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The sad ballad of Paul Gascoigne
Gazza's public disintegration was all too inevitable.
Tony Cascarino, 03 Mar 2008
I know quite a bit about Paul Gascoigne and how he’s lived his life, and the unfortunate fact is that Gazza can’t deal with loneliness. He’s had a big void to fill since he finished playing, and he can’t do TV or radio work. Really, he’s England’s Paul McGrath. Every day is a battle for Paul, and Gazza’s no different. They say you have to reach rock bottom to come out of these situations, and Gazza has to somehow find the courage to face the reality of his life.
The end of a football career can be very dramatic for some players, and Gazza’s a typical example of where it can all go wrong. I don’t think Gascoigne fulfilled his potential as a player because he got some daft injuries, most notably in the Cup Final against Nottingham Forest when he made that ridiculous challenge. In my opinion, if he’d not been so eccentric, he would have played for someone like Manchester United, won several titles and had an incredible career. But I think the reason he didn’t end up at Old Trafford was because Fergie knew what he was like.
I played against Gazza on a couple of occasions and also spent some time in his company. He’d have you in bits laughing, but after an hour or so it was like, ‘Fucking hell, can we get away?’ It’s continual with Paul. He’s like a lonely child you have to try and control, but it’s difficult because he has so many psychological problems.
When it comes to the question of clubs helping players like Paul, to be brutally honest, I don’t know what you can do. Genetically, I think he’s hardwired in a strange way. I don’t know, even if help was offered, whether he would have wanted it or taken it. With certain people, it’s just very, very hard to make them change their ways. Also, you have to take responsibility yourself in life. A lot of what has happened to Paul has been self-inflicted.
Some people say that wayward element is part of these players’ genius, and talk about the likes of George Best and so on. Actually, that’s absolute nonsense. There are many people in sport - Tiger Woods, Michael Schumacher and countless others - who are brilliantly successful, but they’re normal people. Looking around at today’s players, you can see aspects of that tearaway streak in certain people.