Football: Adams offers Gazza a lifeline

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The Independent Online
THE England team-mates and recovering alcoholics Tony Adams and Paul Merson have offered help to Paul Gascoigne should he decide he needs it. It would just take a phone call, they say.

"I just hope that he sorts out his life and can be happy," said Adams, England's vice-captain, who admitted his problem nearly two years ago and has not had a drink since. "Only he can decide if he has a problem but if he wants to choose my path then he knows where I am. At the moment he seems to have his own mates but if he needs anyone else, I am here for him. He is a lovely guy, a beautiful guy, but he is in a lot of pain."

Adams's sentiments were echoed by Merson, his former colleague at Arsenal and now a team-mate of Gascoigne's at Middlesbrough. Merson is more than three years clean and sober from drink, drugs and gambling and Gazza stayed with him after his signing from Rangers. "I feel sad for him but sympathy is not what he needs," says Merson. "I am always here for him, he knows that, and he also knows my number. I hope he can find it inside himself to want to do something about the way things have been with him."

One problem for Hoddle, had he not decided to omit Gascoigne from his squad, might have been - and could even still be, given the Teddy Sheringham revelations after he was pictured in an Algarve nightclub at 6.45am - that Fifa will be looking for signs of alcohol during their drug testing, of which Diego Maradona fell foul at USA 94. "Alcohol is certainly on our doping list and although it is not prohibited, its use is restricted," said Helene Boban of Fifa's doping unit. "The degree of use can be checked in the breath or the blood and if it was heavy, it may lead to sanctions."

Hoddle insists there will be no such problems. "If someone else causes us a problem then we will deal with it but I don't expect any," he says. "I am not going to ban alcohol and on occasions the players will be allowed a couple of beers or a glass of wine but only at the right times and not after a game. That's the last time you should be drinking, because your body is dehydrated.

"Alcohol can also affect injuries and that was the disappointing thing with Paul Gascoigne. I had to take him off against Belgium, don't forget. In England that's what we have had all through our careers - get in the players' bar and have a beer. But that's detrimental and won't happen in France."

Yesterday, Sheringham publicly apologised for his nightclub antics. A "disappointed" Hoddle reprimanded him but his place in the squad is not affected.

Fall of Gazza and shame

of Sheri, pages 24 and 25