Stu Forster gives us the photographer’s perspective on the famous ‘Gazza’s Tears’ shot from the Italia World Cup 1990.

As the World Cup comes around once again, fans of a certain age will point to Italia 90 and the ‘where were you?’ moment – specifically England versus Germany in Turin, Italy. The semi final of the 1990 World Cup and one player in particular immediately springs to mind – Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne.

But before Gazzamania gripped a nation, we need to wind the clock back five years to a winter’s afternoon in the north east of England. Here am I, stood on the Gallowgate end at St James’ Park, home of my beloved Newcastle F.C. and keeping us warm amidst the wind, rain we bear witness to the emergence of a young footballer who plays with the enthusiasm of a 10-year old and always a smile on his face. A local lad and a superstar in the making with magic in his boots, sprinkling stardust across the hallowed turf the likes of which I, and my fellow success starved supporters had rarely, if ever, seen. Given his chance by manager Jack Charlton – World Cup winner in 1966 – it was there for all to see. The boy could play. He was something else. He was cheeky, he was perhaps a little overweight, but who cared – he was obviously a very special talent indeed.

Fast forward to Italia 90′ and nurtured by manager Bobby Robson, a fellow Geordie,  who had described him as daft as a brush, ‘Gazza’ had taken the tournament by storm. Upstaging Gullit in the match against the Dutch, outwitting the Belgians and then tearing apart Cameroon in the quarter finals, ‘Gazza’  had come of age and this was his moment. This was his time. A nation waited with baited breath. As we know now, the drama of that night in Turin unfolded like a bad dream for all English fans and for Gazza especially who took England to the brink of a first major final in 24 years but also knowing if we did make it through, he wouldn’t play – having received a late booking which would mean he would be banned from the final. So, cometh the man, cometh the tears and a picture that spoke the proverbial thousand words, and forever etched in our memories.

And so it came to pass that England lost on penalties. Sadly, a seemingly reoccurring theme for years to come, and with Stuart Pearce and then Chris Waddle’s failure from the spot, a nation’s heart was broken.  Gazza was originally to be the third penalty taker but by that point he was distraught and in no fit state to take the stage. What might have been?

Paul Gascoigne was a dream ticket for sports photographers. From being squeezed ‘somewhere painful’ by Vinnie Jones,  to pulling Paul Ince’s tracksuit bottoms down via the Euro 96′ infamous ‘Dentists Chair’ celebration to the obligatory ‘daft face’, Gazza was a gift that didn’t  stop giving and it’s probably safe to say, sadly, his like will never be seen on an English football field again.

Back then, as a young, wannabe snapper myself watching the drama of that semi-final unfold in a pub full of locals and Germans on the Isle of Skye, everything was captured on film.

A recent visit to the Hulton Archive at Getty Images to re-explore our football back catalogue unearthed a number of gems – including many shots from that heart-breaking game which never originally saw the light of day. Akin to an archaeological dig, this trip down memory lane brought to the surface a number of shots that have lain undisturbed for decades – capturing the beautiful game in all its glory, many of which you can see here.

 See more of our images from the archive