Gascoigne enters clinic after being told he is 'one drink away from being sacked'

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The Independent Online

Paul Gascoigne, regarded by some as the most gifted British footballer since George Best, is one drink away from the end of his troubled career. The former England midfielder has checked into an American addiction clinic, and sources at his Premiership club, Everton, said he had been told his contract would be terminated if he touched one more drop of alcohol.

Given that his move from Middlesbrough a year ago was seen by many fans as representing his own last chance saloon, it is unlikely another top club would take him on. Thus would end a career that burnt just as brightly as Best's, another spectacular player brought down by drink.

Everton confirmed yesterday that Gascoigne, 34, had checked into The Meadows in Wickenberg, Arizona, which treats addictions to drugs, drink and sex, and offers workshops on how to get in touch with one's inner child. A spokeswoman for the clinic refused to confirm or deny the player's presence or reports that its fees were about £4,000 a week.

Its website says: "Primary Care at The Meadows is specifically designed as a holistic program treating mind, body and soul. The intensive treatment is 12-step based and enhanced by a unique and comprehensive programme. Aftercare assistance, alumni support, and on-campus educational-reaffirmation workshops support the recognition that recovery is a continuing journey."

Whether the Meadows team is used to dealing with behaviour as bizarre as Gascoigne's is unclear. When playing in Italy, for example,he once ate his lunch naked in the club canteen.

The Everton sources say his present drinking stems from an injury last November. While recovering from an operation, his knee became infected. Despite heroic efforts to regain his fitness, he was told he would not be back in action by the end of the season and slumped into depression.

"He was staying at the Woolton Redbourne Hotel near Liverpool, a quiet country house hotel where he is popular with staff who keep an eye on him," the source said. "But Gazza needs a focus and that focus is football. Once he realised he wouldn't be back this season, he lost that focus and began to drink again.

"He wanted to do so well here but he's been told, 'One more drink and you're out'. There is a provision in his contract for it to be terminated if he starts drinking again."

Gascoigne is expected to join Everton's pre-season training on 11 July.