In the old days, when a British star went to Italy, he disappeared. There would be bulletins from time to time but these would be irregular and mostly scandalous and their import was likely to be reassuring: our favourite would soon be home. In the case of Gascoigne, though, we heard from him each week, on Channel 4’s Gazzetta Italia, a Saturday morning compilation of Italian soccer news, ‘presented by Paul Gascoigne.’ And, when possible, the same channel would feature Lazio on their Sunday afternoon ‘live match from Serie A.’ Before we knew it, we were getting to be experts on Italian football: would Juve get their act together this year, had Fiorentina bought too many forwards, would Napoli survive the departure of Maradona to Seville? We knew about Vialli’s head-shave, Roberto Baggio’s pigtail, Daniel Fonseca’s teeth. Channel 4’s timing had been perfect. With Des Walker, David Platt and Gazza at three different Serie A clubs, there was always a good chance of a Brit slant, and the Gazzetta briefing allowed us to talk knowingly of Des’s rivalry with Lanna or of Platt’s with Andy Moller; it gave us the context and the gossip.
Gascoigne, we heard, was getting 1,000 pounds a week for his Gazzetta chores, and these were hardly onerous. He appeared briefly at the top of the show, saying something like: ‘Hello, I’ve had a very interesting week. But more about that later. Now this . . .’ and we would then be handed over to the voice of Kenneth (‘They think it’s all over!’) Wolstenholme, which would lead us through the last week’s clips. Then came James Richardson with a somewhat shrill resumé of the Italian soccer press. And then back to Gazza for two minutes of anodyne reflections on ‘my week’: ‘As you can see I had a very tough match this week. The England match was very good but on Sunday people say I looked tired. It wasn’t that I looked tired; it was because we were up against a very, very strong team in Milan–one of the best teams in the world.’
In addition, there were Gazza’s Golden Goals–‘They have a panel of guys who choose but I am asked my opinion’–and Gazza’s prediction of next week’s Serie A results: ‘Ancona versus Parma. This will be a tough match. Zero-zero.’ This sequence of the show was so nakedly unauthoritative that after a few weeks it was quietly dropped.