- A Lion who’s seen better times.
- Will it all end in tears?
Yet again, Paul Gascoigne has been in the English media headlines in recent weeks for all the wrong reasons. The 42 year old midfield maestro of yesteryear who looks the worst part of 60 was arrested twice in a week, once for public disorder and then again for being drunk in charge of a vehicle.
Gascoigne’s misadventures on the wrong side of the law are nothing new to football supporters. Gazza seems to be arrested at least once or twice a year for the last five or six years straight. The former Newcastle United, Spurs and Lazio play maker spoke of his problems battling alcoholism, bulimia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and even bipolar disorder in his 2006 autobiography, Gazza: My Story.
We all have personal and health problems, but it was Gazza’s inability to occupy himself when not playing football that led to his increasing health problems. The lack of purpose in his life when he wasn’t playing football and after his retirement led to his heavy drinking and off the field problems that have been so widely publicized and scrutinized by the media and the public.
Gascoigne’s declining physical and mental health have been paramount in his numerous arrests over the years. Gazza’s rap sheet is by now a mile long, and I cringe a little each time I hear his name mentioned in the news or see his name in the headline of articles. I wonder in fear what will happen next if someone doesn’t step in and help him, even if it is for the third, fourth, or fifth time. It’s unfortunately been proven that Gazza doesn’t possess the abilities to manage himself, his health, his drinking or his wild behavior. I don’t know much about his immediate family situation, whether they’ve stepped in to help or not, but why can’t the FA intervene into the life of one of their brightest sons?
The question comes down to responsibility. Whose is it? Gazza’s failed at being responsible for himself, and the help he’s received in recent months and years obviously hasn’t been enough or been precisely what he’s needed to achieve a full recovery. Football fans have seen this story unfold before. George Best, the incredible talent that he was, suffered from alcoholism and ultimately succumbed to his own personal demons and died way before he should have. A sad tragedy that the football community hopes won’t repeat itself anytime soon.
This tragic story comes down to what Gascoigne wants for himself. No one can force this once great footballer to do what he doesn’t want to. But I believe he genuinely wants to be involved in football in some capacity, it’s what he loves and what he knows in life. This one simplistic reason is why I think the FA need to step in and help Gazza so he doesn’t harm himself any more than he already has.
Stoke City’s Matthew Etherington’s gambling addiction is no different that Gazza’s alcohol addiction. Addiction comes in all forms and Etherington seems to, for now, have it under wraps thanks to help that came from his club during a pivotal moment in his addiction struggles. Then a West Ham player in 2008, the club supported him and helped him through a time when Etherington said he was receiving death threats due to his £800,000 debts. The club loaned him £300,000 in advance to help payoff the mounting debt in return that Etherington would enter counseling for his addiction. Still struggling to pay the debts, Etherington insists he’s been clean of his gambling problem for some time.
Etherington continues to turn in consistent performances for Stoke City and Stoke boss Tony Pulis has even tipped him for an England spot in the near future. Why can’t this turn around and recovery from addiction be achieved by Gascoigne? Do the FA or former clubs of Gascoigne have any responsibility to help him and see him to a full recovery? I think the answer is Yes.
Growing up in America in the 80′s and 90′s when English football wasn’t readily available like it is now, I wasn’t able to experience the brilliance of Gazza during his best years for England at World Cup ’90 and Euro ’96. But I’m observant and smart enough to know about a little known site called YouTube and that Paul Gasciogne is a player with incredible football talent and someone that comes along maybe once a generation. How long will the football community sit beside and allow this once great footballer to damage himself?