So there I was, working behind the counter in the Selfridges, Oxford Street branch of Our Price in the summer of 1990, filing away titles from our large selection of VHS tapes, when a well-to-do middle-aged lady gingerly approached the counter.
“I say,” she announced, by way of introduction. “Do you have any Gezza videos?”
Being Scottish, and finding upper middle-class English accents repellent, I took a deliberate few seconds to process her question. But I knew what she was after. Gascoigne was everywhere. Yes, he was a skillful (bordering on genius) footballer but his fame and infamy had spread into English pub and playground folklore because the chubby little Newcastle lad had burst out crying on the field during the 1990 World Cup semi-final in Italy after receiving a yellow card.
“Oh, you mean Paul Gascoigne?” I said. “No, I’m afraid there’s nothing available at the moment.”
Ah, the golden age of VHS. Even in the dark days before instant information, the public imagination about the possibilities and probabilities of video tape ran riot. They automatically assumed that a video of any world event would be available in any shop, mere minutes after it had happened. In fairness, a lot of very cheap and nasty football videos were produced around Italia 90. I actually bought one: Italy – The World Cup Story. Full to brimming with appalling voiceovers, a total lack of licenced footage and the final time I ever saw Roberto Baggio referred to as a Fiorentina player. I watched it almost once.
I suggested to the upper-crust woman in Selfridges that, if it was cheap, pointless, quickly-produced tat in honour of England’s latest shit-for-brains hero she was after, she need only cross the road to the tacky souvenir stall, where she would discover a t-shirt bearing a photograph of “Gezza” (see above), under which was printed the tiresome old slogan “There Will Always Be An England”. An attention-seeking, unintelligible footballer, bawling and blubbing into his shirt as an English icon? What happened to the old traditional bulldog, I wondered? The stiff upper lip? Was this Geordie lad in mid tantrum really the fabled Best of British? Continue reading