James Maddison was only eight years old when Paul Gascoigne retired, yet knew plenty about him from homemade montages his father, Gary, had edited for his son’s consumption. He was at Coventry City’s Academy but watching Gazza gave him the sense of football being theatre, where the great showmen can perform.

It was one of the reasons why this summer’s move to Tottenham felt right for Maddison. “I could just see myself in that team, in that kit, in that stadium. It just fitted well for me. And they’ve always had that type of player,” he said. It helped that Gascoigne was also his dad’s favourite player.

Maddison has met expectations in the first four Premier League matches since his arrival from Leicester City for £40 million. Two goals and two assists so far, but they have been delivered with the swagger of a performer enjoying centre stage.

Gascoigne was pelted with Mars bars and responded by eating one, while Maddison has been targeted by away fans and responded by teasing them. “Southgate’s right, you’re s—e” the Bournemouth supporters sang as he took a corner. Maddison cheekily moved the ball out of the quadrant closer to goal, winking to the stands when he got his reaction.

“That keeps me hungry,” he said. “I like the theatre element of almost being the villain a little bit. That keeps me at my best. That’s how I enjoyed watching it and that’s how enjoy playing it.

“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, a little bit more than your bog-standard.

“Gazza was a perfect example. For example, something silly … I remember a clip where the cameras are going down the national anthem and it gets to him and he sticks his tongue out and starts messing around with the camera and going all bog-eyed. And I just love that. That’s why I like interacting with fans and showing my personality.”

Maddison views stick from the crowd as a sign of things going well. He is never far from criticism. His work-rate. His social life. When he posted a topless picture of himself with newborn twins this summer, he was trolled. He found allies from the Mumsnet community, who pointed out the many benefits of skin-on-skin contact between babies and their dads.

For England, fans will bring up Gareth Southgate as there is the perception that Maddison is not trusted. After all, he withdrew from a squad in 2019 through illness and was pictured in a casino shortly days later. Why else would there be a four-year gap between his debut and second cap?

“Listen, it’s important you have a social life as well,” he said. “I am not going to sit in my room and go to bed at 8pm at night. I am a social guy. I have friends and I like to go out as well. That is normal, I think. You need that stimulus in your life - a good balance between family and social life and professional working hard game.

“If you don’t look after yourself you get found out pretty quickly. So I think that is more a perception from the outside rather than people within.”

At the World Cup last season, he made sure he noticeably had a positive attitude around the camp while he was recovering from a slight knee injury, rather than conveying his frustration of being sidelined after forcing his way into Southgate’s squad.

“Gareth gave me a massive compliment as we were leaving. He said he knew it has been tough with the injury and not featuring, but he was really impressed with the way I had carried myself round the group,” Maddison said. “Him putting his arm around me and saying that as we were leaving stuck with me. I made a conscious effort not to be down, even though I was at the World Cup and I wanted to play for England.”

He got his chance when Euro qualifiers started and this season is one of Southgate’s in-form players, at a new club and replacing Harry Kane as Spurs’ new No10.

“I didn’t want the No10 shirt to become free, to be honest, because that meant one thing and I didn’t want Harry to leave,” he said. “It’s my favourite number. I’ve got it tattooed on me, I loved that number growing up as a kid so I was never going to say no.

“I knew there was a chance Harry could leave but it wasn’t all doom and gloom. There was such a good feel with the new manager coming in and new players, and I didn’t feel any hangover from the previous managers. There were connotations around more negative, defensive football and I didn’t feel any hangover from that. Everyone was on a fresh slate and there was a really good energy.”

Maddison’s dad still has his montages on YouTube, with footage of his son’s journey to becoming a professional. The Gazza collection is not published but remains ingrained in Maddison Jr. His other heroes included Wayne Rooney, one of the showmen of the Premier League era.

“When you start playing football as a kid, you don’t play for anything,” he added. “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. And that will never change for me. That’s non-negotiable. That’s how I play. I’m never going to change and that’s why my journey has gone like this and I’m happy to have ended up at Tottenham.”