The crying Caesar: Paul Gascoigne's Roman days

On Thursday the England legend returns to Lazio, where he briefly shone in the 1990s. His former assistant tells Tim Rich of the adulation, loneliness – and some disastrous Italian lessons

For the first time in 15 years, Paul Gascoigne will set foot in what was once his own coliseum, Rome’s Olympic Stadium.

There were not thousands at Fiumicino Airport to greet him as there were when he made his first journey to join Lazio when a high court judge asked if he was more  famous than the Duke of Wellington after Waterloo.

The Olympic Stadium will not be full for the Europa League fixture with Tottenham as it was jammed when he scored in the Rome derby in 1992. However, he might just break down in tears as he did then, running arms outstretched towards the Curva Nord, where the flares had turned the air blood red.

Gascoigne’s time at Lazio was stained by too many tears and very few of them were of joy. “Looking back, I don’t think too many people had Gazza’s best interests at heart. We let him down. Everyone did, from the president downwards,” said Jane Nottage, who was Gascoigne’s personal assistant and commercial manager.

“People could have stopped the downward spiral but they didn’t. Lazio wanted to keep him playing and, if they had sent him for psychoanalysis, they could have lost him as a player for months.

“He wouldn’t have been able to do the commercials and so it wasn’t in anybody’s best interests to help him. The only people who did have his best interests at heart were his parents and they couldn’t cope with everything else that was going on in Rome.”

When John and Carol Gascoigne did come to what the media called the “Villa Gazza”, they tried to help by creating an allotment, although Nottage had to explain to the owners why their manicured gardens now contained carrots and peas.

What astonished Nottage was how little research clubs did into the men they signed. Racehorses would have had their personalities more deeply examined. “I did some work with Ian Rush at Juventus,” she said. “He grew up sharing a bedroom with his brothers and, when they stuck him in a villa on his own, he couldn’t cope. The only time he did well was when two of his best mates had come over and I’d put them in a hotel. His mates had the twin beds and Ian slept on the floor.

“If you think about Gazza, he had been dumped out in this villa with a girlfriend [Sheryl] whom he had met relatively recently and didn’t, I think, really know and he suddenly had two step-children to deal with.”  

There were not many people he could talk to. “He had Italian lessons but they didn’t produce the results the club wanted. There was one incident when the Lazio president, Sergio Cragnotti, arrived at the training ground, surrounded by his hangers-on and Gazza went over and said, in Italian: “Your daughter has big tits”.

To Nottage it was an example of Gascoigne’s unaffected character, less calculated than David Beckham’s, less guarded than Wayne Rooney’s. He had no interest in being a brand, although he had a surprisingly good head for figures: “he could tell his income in a heartbeat.” To Lazio’s coach, Dino Zoff, the conversation with his president was another example of a fatal lack of discipline.

Nottage found Zoff icy and remote: “not the sort of person you could go to with a problem”. The contrast with the managers Gascoigne was used to, Bobby Robson and Terry Venables, was acute.

Only with the fans, in Rome and beyond, who recognised in Gascoigne the street footballer in themselves, was he a success. With ordinary people he had, in Nottage’s eyes, a “Princess Diana” quality.

Attendances at Lazio were up 5,000 a game, coverage of Serie A on Channel Four drew in four times as many viewers as the first season of Premier League football on Sky.

Not much of this benefited Gascoigne, who in two seasons flitted sometimes brilliantly sometimes fitfully through 39 games for Lazio. His reported salary of £10,000 a week was dwarfed by what Ruud Gullit earned at Milan.

When he left for Rangers, the newspaper La Repubblica commented: “What does it matter if he has not earned millions in endorsements? In Italy, Gazza was supposed to have been a front-cover personality and a money-making machine. He has been neither but he has excited everyone with his impishness and his tears.”

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Arts and Entertainment
Sister Cristina Scuccia sings 'Like a Virgin' in Venice
music

Like Madonna, Sister Cristina Scuccia's video is also set in Venice

Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

News
i100
Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album