OVER a three-year period between the ages of seven and ten, I fell in love for the first time.

This was true love, hero worship on a massive scale and I was far from alone in my feelings, most English kids born in the early 1980s also falling head-over-heels for this supremely talented individual.

I know what you’re thinking, but I’m not referring to Jet from Gladiators, immaculate as her hair always was after jousting with a pugil stick.

I, of course, refer to Paul Gascoigne, then of Tottenham and England whose skill and sheer love of playing and playing brilliantly made me want to become a sports reporter who could write all about Gazza and the like each week.

He was an astonishing talent and someone so good that he almost single-handedly won an FA Cup, still to this day probably my most exciting time as a football fan (over 20 years ago!).

Obviously his huge talent comes with an element of tragedy, his alcoholism and depression derailing his career and now threatening his life, a prospect almost too grim for me to contemplate. But in terms of talent, Gascoigne for me is the best I’ve seen in the flesh, the most complete player, and the greatest entertainer.

Until now. Because there is a contender to succeed the esteem I held Gazza’s talents in, and that’s Wales’ own Gareth Bale.

In the past two weeks I’ve sat enthralled as he scored a wonder goal at Carrow Road, stood behind the goal as he scored a stunner at the Hawthorns, watched him practically beat Austria on his own (and score) and then entirely beat Newcastle United on his own.

Bale’s pace, power, adroitness and confidence mark his as a unique, one-of-a-kind talent who is now in my view head-and-shoulders Britain’s best player.

The sadness for me is that he won’t be at White Hart Lane forever. The wonderful thing for you though, is that he’ll always be Welsh.