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I'LL SOBER UP IN TIME FOR THE WORLD CUP.

Wildman Gazza yesterday promised to get fit for the World Cup - hours after a drinking bout with Rod Stewart.

Speaking on friend Chris Evans' radio show, the former Rangers hero tried to defuse worries over his form before the biggest tournament of his life.

He said: "Tomorrow I'll knuckle down. I've got nearly a month to get fit.

"If I'm good, I'm in the squad. It's as simple as that."

Gascoigne, 30, did not look in peak condition the previous night as he was half- carried from London's exclusive Pharmacy restaurant by bodyguard Jimmy "Five Bellies" Gardiner. The midfielder made rude gestures at photographers before Gardiner helped him slump into the back of a chauffeur- driven Bentley.

Abandoning plans to go on to a nightclub, Gascoigne, Stewart and Gardiner headed for Evans' London mansion, where the singer reportedly put Gascoigne to bed.

Evans had left the restaurant in Notting Hill earlier.

The booze-up came nine days before England's World Cup warm-up game against Saudi Arabia.

Despite his own confidence over his fitness, Gascoigne's antics will alarm England fans concerned over his injury- plagued season and admission this week that he is a cigarette smoker.

Gascoigne, who left Ibrox for Middlesbrough in a pounds 3.4million transfer two months ago, arrived yesterday morning for a guest slot on Evans' Virgin Radio breakfast show.

He used the programme to claim he was being unfairly criticised, telling his pal: "I've had it up to here, Chris. It's unbelievable. I've had a seven-day break, so what?"

Evans jokingly complained that Gascoigne had dragged him and Stewart - a guest on his TFI Friday TV show last night - into the controversy.

The DJ said: "The press say I was swilling back lager. I wasn't.

"I had two halves of lager and one of those shots, then I went home and you left with Rod Stewart.

"What were you doing with Rod. You're getting Rod into trouble now.

"Apparently Rod tucked Gazza in last night in my house. I don't know because I was being good."

Gascoigne replied: "Sorry Rod, I'm really sorry about that.

"At half-past-nine in the morning I had a fishing rod in my hand and at half-past-none at night I was sitting with Rod."

Former England winger Chris Waddle, another guest on the programme, said Evans and Gascoigne were "lager louts".

And he added to Evans: "I hope you're not going to the World Cup."

But the DJ hit back, claiming he had only been drinking with the others for three hours and insisted he went home at 9.30pm.

He said: "I'm not a lager lout, half past nine I went home and I'm getting all the blame again and I'm sick of it.

"It's not exactly swilling drinks back is it, and chain-smoking.

"I never chain-smoke. I hate smoking. I have a drag and then wish I'd never done that."
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Author:Mulford, Sarah
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:May 16, 1998
Words:479
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