The taxi driver from Durham railway station was unusually chatty: his spare time job, he said, was as a football agent and his client was a young lad called Paul Gascoigne.
It was 1986, possibly 1987. Though agents were still almost unheard of, young Gascoigne was very fast emerging at Newcastle United. I asked the taxi man if he might set up an interview – no problem, he said (and, of course, no fee.)
We met, Gazza and I, in the Newcastle Arms, within sight of St James’ Park – no security men, no minders. none of the risible army of supposed public relations professionals, no agents. (The agent was probably driving his taxi.) He’d just finished training.
We each had two pints, maybe three, and two cheese and onion toasties. He was friendly, engaging, full of hopes, greatly quotable, had absolutely no side and he stood his round. I wish I could find the cutting but it’s long since disappeared from the library at work.
We didn’t kiss, though.
The only other time I met Gazza was at the Magpies’ Benwell training ground several years later. I was there for another reason, long forgotten, he was among a crowd when he spotted me. “You’re the guy from The Northern Echo with the cheese and onion toasties,” he said, almost excitably, and stopped for another little chat.
Much has happened since, but I was glad – if a bit surprised – that he was acquitted today. Clearly the poor lad has a problem with alcohol, probably he has a problem with picking his mates, but at heart, I reckon, he’s still as good as gold.
The agent got nothing for sorting the interview, but it seemed only reasonable to give a tip for his taxi driving. I think it was five bob.