Donald MacInnes: The boy looked at Gazza and the penny didn't drop

In the Red

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The Independent Online

The former England footballer Paul Gascoigne has endured more nightmares than many of us face in six lifetimes, but he keeps coming back for more – or, sadly, when he visits his bank, probably less. He admitted this week that his bank account had been hacked, leading to his losing anything between £9,000 and £50,000. Betraying about as much financial savvy as well, myself, Gazza was reported to have said: "I know who did it... it was quite a lot of money. It wasn't that much. **** knows. I don't know. Website, internet, I've not got a clue."

It might surprise you to learn that he is just under three months older than me. Now, admittedly, I haven't spent most of the last 20 years swallowing oceans of cognac and, by the looks of him, Cif Bathroom, but he looks more like my father than someone who would have been in my year in school.

I watched the Gazza documentary last week and his ongoing decline was tough to watch. But leaving aside those tear-soaked scenes that cement the star's obvious emotional fragility, one moment in the film stuck out.

During a visit to his mother's house in Newcastle, he stepped outside for a fag. After a while, he noticed a lad of about 14 across the road, struggling with a heavy bag. The kid was obviously doing his paper round.

Gazza called over, saying hello. The boy clearly didn't recognise the old geezer calling to him. He would certainly be surprised to learn it was someone who could command armies of Geordies in his time – who used to be a local hero without peer. But then, he would have been a decade away from being born when Gazza was in his pomp.

As the boy edged away, embarrassed and clearly keen to escape the attempt at banter from the skeletal wraith across the way, Gazza asked him how much he got for his round. The boy replied: "£25".

"Twenty five poond!?" spluttered the star. "I used to get £5.60 for mine. £25!? When I started playing for Newcastle United, I was getting £25 a week."

The boy looked at him blankly. In his world, star footballers earn £150,000 and more every week. And they don't look like this guy, shaking and slurring. He turned and walked away. I should imagine he will appreciate the meeting in future years more than he does now.

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