Gascoigne poised to play on Sunday

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The Independent Online
Paul Gascoigne is set to make his comeback for Lazio on Sunday after missing more than a year with a broken leg.

Lazio's coach, Zdenek Zeman, said yesterday that the 27-year-old English midfielder could be fielded for a portion of the Serie A game with lowly Reggiana at Rome's Olympic stadium.

"He's not yet prepared to play for 90 minutes, but he's recovered and in good form," Zeman said. "He's a player of great technique, who can improve Lazio's play," Zeman said.

Meanwhile, Paul Merson, the Arsenal striker, helped launch the Football Association's anti-drugs campaign in London yesterday by confessing he had contemplated suicide in his struggle against drugs, alcohol and gambling addictions.

"I hit rock bottom and there were times when I was near suicide," the 27-year-old said. "When I was driving home I used to think about pulling over in front of a lorry. I just couldn't handle it any more."

Merson spoke out about his problems and undertook an FA rehabilitation course. Despite returning to the Arsenal first team in February, he still visits a Southampton clinic each week and attends three other meetings a week to talk over his addictions.

Merson urged youngsters targeted by the FA's "fit for football" campaign to seek help immediately they realise they may have problems. "I made a massive mistake but getting treatment was the best thing that happened to me," he said.

The FA initiative follows further cases involving Crystal Palace's Chris Armstrong and two Charlton teenagers. Graham Kelly, the FA chief executive, said: "We don't believe there is a significant drugs problem in football but there is no room for complacency. This is one of the most important initiatives the FA have ever been involved with."

More than 15,000 leaflets and brochures warning against drugs, will be sent out to players aged nine upwards, coaches, physiotherapists, teachers and scouts.

The FA stress their approach will be one of care and consideration rather than punishment. They also insist they will continue with their policy of confidentiality over the identities of players who fail random drug tests.

n Nigeria, who tried to organise an African boycott of the World Youth Championships from 13 to 28 April after they were switched from Nigeria to Qatar for health and security reasons, were expelled from the tournament yesterday by Fifa after failing to confirm their participation.

n Eric Cantona has been served notice to leave his rented house in Boothstown, Greater Manchester, by agents acting on behalf of his landlord, who lives abroad. Cantona's club, Manchester United, had tried unsuccessfully to buy the house and the player, whose wife is pregnant, must move today.

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