They say two things are inevitable in this life; death and taxes.
And it appears, going by last week’s saddening events in Northampton, where Gazza was recorded sneering, slurring and swearing his way through a public appearance, that one of football’s greatest talents is dicing with death.
Celtic fans, Scotland fans, Rangers fans or England fans … only a fool could deny his sublime talent.
This was one of the greatest footballers of his generation … genius. Wasted.
Gazza got on my nerves. As did Laudrup and Gough and other such players from that era; they tortured my beloved Hoops and I hated them for it – in fact, they rubbed salt in the wounds of every Celtic fan and rubbed the cuts with sandpaper. But that’s good, that’s old-fashioned rivalry. Anyone who wishes further heartache for this lost soul needs to examine their outlook on life.
His public battle with the demons, namely alcohol, has been played out in the same fashion as George Best. I hate to conclude that there’s a certain and sad end to this story. I hope I’m wrong.
Gazza is now in America, in yet another bid to beat the booze. If I’m honest, it’s a battle he’s set to lose. We’ve seen it all before and I’m sure many football fans share my fears. We can use the old football cliches. You know, “he’s a winner” and “he can battle back.” It’s all too late I’m afraid. He’s no longer fully in control of his own fate.
Whilst concentrating on his demise; why not look at the root causes though, and at what football can do to alleviate such tragedies.
Serial Tweeter and Arsenal fan Piers Morgan said: ” Anyone who knows Paul Gascoigne knows how desperate he is, and has been, to sort himself out.
“He deserves our sympathy, not ridicule.”
Piers, I’m afraid hacks like you revelled in Gazza’s misdemeanours over the years. It made great headlines. It sold papers and kept the twittering classes tweeting.
Gazza suffered from what a long list of player’s has for a long time, and we see the evidence of it all across the game. We have young men, some of them without any real formal education, grounded not in the ordinary world but in an unreal environment of too much money, too much time on their hands and easy access to booze and drugs. Add to that the hero worship they get, the media attention, the whole world at their feet, and you see how some develop a Messiah complex and others just wildly veer off into darkness.
Many young boys learning the game no longer dream of the moment they can run out onto the pitch for their favourite team; they now dream of the money, and the status and the power. Crazy salaries of over £100,000 a week are banded about and the lure of this kind of wonga has these young, influential starlets salivating with pound signs tattooed on their eyeballs cartoon-style.
Where was the guidance for Gazza? Who is the person, who are the people, responsible for this loose cannon? Who failed to act, to safeguard the man, rather than going out of their way to protect the player, to keep him weaving his magic, like some show pony, abandoned to a lonely stall when the lights are no longer on? Who got rich from his talents all the while watching him come apart at the seams … and did nothing to help because that would have meant sidelining an “asset”?
His mental fragility was all too evident. Gascoigne was as young as 10 when first received therapy, after seeing a close friend knocked down and killed. It was later documented that he developed a penchant for fruit machines, a sure sign of an addictive personality, and something that should have rung warning bells loudly.
His break came at just 13 when hometown club Newcastle Utd signed him. Gazza grew up in a working class family who struggled to get by, yet in no time, he had wealth beyond his dreams… and light years beyond his ability to handle.
It is written that Terry Venables stole the deal to take him from Tyneside to Tottenham from under the nose of Sir Alex Ferguson by simply offering to buy a house for his parents.
This move is shrouded in controversy. Alex Ferguson had reportedly reached a verbal agreement with Gascoigne that he would move to Old Trafford. Ferguson first heard that Spurs boss Terry Venables had sneaked in to sign the player while he was sitting by the pool, on holiday, in Malta. The furious Scotsman immediately phoned from the hotel bar to demand an explanation, only for an apologetic Gascoigne to tell him he had no choice as the North London side had offered to buy his parents a home.
Those who have catalogued the rise and fall of the affable Geordie have argued that the bright lights and many temptations of London contributed to a downward spiral that could have been avoided under strict disciplinarian Ferguson’s watchful eye.
Gazza’s infamous challenged on Forest’s Gary Charles showed a side to him that was to become more prevalent on and off the pitch. It was vicious as well as reckless, something born in an angry head an a tormented mind. The late, great Sir Bobby Robson once described him as being “as daft as a brush” but that was merely papering over the cracks of a tortured soul.
Even a spell Italy could not tame the beast within, with a number of high profile events there, including burping into the mic of the Italian press, among others, often casting a shadow over his class on the pitch, and showing him up as the class clown instead.
Things went from bad to worse as Glenn Hoddle dropped him from the England squad for France 1998. After receiving the news, the fragile Englishman allegedly trashed a hotel room. Hoddle believed Gascoigne to be out of shape, which he certainly was, after being snapped eating kebabs – hardly good preparation for a major tournament.
His boozing with the likes of Danny Baker and Chris Evans made the front pages. Ironically, one the men most responsible for his downfall is now paying for his treatment.
Things went from bad to worse after that, and his long-suffering wife Sheryl divorced him and later Gazza admitted assaulting her.
Gazza went on to coach in China but again, fell foul of the demon drink and after a series of high profile events was sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
Who in God’s name was guiding this man? One of England’s greatest ever stars. Often seen around Newcastle steaming drunk, until he infamously turned up in Rothbury to talk psychopath Raul Moat around, armed with a fishing rod, chicken and four cans of beer. The man was detached from reality.
Whilst Gazza was offering Moat therapy, his agent Kenny Shepherd was sitting having dinner in Majorca, no doubt on Gazza’s money.
Gascoigne is not alone with his problems. Best lost his battle. Jimmy Greaves fought it and won and the only chink of light in this sorry mess is Tony Adams Sporting Chance Foundation. He recognised the lack of help for players coping with such problems. Young players are paid a fortune and some will not cope. They should be protected by clubs and by older pros, the Player’s Union, and educated as much as possible. Not every talent will take heed. It’s not uncommon either to read about modern day footballers being in court accused of sexual offences.
Money, power and fame appear to go to young one’s heads.
Would you want your kid growing up in such an environment?
They should learn about reinvesting their vast wealth. They should learn respect for themselves and others.
Gascoigne will no doubt have little or nothing of the above, given the escapade at Northampton. He appears to have been used by agents and hangers-on throughout his whole life, not even just his colourful career. The notorious Five Bellies might have been a gruesome looking and sounding individual, but he at least appeared to be a genuine friend to the player. Others, well … not so much. These specimens will always be on hand when the bucks and the fame are still in good supply. Crisis reveals them for what they are. Bottom feeding gutter scum who can’t get away quick enough.
His successes and failures clearly outline that our heroes can be equally as vulnerable as you and I. Gascoigne should be sitting with his grandkids in years to come, telling tales of past glories but that, I fear is fairly unlikely.
There may be hope left, but it’s increasingly hard to see it.
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