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The FA, Paul Gascoigne and Help

  • 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?

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  1. Luca Stefano

    February 20, 2010 at 6:36 am

    FA Cup Semi Final,
    that free kick v the arse.

  2. scott smith

    February 19, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    Gazza once score one of the most brilliant goals I have ever seen. Hope he can find peace.

  3. brn442

    February 19, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    I remember reading the “Ask Greavsie” column the former England great – Jimmy Greaves wrote in a soccer magazine 17 odd years ago when someone wrote in about the shame that a well known footballer (whose name I forgot) had to sell his winner’s medals and other memorabilia because he had fallen on hard times.

    What Jimmy said at the time took me aback but it made sense then and it makes even more sense now. He said – paraphrasing: “top flight footballers get paid decent sums of money because they have relatively short careers. It’s up to them to plan [emotionally] and financially for life after they hang up their boots.

    The F.A., The Football League, PL, and the PFA should and probably do have services for the thousands of hard working players most of us hardly see week in, week out: in the lower leagues, the ones forced to retire through injury, the lads who never make it out of the reserves but Paul Gascoigne is not some career journeyman who played in the lower divisions most of his life. He played football at the highest level and got paid handsomely for it. It was he who made questionable decisions in his career: That Tackle, going to Rangers (for the cash) after Lazio instead of coming back the England, the ill-discipline/lack of focus that probably cost him a spot in France 98 and doomed his club career.

    Gazza can have a life “in football” “after football.” He can get his coaching badges, be a TV pundit, or do consulting work but it’s up to him AND THE PEOPLE AROUND HIM, to take control of his life, not football’s. It’s hard to convince the common man to shed a tear for people who made more in a week than most of us make in a year.

    Plus, I’m sure the F.A. haven’t forgotten Gazza, who as an England Player refused to write a few words in a match day programme unless he was paid. The F.A. told him where he can go and they got another player to do it for free.

  4. Luca Stefano

    February 19, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    What a Fn player and an absolute pleasure to watch.
    There’s not enough entertainers in the game.
    He was one of the best!!!!!

  5. Ian

    February 19, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Does the FA have a magical remedy that can change the chemistry of Gazza’s body? Does the FA offer a solution to the mental obsession to drink and use other drugs?
    As a recovering alcoholic, I know that it takes more than “We love yous” and “Attaboys” to get sober. It took an absolute willingness to change anything and everything about my life. I, as all addicts do, suffer from a disease of extreme selfishness that made it hard for me to live in harmony with other people, follow directions, and be helpful to others. Since my life was a such a wreck, I drank to cover up the anger, fear, and confusion in the hopes of feeling normal. Instead of just giving me the good feeling and passing through my body, the allergy to alcohol creates a relentless craving for more that is virtually unquenchable. In my experience the craving is stronger than the pleadings of mothers, girlfriends, co-workers, bosses, friends.
    It was fear of a lonely death, that got me to ask for help. My loved ones had pushed away, as they had grown tired of my broken promises. They loved me all the same, but were praying from a distance. I was making them sicker with every lie or theft. I asked for a final round of handouts was finally told “No!” I saw that if I didn’t do something to change the situation that I was going to die alone. I ASKED FOR HELP.
    A little more than two years later I am on my way to bigger and better things. I am embarking on a life that I could never have imagined while I was drinking my days away. Everyday of this journey takes a level of willingness that just wasn’t possible while I was wallowing in self-pity and searching fro oblivion. Since I can’t drink without horrible consequences, I had to learn to live in such a manner that I don’t find it necessary to take the first drink. Willingness is the key for me, not human intervention.
    So, though there is nothing that the FA can to do relieve Paul of his alcoholism, but as fans, we should treat him like any other sick friend. PRAY FOR PAUL!

    • Jesse

      February 19, 2010 at 2:11 pm


      Thanks for the feedback and sharing your story. You bring up a great point and I admire your honesty.

      Maybe I am living in some sort of magical dream world wherein I assume the all powerful FA – full of money and resources – can mend this broken man.

      Maybe it’s my naivete showing through, maybe it’s me simply rooting for the underdog, but my hopes are that with their long reaching hand, the FA can somehow magically convince Gazza to confront his demons, and when he’s ready, will have all the necessary resources (medication, counseling, therapy, work, etc.) to recover.

      Thanks again for the comments.

    • pungentjoe

      February 19, 2010 at 2:17 pm

      great post,i also am a recovered alcoholic i say recovered rather than recovering
      as the obsession to drink has been seems paul has had many people
      reach out,but its tougher to recover when metal illness is involved
      i am one of the lucky ones,i had to surrender and ask for twentys
      and early thirtys are a blur alcohol consumed me.
      good luck ian
      two years is a long time
      say hi to bill w for me

  6. Paul Jeffrey

    February 19, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    I agree. The FA can’t help. it’s up to Gazza to sort himself out. He needs some kind of addiction councelling or alcohol treatment I think.

  7. The Three Lions

    February 19, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Anyone who read a recent post of mine knows that I think Gazza is the best English footballer I have ever seen. I am old enough to remember seeing him in his prime, 1988-1992. His perfomance in the 1990 world cup was the stuff of dreams for a 14yr old which i was at the time. Although due to injury and booze he never fulfilled his potential he could have been as good as Maradona and Pele and there is little doubt that in that fantastic summer of 1990 when England reached the semi final of the world cup and should have won it, he was the best player in the world.

    As far as should the FA give help? My answer is no. As much as I loved the player he was the FA did not pour booze down his neck, There’s only one person who can help and should help Gazza and that’s Gazza himself.

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