Michael Tonge says he was punched by Paul Gascoigne during a game while playing for Sheffield United.

Tonge was in the Blades first team for eight years, playing 280 times after progressing from the academy.

The midfielder left the club in 2008 to join Stoke City – 12 months after their one-season cameo in the Premier League.

Yet four years prior to that, Tonge went up against one of his idols in a friendly. The Blades, who were in the Championship at the time, went to play Boston United in a pre-season fixture ahead of the 2004/05 campaign.

Boston were a League Two side, managed by Steve Evans and having just signed 37-year-old Gascoigne as a player/coach.

“We were obviously a much better team and I was playing directly against him in midfield,” Tonge told the Full Core Football 24 podcast.

“Gazza was my hero and idol growing up. My time getting into football was the 1990 World Cup. So to play against Gazza was unbelievable.”

The day Michael Tonge got punched by Gazza

Sheffield United v Brighton & Hove Albion

(Photo by Tom Shaw/Getty Images)

What happened next shocked a 21-year-old Tonge.

“It was really innocuous,” the 37-year-old continues. “They had a throw-in and I was just stood behind him and he just turned around and punched me. Not really hard, he just turned around and jabbed me in the face.

“I just stood there shocked and he ran off and got the ball.”

Tonge admits that the incident made him feel differently about Gascoigne for a while. Now he thinks it may have just been a way for his opponent to gain an advantage – or just a case of Gazza being a “character”.

The former England international lasted only three months at Boston and made just five appearances. Evans also left the club in 2007 following their relegation back to non-league.

Boston currently play in the sixth tier of English football in National League North.

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