The Enigma that is Paul Gascoigne

It pains me to see this man back in the public eye due to his misdemeanours during his speech he was due to give at Northampton Town FC, the man has suffered a torrent of scrutiny from the media and sometimes his peers, not all entirely justified in my eyes.

But maybe my bias has led me to see “Gazza” through rose tinted glasses? Due to my date of birth, I was not around for Gascoigne’s peak where he dazzled millions on and off the pitch. I remember his Everton days under his then manager Walter Smith, and after being recommended to check himself into a rehabilitation clinic in Arizona he wasn’t covered in his previous glamour he rightfully deserved for his footballing brilliance.

As I have grown older, I have revisited videos of Gascoigne during his pomp – and my word, I missed an absolute gem of a player growing up. Admittedly, I witnessed the Henry goal against Real Madrid in the Champions League and the Zidane years, but taking nothing away from them, it means a lot more when it’s an English player who could be mentioned in the same breath as the other true legends of the game.

As a near 18-year-old Arsenal fan, Gascoigne is by far my favourite England player through merit. My eldest brother worships the ground he walks upon even to this very day and I have seen him cry when Gazza has been sectioned or harshly treated by the media. No ordinary player can have a fan like that, surely? His replica England shirt from Italia ’90 is the only England shirt I have purchased since Rooney’s in 2004 and due to my extreme weight then, it didn’t fit for long. I donned a Carrick one which did not fit my brother in the later years but he changed the name to “Rick” (being his name) once Carrick moved to Utd. So yeah, in my footballing life Paul Gascoigne will forever be my first proper England shirt which meant something to me and not just an item of clothing to show who I supported every 2 years for a major tournament.

Gascoigne was a creative midfielder who could change a game with a flash of brilliance, be it a dead ball (See his wonder strike against Arsenal) or his deft first touch, ask Colin Hendrie about that, he must still weep about that and have flashbacks to Euro 96 where Paul flicks a chipped through ball over his own and Hendrie’s head before smashing in a sublime volley before proceeding to celebrate with his England team mates by reciting the dentist chair. If you don’t know it, Google it.

Those are some of many flashes of genius this man had in his locker. Very much like a 90’s Balotelli, he just wanted to play football and all the PR surrounding the game was just a waste of time. There’s a famous story where he thought Rijkaard was a country. Or how about the time he arrived at Lazio, he made his minder believe he had thrown himself out of the hotel window but was hiding in the cupboard? The man just loves football and you can see it when he’s dribbling with the ball in his prime and showing how class he REALLY is.

On the other hand, this man has demons and it hurts me to see him how he is, and if the recent stories are as bad as they sound then it could be another tough couple of years for his family and him. In his series of books surrounding his life, he mentions various ailments that he suffers from and no wonder he struggles, the PFA seem to show no fight in helping this man, or maybe they think he’s too far gone? I hope not. Bulimia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolar disorder, and alcoholism are just some of the man’s troubles. The books also describes his addictive personality, which has led him to develop addictions, of varying severity, on alcohol, gambling, high-caffeine energy drinks, exercise, and junk food.

I hope Paul Gascoigne can battle through this, I honestly thought he had battled through the worst after going 2 years sober but setbacks happen and I hope this is just a blip on his road to recovery, and my thoughts and wishes are with him and his family.

Aaron Young