Papers uncover terrifying life of Paul Gascoigne
England hero had enough demons for entire squad
There has been some terrific reporting on the story of Paul Gascoigne’s hospitalisation, even if some of it does read like an obituary. All the papers carry some extraordinary insights into the terrifying emptiness of his life and his desperate efforts to fill the void, although the prize for best coverage goes to the Telegraph, with three of their highlights below.
(Ian Wright also does his best to explain the enigma in the Sun: “He was just a normal bloke who was happiest with a pint and a game of pool in his local working men’s club.”)
After he had damaged his cruciate ligament in the 1991 FA Cup final, Gazza moved into (Spurs’ team-mate Paul) Stewart’s bachelor pad, where he would lie on the sofa, flicking every button on all the video, television and satellite remote controls in methodical sequence for hours on end. He would then summon Five Bellies and they would dye each other’s hair, up to three times a day. Just for something – anything – to do to kill the time.
On the eve of the World Cup semi-final in Turin, (John) Barnes had to tell Gascoigne to go to bed. Gascoigne, an insomniac, was looking for someone to play squash with. Fill the hours of darkness. Fill the void until kick-off. Classic, tragic Gazza.
An addictive streak defines him. Everything was done to excess. He needed to lose weight while on holiday in Portugal recently, so he ran down the Algarve beach like a mad-dog Englishman in the mid-day sun. Then, calories shedded, Gascoigne would locate the nearest restaurant for a slap-up meal. He was alone, but he ate for two. A couple of hours later, he could be found further along the beach, in another restaurant, gorging on a second dinner.
I once flew to Genoa, at the request of Paul’s club, Lazio, to discuss his drinking habits as they quite rightly were getting more and more concerned about them. Arrangements were made for me to meet on the evening before the game. What Paul was not aware of, was that I also had knowledge of the amount of drink he had consumed on the night before we played the home World Cup qualifying game against San Marino. In the discussions that followed he opened up and it was obvious that here was a man in need of help, but was not prepared to help himself.
I watched him play the following day, wanting the ball wherever it was on the pitch – a strength and weakness of most great players – before he was most unfairly dismissed. On my return home I received a phone call from the Lazio general manager asking me if I had spoken to Paul about his drink problem. I asked why? Well evidently Paul had become so upset at being sent off he had drank himself silly before the flight back to Rome and then justified himself by saying he was frightened of flying.
I tell this story for the first time, not for a laugh, but for those who were near to him at that period in his life, who were supposedly advising him and helping him. How do you feel now?