The pictures released last week of Paul Gascoigne were startling to many including close friends of the former Rangers, Lazio, Newcastle and Tottenham player. Being helped into an ambulance by police, a frail and weathered Gascoigne looked nothing like the joker he once was and way beyond his 47 years. The cause of this is alcohol which has ravaged the player for over a decade now since retiring. In truth the problems began during his career but now that he has lost that connection with the game he loved so much, he has fallen harder down a slippery slope. Quite simply Gascoigne is teetering on the edge of his own self destruction.
An undoubted brilliance with the ball at his feet and arguably one of the greatest talents England has ever produced, Gascoigne is a troubled genius who without the game has struggled to fill the endless hours of nothingness that has plagued his life. Spending hours gambling on slot machines during his playing days has been replaced by a bottle and so the disease took a hold. Alcohol has consumed his life much as it does with any alcoholic with friends and family left stranded unable to help. The only cure is self preservation, realizing the addiction and tackling it head on. But for Gascoigne, rock bottom appears to be lower than where his body is able to go. The addiction has a tight grip on Gascoigne and is not willing to let do without a struggle. Unfortunately only Gascoigne himself can fight this disease head on with the support of others, but he needs to realize what it is doing to him.
Close friends like Harry Redknapp have reached out to Paul and offered their help. Redknapp, now manager at QPR has offered Gascoigne a job at the club coaching his young players in an effort to keep the players morale high to avoid him from turning to drink. Redknapp lives close to the player on the south coast and has even offered to pick him up each morning and drive him in to training. As yet the offer has not been accepted by Gascoigne. Former teammate and Rangers boss Ally McCoist has pleaded with his friend not to give up and to seek help after seeing pictures of the players in recent weeks. The pair who struck up a strong friendship during Gazza’s time in Scotland with Rangers have lost touch in recent months but not for want of trying by McCoist.
“I haven’t spoken to Gazza in a while. I used to speak with him occasionally but he’s always changing his number and it’s hard to get hold of him. We’ve all tried to contact him; I know a lot of the boys down south that I speak to have tried to contact him. But at times you just can’t get a hold of him. He’s an extremely complex character. He will need to try to help himself. The vast majority of that will have to come from inside, there is absolutely no doubt about that. We can all do everything to help but, at the same time, there has to be an inner strength and desire to help yourself. That’s what Paul will have to find”
Several other players have come forward to offer their support but so far their help has fallen on deaf ears with Gascoigne trying to fight his inner demons himself. It’s not the first time we have seen a footballer of the talent of Gascoigne falling hard. George Best was known as much for his partying off the pitch as he was for his play on it, drinking heavily throughout his career which eventually lead to the Northern Ireland star needing a liver transplant which ultimately killed him. Brazilian legend Garrincha also found it hard to cope with fame and drank heavily dying of cirrhosis of the liver in 1983 aged 49. But there is hope. Arsenal legend Paul Merson spent years battling alcoholism, drug addiction and gambling problems before seeking help. Merson has now recovered and is rebuilding his life as a successful pundit, a role that Gascoigne could perform too if he can turn his life around. Friends are hoping that Gascoigne can get the help he needs and check himself into rehab but without a penny to his name, Gascoigne cannot afford the treatment. His family are desperately trying to pull together the money needed to help Paul in this his hour of need. In an emotional interview shown in the summer entitled Being Paul Gascoigne, the player tearfully admits that he is an alcoholic and is fighting as hard as he can but is still struggling. It’s a sad time for a player who inspired a generation but one that he can rebound from given the support and care he needs.