Maverick Maddison insists: 'I'm a cheeky boy, just like Gazza'

Maverick James Maddison loves being cast as pantomime villain as Tottenham and England midfielder insists: ‘I’m a cheeky boy, just like Gazza!’

  • James Maddison is now cementing his position in the England squad
  • Attacking midfielder in line to start against Ukraine in Euro 2024 qualifier
  • He shares similarities with former Tottenham and England star Paul Gascoigne 

James Maddison bounces into this interview at England’s HQ with a smile that illuminates the room.

A smiling Tottenham attacking midfielder? Hmm, sounds familiar. ‘I don’t remember Gazza (Paul Gascoigne) but my dad used to put football videos together — he is a graphic designer and is good,’ says Maddison.

‘He used to put montages together and Gazza features on a lot of them, so I remember a lot of his clips.

‘Before you become a professional, you are a fan of the game and I loved players who had personality, I loved watching players who had a little bit of cheekiness about them.

‘Gazza was a perfect example. I remember a clip where the cameras are going down the players during the national anthem and it gets to him and he sticks his tongue out, starts messing around with the camera and going all bog-eyed. I just love that.

Maddison (left) says he admires players with personality and welcomes comparisons with Paul Gascoigne (right), who had a similar cheekiness about him

Midfielder Maddison is now cementing his position in the England squad

‘I like the theatre element of almost being the villain. That keeps me at my best. That’s how I enjoyed watching football and that’s how I enjoy playing it.’

Maddison certainly has a Gazza way about him. He’s an entertainer, someone who enjoys playing to crowd — just like the 56-year-old Geordie.

The good-natured interaction with Bournemouth supporters, intent on barracking him as he took a corner in last month’s 2-0 win for Spurs, summed up Maddison’s sense of humour.

Cherries fans went from booing to laughing in seconds; you can’t help but find that endearing.

Maddison said: ‘I like interacting with fans and showing my personality. The (viral) clip of me moving the ball out from the corner flag — it’s just little stuff like that which I enjoy doing, that keeps me hungry.’ There are similarities with Gazza on the pitch, too. Both attacking mavericks. Both among the most inventive English footballers of their respective generations.

‘My dad’s favourite player when I was growing up was Gazza — that sort of midfielder who wants to be creative and entertain the fans and be a personality,’ said the former Leicester star.

‘Also Christian Eriksen, in more recent years at Tottenham, but since him they probably haven’t had that type of player.

‘I’d put myself in that category, I’m not putting myself on the same level. But I’m that type of player.

‘I want to entertain. When you start playing football as a kid, you don’t play for anything else.

‘There’s no politics, nothing like that. You play because you love playing football and you do the things you love and you become the player you become because of what you do and what you’re good at. That will never change for me. That’s non-negotiable.

‘That’s why my journey has gone like this and I’m happy to have ended up at Tottenham.’

No wonder he is happy. His partner Kennedy Alexa gave birth to twins in July. And two goals and two assists in his opening five games since arriving for £45million has made him an instant hit with the Spurs fans.

Maddison shares similarities with former Tottenham and England star Paul Gascoigne

Then there’s England. For so long it appeared that Gareth Southgate didn’t fancy Maddison — though the England manager has been at pains to rubbish the narrative that he had a personal problem with the midfielder, having continually ignored public calls to pick him.

But Maddison is now cementing his position in the England squad, having returned to the fold just in time to be included in the World Cup squad.

He hasn’t missed a call-up since and is hoping to start in Ukraine on Saturday. Not that Maddison is taking his place for granted.

‘The minute you start thinking you’re comfortable and you’re in is the minute you’re probably most vulnerable,’ he added.

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