Gascoigne exits but says 'I was never drunk'

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The Independent Football

Paul Gascoigne last night hit back at allegations of drunkenness made by the Kettering chairman, Imraan Ladak, but has now severed his ties with the club - for the moment.

Gascoigne's 39-day reign at the Nationwide Conference North club came to an end in acrimonious circumstances on Monday with Ladak claiming the former Newcastle, Tottenham, Lazio and Rangers midfielder had been "under the influence of alcohol before, during and after several first-team games and training sessions".

But the 38-year-old strongly denied the claims and made it clear that despite being given the sack by Ladak, he would continue to pursue an ambition to buy the club and return to his role as manager.

"In the past 24 hours there have been allegations that I was unfit to carry out my managerial duties at Kettering Town Football Club. It has been said that this was because I was under the influence of alcohol. During my time I was never drunk before, during or after a match, nor at a training session.

"I did, however, have a double brandy before the match on the day after my friend George Best passed away, and after the defeat last Saturday I had a glass of wine with Paul Davis.

"On neither occasion did this affect my ability to manage the team. I was fully committed to Kettering for the brief period that I was in charge, and any allegations to the contrary are entirely without foundation.

"I also thoroughly enjoyed working with a great bunch of lads, and I wish them every success under Kevin Wilson."

He had earlier launched a bid to buy the club, - rejected by Ladak - insisting that the players and staff were behind him. Kettering fans reacted with dismay yesterday to the soap opera-style turmoil engulfing the club. Kettering fan Dylan Archer, 35, said: "It is a soap opera. We have gone from 'we are going to rise' to being a laughing stock again. It is a bit sad."

Yesterday Gascoigne was released on bail following his arrest for an alleged assault on a photographer in Liverpool late on Monday night following his dismissal.

The 38-year-old former England international was accused of hitting freelancer Steve Farrell outside Liverpool's Hope Street Hotel.

Officers arrested him at 11.30pm and kept him in cells overnight. After three to four hours of questioning yesterday, he was released at 2.45pm "pending further inquiries", a spokeswoman for Merseyside Police said. He is bailed to return to a Liverpool police station in February.

Photographer Farrell, 30, claimed he was punched by Gascoigne after he tried to take a picture of the ex-footballer as he left a charity fund-raiser for the alcohol and drugs support group Sharp Liverpool. He said: "He whacked me with a left hand. There was a cut above my eye and there was blood down the side of my face. It was a proper punch.

"His mates pulled him off - and the worst thing was, Gazza just started laughing hysterically. He seemed to think it was hilarious."

Four police vans arrived and officers arrested Gascoigne. Farrell said that paramedics treated him at the scene for a cut eye.

Gascoigne's fellow guest, Chris Difford, the former guitarist and songwriter with the 1970s band Squeeze, said that the battling alcoholic had been "more than reasonable" until he was "hounded" by photographers.

"It just looked like firework night, there were so many cameras going off," he said. "It seemed more aggressive than usual.

"They were pushing and shoving and he did not want his photograph to be taken. The next thing I know, I can see one of the photographers has got blood on his face. But at no point did he [Gascoigne] seem under the influence of alcohol or to be misbehaving in any way."

Gascoigne had posed for pictures for waiting photographers on arrival and did some press interviews.

Difford said: "Paul was more than reasonable. I think that most people who go out to a private affair and give time to charity should be left to privacy and not be hounded by people who had already been given photographs. It's just the world we live in. It's not been an easy week for Paul. He seems to have been let down by the football club he had been working for."

Jacquie Johnston-Lynch, the project manager of Sharp Liverpool, said Gascoigne had appeared "a bit emotional" during a question-and-answer session with football fans during the event but had been "really supportive" throughout the evening, which raised more than £5,000.