Gazza Wants Another Crack at Glory

Another World Cup encounter with Argentina - so maybe, just maybe, the stage will be set for Paul Gascoigne. As unlikely as it may sound - the 34-year-old was unceremoniously dumped by Glenn Hoddle before the last World Cup in France - Gascoigne is enjoying a renaissance and the whispers are getting around that he may be filed in Sven Goran Eriksson's "possibles" tray.

Arguably one of the most talented footballers that the English game has ever produced, Gazza told a television chat show last week that he'd love one last chance to show the world the talents which made him a household name in 1990. His second-half performance against Southampton last week turned the game for Everton, proving once again that manager Walter Smith is an astute judge of talent.

It was Smith who ended Gazza's unhappy spell at Lazio when he signed the player to Glasgow Rangers in 1995. Gazza proved to be a revelation, his abundant skills and astute footballing brain helped the Rangers to a ninth successive League Championship.

There were a few raised eyebrows when he joined up again with Smith again at Everton in the summer of 2000, but there must be some good chemistry between player and manager because Gazza has managed to stop the drinking rot, and has lost a lot of weight to concentrate on his football. And, in true English midfielder style, his bone-crunching tackles combined with creative spraying of the ball over the field eventually won the day for Everton.

Gascoigne himself says he has not given up hope of making it to the World Cup. But for the time being, he is happy just to play his part in Everton's domestic campaign. The England squad must seem a long way off, particularly as he has to still fight for his place in the Everton team.

Gascoigne is philosophical about his situation, saying last week: "I have got to go out now and fight for a place and I will carry on doing it. I might not be playing again next week, but I don't mind. When I come on, I am ready to do a job for the club and that's what is important. I just have to keep on playing for my club. It would be great achievement if I got back in the England squad, but if I don't, then I will still be rooting for Sven and the guys."

In case you haven't noticed, the Premiership is looking very mid-eighties, with Liverpool on top and Manchester United in mid-table obscurity. Liverpool seem to be doing very well without Gerard Houllier, although we are continually informed that he is directing operations from bed.

The reality is that although Liverpool are not as attractive to watch as Manchester United, they are emerging as the more likely Premiership winners.

This season, Liverpool are playing with extra protection for their back four and are usually to be found with six men behind the ball, sometimes eight. It may not look pretty, but it means they are ready with effective counter-attacking options.

Conceding 11 goals in 13 games, compared to United's 26. Interestingly, in this age of wing backs, Liverpool choose to send their full backs forward much less than other teams. That strategy allows them to close on attackers more easily.

And one must not overlook Houllier's master stroke in signing Polish keeper Jerzy Dudek, who single-handedly kept Derby County at bay last week, and whose form has been outstanding. Liverpool also have that bit of something extra - they are winning when not at their best.