Paul Gascoigne to Michael Vaughan, my all-time sporting XI - Stuart Rayner

Genius: Paul Gascoigne celebrates scoring against Scotland.Genius: Paul Gascoigne celebrates scoring against Scotland.
Genius: Paul Gascoigne celebrates scoring against Scotland. | PA Wire
IF there has been one good thing about this lockdown, it is that it has given us an opportunity to look back on our sporting heroes of years gone by, and for some, to learn about players they had never seen or heard of before.

I thought I would take the opportunity to write about 11 people who helped to stoke my love of sport.

To be clear, these are not the best sportsmen I have ever seen, just ones who, for reasons I will explain, played a part in developing my passion for various sports. So if you will indulge me, here is my XI:

Paul Gascoigne

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Golden boy: Adrian Moorhouse.Golden boy: Adrian Moorhouse.
Golden boy: Adrian Moorhouse.

For an Englishman who turned 12 during the 1990 World Cup, Gascoigne was like nothing we had ever seen before, at least not on our team.

Who knows how many times I lined up back-garden free-kicks muttering “Gascoigne... Is he going to have a crack? He is you know!”

His injury in the 1991 FA Cup final meant there were more madcap moments than footballing brilliance from there on, but his goal against Scotland at Euro 96 was arguably the best scored for the Three Lions.

Darren Gough

Dazzler: England 's Darren Gough.Dazzler: England 's Darren Gough.
Dazzler: England 's Darren Gough.

From the moment Richie Richardson told him to just concentrate on bowling fast, ‘The Dazzler’ moved onto another level as a cricketer, all charisma and inswinging yorkers.

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The rumbustious batting with which he started his Test career added to the joy, as did pretending to be a ghost as he walked past Shane Watson, spooked staying in the supposedly haunted Lumley Castle the night before, in a 2005 One-Day International at Chester-le-Street.

Like too many Yorkshire legends, he left on less than ideal terms in 2004, but made up for it by coming back as captain three years later.

Tony Norman

Norman was Hull City’s goalkeeper when he came to speak at the summer camp I was on as a youngster with delusions of being able to play between the sticks.

When we went on holiday to Malta in June, 1988, and watched their friendly against Wales, Neville Southall was missing, so Norman was in goal, and when I was at university in Durham, he was one of our local policemen. It really is a small world.

Stuart Pearce

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Once I realised a lack of ability might hold me back in my desire to play in goal, I settled on the position of left-back and who better to look up to than the warrior that was Stuart Pearce? We shared his pain during the Italia 90 penalty shoot-out and roared our relief when he put it right against Spain in Euro 96.

Adrian Moorhouse

Watching on television as a Yorkshireman won gold at the 1988 Olympics, in the 100m breaststroke, was a special moment, and he did it with the tightest finish of the entire meet, winning by a one-hundredth of a second.

David Bairstow

The short boundaries of Scarborough’s North Marine Road were perfect for Yorkshire’s wicketkeeper-batsman David Bairstow, who I only saw towards the end of his career after his difficult spell as captain, but it made you sit up whenever he puffed his chest out and strode to the crease.

Arnie Sidebottom was another favourite of mine, so when I saw their sons reproduce “bowled Sidebottom, caught Bairstow” for the first time, at a Headingley game v Nottinghamshire in 2011, it felt special.

Bryan Robson

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England’s ‘Captain Marvel’ of the 1980s only added to his appeal by throwing himself around so recklessly all the time. Wearing Robson Gold shinpads endorsed by a man with an injury record like his might have seemed slightly odd, but pretty much anything with the midfielder’s signature on it was prized by me.

Even the last time I saw him in the flesh, as Middlesbrough’s player-manager and well past his best, in a North Riding Senior Cup tie brings back happy memories of a player who generally saved his best for far bigger occasions than a pre-season match at the McCain Stadium.

Martyn Moxon

They say never meet your heroes, but when they turn out to be as good a bloke as Martyn Moxon, it is no bad thing.

Perhaps the unluckiest Test cricketer ever, with a top score of 99 made in New Zealand after wrongly being denied three runs given as leg byes, Moxon was a stalwart in some tough times for Yorkshire, a solid opener and excellent slip fielder until poppadom fingers and the captaincy pushed him to mid-on.

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As a coach, he laid the foundations for Yorkshire’s 2001 County Championship win and Durham’s in 2008 when I covered the Riversiders, only to leave both times the season before the famous trophy was lifted, so to see him finally get his hands on it as Yorkshire’s director of cricket in 2014 and 2015 was particularly pleasing.

Phil Stankiste

The one person on the list I can guarantee you have not heard of, but when another Great British gold medal in Seoul piqued my interest in hockey, it was Bob Stankiste and particularly brother Phil who turned it into a passion of mine.

A cultured central midfielder, it was always a pleasure playing alongside Phil for Scarborough, so long as you were on his right-hand side, where he always looked to pass. Fortunately for me, I spent many of those games as an attacking right-back.

Roger Federer

I am one of those who only really watches tennis once a year, when Wimbledon is on, but is there a sportsperson who plays their game more beautifully than Roger Federer? At times, it seemed the rise of Rafael Nadal, then Novak Djokovic, might push him into retirement but at 38 the Swiss is still as graceful on court as ever.

Michael Vaughan

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Another player so beautiful to watch when on form. Vaughan was a teenager when he established himself as Moxon’s opening partner, and I was quickly sold. Having been at Scarborough to see him awarded his county cap, at Old Trafford to watch his first Test century and at Lord’s to witness him bowl Sachin Tendulkar through the gate, it was a proud day when he led his country in a Test.

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