Ally McCoist has revealed a story about Paul Gascoigne whose prank was almost so costly to Gennaro Gattuso that it nearly prevented the Italian from making his debut for the Scottish Premier League champions.
“Rino” as he was referred to by the Gers legend, was desperate to push himself into Walter Smith’s starting XI to face Celtic.
But the Scottish manager was deliberating over whether the then 19-year-old could handle the atmosphere of an Old Firm derby and had concerns over the player’s temperament after he was red carded against Hearts in his previous game.
And during training ahead of the clash with the Hoops, the young midfielder continued in his usual zealous manner.
As McCoist explained in The Scottish Sun: “Rino was only 19 but had played more than a dozen games and made his European debut against Strasbourg.
“Walter had no doubt about the kid’s ability, but whether he had the temperament for an Old Firm game was another matter.
“It has to be said Rino wasn’t exactly soothing the gaffer’s nerves in the build-up to the game.
“He got sent off in his previous game against Hearts and was trying to get back in Walter’s good books the only way he knew how. He was training as if his life depended on it, flying into tackles.
“Problem was, he was in danger of crocking one of his own team-mates!
“Walter was concerned as Rino careered around, tackling potential match-winners like Brian Laudrup.
“So the gaffer called Gazza over to speak to Rino in Italian and stress to him he had to calm down and prove he was mature enough for a game against Celtic.”
However, the England legend took matters into his own hands and did exactly the opposite.
In fact, Gazza did the complete opposite and informed Gattuso that Smith was “furious” with the player and felt that he was not putting in the effort.
Furthermore, the midfielder needed to start putting in the tackles.
As McCoist recounted, this was akin to putting fuel on the fire: “It was a red rag to a bull as Rino launched into tackles and the boys started going down like skittles.
“Rino was in danger of wiping out half of our team and when he saw Walter going apoplectic on the touchline, he probably assumed he wanted more aggression.
“Meanwhile, Gazza had sloped off to avoid the wrath of Walter, who eventually rumbled him.”
Football Insider verdict:
Tales like these were common-place back in the 90s with massive personalities like McCoist and Gascoigne north of the border in a Rangers side that was dominating in Scotland – life was rarely dull. What the story does show is how together the players all were and the importance of a good team spirit. Gattuso was an incredible player with a never say die attitude and always offered 100%. What the Gers wouldn’t give to have a player of his quality in their ranks going into the weekend’s Old Firm clash with Celtic.
In other Rangers news, massive blow for Light Blues as key Murty signing ruled out of Celtic clash.