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
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn