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Big Les on Gazza

Posted on 4 September 2000  - 12:00

English Barclays Premiership

Les Ferdinand describes it as 'the return of the prodigal son' - Paul Gascoigne is back White Hart Lane again on Tuesday night.

Now with Everton, Gazza's appearance will rekindle memories of free-kicks against Arsenal, almost single-handidly taking us to the FA Cup Final in 1991 and, unfortunately, one moment of madness at Wembley that changed the course of his career.

Thankfully, we saw the best of Gazza between 1988-1991 after his big-money move from Newcastle. It was a relatively short spell but such was his impact at the Lane that he will go down as one of the greatest players to ever pull on our famous white shirt.

Striker Les Ferdinand knows just how much it means to the fans to see Gazza again. "You could say it's the return of the prodigal son," he said. "He has a great rapport with the fans here and rightly so. They still love him so it's always a great occasion for both them and Gazza when he comes back."

Of the current staff only Chris Hughton, Ian Walker and Sol Campbell were at the club during the Gazza years. Ferdinand did not play with him at club level but knows him as well as anyone at Spurs having linked-up with him for England during the 1990s.

Ferdinand revealed: "As a fella he's great to have around the squad. He's a laugh a minute and you are always looking for the next joke. He keeps everyone on their toes.

"Paul also has a reputation in the game of having a heart of gold and that's something I've witnessed. I've watched him take off his full training kit and give it out to people and take off his England shirt and throw it to someone in the crowd. He's a good person and there are a lot of people I've come across in my time in football and they've only had good things to say about him."

Like most fans of English football, Ferdinand sighs when he considers what could have been. "Gazza could have been one of the greats without a shadow of doubt but like all great players, they tend to have a self-destruct button," he said. "Some of them push it, some of them don't and unfortunately Paul has pushed his self-destruct button on a few occasions and courted the wrong headlines. But when he has courted the right headlines, for his football, he has been magnificent."

Friends or not, Ferdinand will not extend his best wishes to matters on the pitch - he knows how vital it is for us to beat Everton. "Apparently Paul's started the season really well and there have been flashes of the old Gazza," he added. "Hopefully we won't see too much of that on Tuesday and he'll arrive a happy man but go home miserable. It's important that we get back to winning ways and there is no better place to do it than in front of our own fans."