No wonder so many young men are alienated when we eulogise this ape

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YOU will not catch me blubbering because of the latest tragedy to have befallen the nation. Indeed, if we are to use the word tragedy to describe what happens when an unfit footballer is left out of a team what will we say when something really bad happens?

No matter that what has happened to Gazza is self-inflicted, apparently we can not manage without his magic touch. I do not profess to know much about his footballing abilities, but my line on Gazza has been consistent ever since he beat up his wife. He should have been out of the game a long time ago.

What does it say about the football establishment when it is far more acceptable to abuse your wife than to abuse the odd kebab. When he beat up Sheryl we were told it was personal and therefore Hoddle forgave him. Everything came second to the only game in town. The booze, the karaoke, the hanging out with media yobs however is a different matter as it might affect his performance.

Now Gazza has paid the price, the price of believing his own myth, the price of being an embarrassing beer monster who has never had to grow up. The re-written Three Lions will have to be re-written again as it includes the line "Gazza as good as before". All his drinking pals are rallying round telling us Gazza could have been great. He could have been a contender. The entire script is being written with Gazza as a tortured soul, a genius trapped in the body of a thuggish idiot.

So while on one hand there is some understanding that believing the hype - that he was untouchable both on the field and off it - is part of the reason that Gascoigne is in the state he's in, on the other a whole new set of myths have already come into play. Anyone who saw the TV documentary about Gazza will not recognise a charming man, full of boyish pranks who has simply been lead astray by his more glamorous friends.

They will remember an emotionally retarded bully without a clue how to do anything other than kick a ball around a field.

The comparisons with George Best are also ludicrous. George Best would have had women queuing up to be with him even if had been a plumber. Why? Because he looked like George Best. The women who have thrown themselves at Gazza have had, I imagine, to get over his looks and "personality" and remind themselves he was really a top footballer.

None of this would matter in the slightest if Gazza was not regarded as a role model. All the agonising over the alienated young males of this country is entirely meaningless if we continue to eulogise such an ape. Yet even I have some sympathy for the man.

He may be hopeless but we have to ask what has made him so entirely hopeless. Why is it so impossible for certain men to achieve anything like maturity? We must blame the football establishment for treating their players as children just as we must blame the record companies for ferrying drugs back and forth to keep their various "artistes" in the studio.

I have seen this process first hand. When someone gets a degree of success they no longer have to do any of the things that would keep them in touch with the world. They don't have to drive themselves around, do their own washing or make any of their own decisions. If they screw up, someone else makes their excuses for them.

Some people adjust better than others to this experience, but clearly some young men become deep-frozen in perpetual adolescence, never func- tioning as self-sufficient adults. In certain careers this may even be an advantage. If you are Keith Richards, you can get your blood changed regularly; if you are Rod Stewart you can get a new blonde when ever necessary; if you are Chris Evans you can extend your media empire while pretending you do nothing but go to the pub.

If however you are a sportsman then what you do to your body matters, because nobody ever wanted you for your mind in the first place. The endless reports of Gazza's tantrums and outbursts reveal someone who may have great ball control but has no control over his internal workings.

He talks of the contents of his own limited brain as though they were a great mystery - for he speaks the classic male language of having emotions happen to him rather than feeling he has any command over them. There was even the ridiculous claim that when he was violent towards his wife he was possessed by spirits outside himself, rather than the spirits he had so obviously downed.

This is what is so depressing about the whole business. If there was in this whole sorry saga a smidgen of insight, the floating of the possibility that Gascoigne had the potential to change, to mature, to lead another kind of life, then there would be some hope.

Instead we have the cheerleaders of the yobbocracy all saying "It's not my fault guv'nor." Peer pressure didn't make Gazza drink I'm sure, but having real wits like Evans and Danny Baker laugh at his dumb jokes probably made him feel he was invincible.

Unfortunately, in this world, it doesn't seem to take much to be classified as an all round good guy, one of the lads, a real geezer. At the weekend, a studio packed full of rent-a-celebs gathered to celebrate the wit, wisdom and wiggling bum of uber-lad Rod Stewart.

Sure there is classic Rod - Maggie May - but there is also clueless Rod, such as Rod and his rhetorical question "D'ya think I'm sexy?" Never mind. Had he ever had an affair with a woman named Maggie, an investigative celebrity asked. Rod couldn't really remember but there had been someone and he had "given her a good shagging". Hardly Oscar Wilde but oh how the audience fell about.

In such an environment it is no surprise that the behaviour of a Neanderthal like Gazza is considered acceptable, as long it doesn't interfere with his football. Rather than debate the issue in Parliament perhaps we should discuss the fate of the boys for whom Gazza was and will remain an icon.

If somehow, with a little less help from his friends, Gazza can turn himself into a human being rather than a caricature of addled masculinity, all is not lost. If his so-called mates stopped patronising him, if the football establishment stopped mollycoddling him, maybe he could learn to stand on his own two feet instead of just stamping them.

What a favour he would be doing for the boys who bunk off school, who think doing any schoolwork makes them look less hard, who believe real men eat kebabs and smack around their women, but who will never get their weddings in Hello because they have no saleable talent.

Don't cry for Gazza, a has-been at 31, the real tears should be shed for the wannabes who are still genuinely too young to know any better.

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