Gascoigne: Turbulent life of football genius

Friday 22 February 2008 01:01

Paul Gascoigne has featured almost as much on the front pages of newspapers for his rollercoaster private life as he has on the back pages for his sporting prowess.

The 40-year-old, who won 57 caps for England and scored 10 goals, was widely regarded as the most gifted player of his generation.

But he has had a troubled life since retiring from top flight football, including well- documented alcohol problems and bouts of depression.

His many fans will be saddened but perhaps not surprised to hear that he has been sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

The former Newcastle, Tottenham, Lazio and Rangers midfielder endeared himself to the nation by famously bursting into tears after a yellow card during England's World Cup semi-final clash against West Germany meant he would have missed the 1990 final had the team not lost on penalties.

Throughout his career, he has been labelled a genius, with his stunning volley against Scotland during Euro 96 at Wembley hailed as one of the best goals scored by an England player.

Despite the professional acclaim, the boy from Gateshead ended up a self-confessed wife-beater and an alcoholic.

At first, his antics in bars and clubs across Europe had looked like the result of the overblown enthusiasm and thirst for the high life which rapidly became his off-the-pitch trademark.

This, after all, was the man who outraged Italy by belching on national television when asked how he felt about being dropped nine months after completing his £5.5 million move from Spurs to Lazio.

Gascoigne left behind him a kebab-strewn trail as testimony to his excesses, which finally led to his exclusion from the England World Cup squad in 1998.

In his autobiography, Gazza: My Story, he admitted headbutting his wife Sheryl and throwing her to the floor during an argument in October 1996, breaking her finger.

After a series of spectacular binges in 1998, he was admitted to a private clinic to tackle the alcohol addiction which he claimed came to dominate his life.

Emerging two weeks later, Gascoigne vowed he would not touch another drop.

He slimmed down, toned down his famed clowning around, changed his appearance and spent much of his spare time in the gym. His aim, he said, was to work his way up the football coaching ladder.

In January 2005, he was hospitalised with pneumonia, sparking fears over his long-term health.

Trouble struck again in December 2005. Gascoigne was arrested for an alleged assault after photographers scrambled to take his picture outside a Liverpool city centre hotel, just hours after he left as manager of Nationwide Conference North club Kettering.

Gascoigne's 39-day reign at Kettering ended in acrimony, with chairman Imraan Ladak claiming the former England midfielder was "under the influence of alcohol before, during and after several first-team games and training sessions".

The assault charges were later dropped by photographer Steve Farrell, 30, from Liverpool.

Another alleged incident with a photographer a year later saw Gascoigne in the news again.

In February 2007 it emerged he had agreed to appear in action-horror movie Final Run.

Gascoigne underwent emergency surgery in May for a perforated stomach ulcer after apparently being taken ill as he was celebrating his 40th birthday with family and friends in his home town of Gateshead, Tyne and Wear.

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