.

“But when Laudrup and Gascoigne decide to turn it on, there’s no answer to it.

“To be up against these players when they were in their prime was a big learning curve but it was a sore one to take, 5-1.

“Jim Jefferies would tell us to just try and get as close to Gascoigne as you can before he gets the ball, if you let them get their head up as the ball is coming to them and take a touch he’s going to be all over you.

“So get on tight and make sure their first touch has to be spot on.

“But unfortunately when they guys are on it it’s very hard to do that.

“You could start a bit of nonsense and try and wind him up but then it might put you off your game so it can work two ways that kind of thing.

“I can remember Gascoigne got a few bumps and bruises that day because our boys weren’t hanging about but he just got up and patted boys on the back of the head.

“It was one of his good days and you can’t stop players like that.

“He was brilliant for the game and it was a pleasure to have played on the same park as him.

“He’s an absolute banger but full of fun. When he got on the park he was so talented.”

MARK REILLY - Ex-Kilmarnock

“Gascoigne was incredible.

“Back then, you could obviously get away with tackling. Let's just say the first chance I got to let him know I was there and maybe follow-through slightly without hurting him, let him know he was in for a game.

“I always knew from his reaction whether it was going to be a tough day for me.

“I knew if he ignored me then he was really switched on and he was really at it.

“Whereas if he was the opposite, I mind one night for example at Ibrox, it was a midweek game, I think we eventually lost 4-2.

Rangers Review: Gascoigne and Kilmarnock's Mark Reilly wrestle for the ball Gascoigne and Kilmarnock's Mark Reilly wrestle for the ball

“Early on, the first chance I got, I tackled him to let him know I was there so to speak.

“The ball quickly went down the left-wing and he's jumped up and he's punched me and then the game's still going on and he's just ran up and volleyed me!

“He's looking at the two linesmen and the referee and nobody's looking so he's just volleyed my legs away from me.

“I'm lying on the ground then he came up to me and apologised.

“Then two minutes later, he's up and in my face again.

“Rangers got a penalty and I can remember saying to him, 'You're going to miss this.'

“And he did, he missed it so he came back to me and he's talking to me saying, 'I can't believe I missed that.'

“I said, 'That's because you're hopeless.'

“I knew when I had him in that kind of frame of mind, he was, let's just say, a wee bit distracted. But when he was on it, he was incredible.

“He had everything, he was powerful, right foot, left foot, he'd run at pace with the ball.

“If you went to his right side, he'd move the ball to his left side and just put that arm out and hold you off.

“He's probably the most talented player I played against, he was incredible.”

JOHN HENRY - Ex-Kilmarnock/Falkirk

“At that time, he and Brian Laudrup were the main men in their team but obviously they had a really strong team.

“I played against him maybe three or four times but I do remember one game at Ibrox we played and it was a comfortable Rangers win but everything went through him and he ran the whole game really.

“He was capable of doing that when he was on song.

“You obviously don’t enjoy it at the time, you’re not standing admiring him when you’re playing against him of course but you can still appreciate somebody’s ability and natural talent and he had that in abundance, he was a fantastic player.

READ MORE: What was it like facing Rangers legend Brian Laudrup? Five defenders tell their war stories

“Most times you do come off second best but on an individual basis it didn’t mean you couldn’t still give a good account of yourself and I’d like to think on occasions I did that.

“You had an extra spring in your step when you came up against Gascoigne.

“In terms of clear instructions and tactics, it sounds like the dark ages but there wasn’t an awful lot that was happening in that department back then.

“I can’t speak for other teams or Rangers but certainly at Kilmarnock at the time it was just more off the cuff, you got your formation and you played in that but in comparison to what it’s like now in terms of the amount of information there’s no comparison.

“I’m sure one of the games I played against him, he revealed he had two whiskies before it or he was still half cut from the night before the game but he still ran the show.

“I swear I can remember reading it thinking, ‘I’m sure he played out his skin that day.’

“He was a fantastic character, there’s no doubt about that and a brilliant talent.

“But he’s a genius at the end of the day but they say with geniuses sometimes they’re just on the edge. He played that way and it did cost him but what a great character.

“I’m sure Durranty told me one time he was in the showers and he peed on someone's leg.

“If you’ve got your back to somebody in a shower you’re not going to really notice where the hot water’s coming from!

“Obviously Rangers got a great benefit from him but so did the Scottish game, it lifted the profile.

“It was great to be playing in the Premier League at that time coming up against him, it was a golden time.”

IVO DEN BIEMAN - Ex-Dunfermline

“Gascoigne was something else. The awareness that he had, you couldn’t get close to him.

“Really good players always make time and space for themselves and he did it with such ease.

“He wasn’t even challenged in the number of games he played in Scotland, he just walked through games.

“If you see how quick he is and how much energy he had at the time, he was just amazing with his ability, with his drive, with his skills, passing left, passing right, both feet.

“Just a fantastic talent and a fantastic player.

“Unfortunately, the mental side of it wasn’t as good which didn’t bring out the best in his career.

“I don’t think, playing against Dunfermline, he would see that as a challenge - he would see that as a walk in the park.”

GREIG DENHAM - Ex-Motherwell

“I was 19, possibly 20 when I first played against him at Ibrox, we played Rangers several times that season.

“Fortunately for the first game at Fir Park he was either injured or suspended.

“The game at Ibrox, I think the one thing that came over pretty loud and clear was just how confident he was and how willing he was to take the ball under any situation, whether he was tight under pressure.

“He was just constantly demanding the ball and just had such confidence in his own ability, he was demanding of the officials as well, I seem to remember!

“But it was such a pleasure to play against him.

"It was an era where you had Gascoigne and Laudrup and the 9-in-a-row team so it’s just great to be able to look back. They are such good memories and we actually managed to get a draw that day which was good as well.

“I was fortunate enough to go down to Spurs with Garry Brady when we were both about 14 and we were having lunch round about the Spurs first team and, you’re not as close obviously competitively playing against him at that age but to actually play a first-team level game against Gascoigne when you’ve been idolising him for so many years and watched him when he was in his pomp, it was a bit surreal.

“Although you don’t want to look too overawed he still had a presence about him.

“He had Danny Baker and Chris Evans as part of his entourage as well so I seem to remember them coming out after the game and I think they might’ve been worse for wear.

“In terms of nullifying him it was really just a case of trying to keep him as far away from your 18-yard box as possible and don’t dive in because you knew he’d try to get you close to make a tackle and invariably he’d dip the shoulder and away he’d go.

“He had such strong upper body strength as well so even if you were close, it would just be forearm across your chest.

“He was such a strong player and that’s what a lot of people forget, as well as being technically magnificent, one of the best players, if not the best player of his generation, he had such a strong upper body.

“He was very difficult to knock off the ball, I remember the goal he scored against Aberdeen, he must’ve had about five players bounce off him.

“We were always very wary of what he could do and we did try to man-mark him but it was just almost impossible so we learned from that mistake and it was just a case of trying to get tight to him without committing yourself.”