Paul John Gascoigne (born 27 May 1967), nicknamed Gazza, is a former England international footballer.
Playing as a midfielder, he began his professional career with local club Newcastle United in 1985. Three years later he was sold on to Tottenham Hotspur for a £2 million fee. He won the FA Cup with Spurs in 1991, before he was sold to Italian club Lazio for £8.5 million the following year. In July 1995, he was transferred to Rangers for £4.3 million, and helped the club to two league titles and two trophies. He returned to England in a £3.4 million move to Middlesbrough in March 1998. He made his debut in the Premier League in the 1998–99 season, having already featured in the 1998 Football League Cup Final. He switched to Everton in July 2000, and later had spells with Burnley, Gansu Tianma (China), and Boston United.
Though well known throughout Europe for his club career, his football career is particularly remembered for his 57 England caps. He also won 13 caps for the England under-21s and four caps for the England B team. He was part of the England squad that reached fourth place in the 1990 FIFA World Cup. He also helped the team to the semi-finals of UEFA Euro 1996.
Paul is both a manic depressive and also an alcoholic, although the latter problem has tended to be a by-product of his mental state. But what is rather wonderful about Paul, is that throughout his footballing career he has been mostly manic, and as a consequence inspired to the point of genius. The alcohol appears to be an unhelpful attempt at sedation on those occasions when the effects of the mania become too much and the emotion too high to cope with.
His high profile in the world of football has not helped him deal with the effects of the mania. His problems have received regular coverage in the British press, all of it extremely unpleasant – which is not untypical of the British press.
Gascoigne was born in the Dunston area of Gateshead, England. From an early age he was involved in football and played for the local Boys' Club despite being under-age. He was noticed by football scouts while playing for Gateshead Boys. Newcastle United signed him as a schoolboy in 1980. Academically he was a failure, but this was probably the best thing that could have happened to him. Intellect never got in the way of his genius. Speaking in 2010, England manager Waddle said that "the great thing about Gazza is that he didn't respect who he was playing against. He didn't even know who he was playing against. When I mentioned Rijkaard he thought it was a country."
His childhood was marked by instability and tragedy. Initially his family lived in a single upstairs room in a council house with a shared bathroom, and moved several times during Gascoigne's early life. When he was ten, Gascoigne witnessed the death of Steven Spraggon, the younger brother of a friend, who was knocked down by a car when Paul had been asked to look after him. Around this time, his father began to suffer from seizures. As with many sensitive children this jolt to the emotions smashed his 'door to perception' wide open, and Gascoigne began developing obsessions and twitches. As if this was not enough, yet another terrible emotional jolt came when a friend died whilst he was working for Gascoigne's uncle on a building site. He was taken into therapy at age ten, but soon quit the therapy sessions after his father expressed doubts over the treatment methods.
Even at this early stage, Paul started to show all the signs of the manic. Manics show addictive personalities and behaviour. Paul developed an addiction to gaming machines, frequently spending all his money on them. In his time he became addicted to alcohol, chain smoking, gambling, high-caffeine energy drinks, exercise, and junk food. He played practical jokes, he started to shoplift to fund his exploits. His sense of humour was wacky, his love of life over the top. Whatever he tackled he tackled in excess – clubbing, women, food, everything.
Paul is also, like all manics, amoral, not immoral, amoral. He has been involved in car accidents he has denied, in cars he had no license to drive. In one incident he was fined £260 and given eight points on his 'non-existent licence'. He took a groundsman's tractor and drove it straight into the dressing room wall, jumping off just before impact, as a protest about being criticised. All manics are useless with money. In November 2008 Gascoigne, who had not filed any tax returns for more than two years, was faced with a bankruptcy petition over a £200,000 tax bill. On 25 May 2011 he avoided being declared bankrupt by the High Court in London.
And Paul likes music and games, another feature of the right brained manic. At the height of "Gazzamania", he reached number 2 in the UK Top 40 with "Fog on the Tyne", a collaborative cover with Lindisfarne. He promoted two video games: Gazza's Superstar Soccer and Gazza II.
He also displayed the manics capability for love and empathy, generosity and kindness. At the age of 15, he took the decision to provide for his family – his parents and two sisters – financially, deciding that he would use his ability and become a professional football. Paul scored his first professional goal on 21 September 1985, aged 18. At one stage, he was the subject of offers from both Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. Gascoigne promised Alex Ferguson that he would sign for Manchester United. Ferguson went on holiday only to receive the news that Paul had signed for Spurs, for a British record fee of £2million. In his 1999 autobiography, Ferguson claimed that Gascoigne was wooed into signing for Tottenham after they bought a house for his impoverished family.
The empathy of the manic extends to all their friends and those they work with. They have an abiding childish need to help and Paul displayed this in bucket loads with his team mates, providing the assist for Mark Wright's winner against Egypt, for example and another assist in the first knockout game against Belgium after chipping a free-kick into the penalty area, where David Platt volleyed the ball into the net. In a match against Cameroon and in extra-time he found Gary Lineker with a through-ball which proved to be the winning goal. In the third group game against the Netherlands Paul contributed to a 4–1 victory, providing the corner which led to the second goal and crafting the third goal with a “mazy run into the Dutch penalty area”.
The empathy of the manic at its height, finally extends to all mankind. In August 2006, Paul visited Botswana on behalf of the Football Association's international outreach week and played football with the children from the SOS Children's Village there. He has played in charity football matches to help raise funds for the Sir Bobby Robson cancer fund.
He also had the manic's propensity for injuring themselves. Depressives feel pain and it is truly terrible pain – emotional and physical – but manics often don't even know they are hurt, which is why they often do get hurt as they don't realise what is happening. Paul broke his cheekbone in April 1993 [apparently in a fight] and his leg a year later. He broke his arm after elbowing opposition midfield player George Boateng in the head during Middlesbrough's 0-4 home defeat to Aston Villa. Injury limited his involvement for the national team during Graham Taylor's tenure as manager.
Another characteristic feature of the manic which is frequently observed is no behavioural control. And Paul said and did what he felt like at the time, with little thought about the consequences. Diplomacy, tact, lies etc are learnt behaviour and the behaviour invoked by the left brain. Paul's right brain was in almost complete control, as such what he said was often excruciatingly honest. He was interviewed by a Norwegian TV reporter, prior to England playing them, for a message to the people of Norway. His infamous reply was "Fuck off, Norway".
In a perhaps less direct confrontation, in a match against Hibernian, Gascoigne was booked by referee Dougie Smith after he picked Smith's yellow card up from the ground and jokingly 'booked' the referee. In January 1998, Gascoigne again courted controversy after he played a mock flute (symbolic of the flute-playing of Orange Order marchers) during an Old Firm match at Celtic Park. The gesture, needless to say, infuriated Celtic fans, but then they had been taunting him and Paul simply reacted as manics do. He was fined £20,000 by Rangers after the incident.
Another characteristic of the manic is unlimited energy. On one occasion, for example, in the fifth league game of the season in the Old Firm match at Celtic Park he scored a memorable goal after running almost the length of the pitch. This frenzied behaviour was dubbed "Gazzamania". Manics are also not so hot on being sexually faithful. Brimming with sexual as well as general energy they stray quite frequently, a propensity not helped by their tendency to amorality. Although Paul married his long-term girlfriend Sheryl in July 1996, after they had been together for around six years, they divorced in early 1999 and the relationship was somewhat stormy emotionally.
Anything else that characterises the manic? Emotion – deep felt heartfelt emotion. Tears of joy, elation, anger, fear, fury, uncontrollable emotion. And indeed this was almost a hallmark of Paul's behaviour. Paul cried - a lot. When England met Germany in the semi-final, Paul's corner led to an England goal, and extra time was required; a late dash into the six-yard box left him within millimetres of scoring the golden goal which would have put England through to the final. However, England lost to Germany in the resulting penalty shoot-out and Paul cried. But the emotion did not just erupt in tears. In the run up to the 1998 FIFA World Cup, British tabloid newspapers showed pictures of a drunken Gascoigne eating kebabs in the early hours of the morning only a week before the final squad was due to be chosen. On being told he was out of the squad, Gascoigne wrecked the England manager's room in a rage before being restrained. Gascoigne was never to play for his country again, having won 57 caps and scoring 10 goals.
By the end of the 1990s, Paul had descended into alcoholism. In 1998 he first entered sustained therapy sessions when he was admitted into Priory Hospital after a drinking session where he drank 32 shots of whisky, his manager Bryan Robson signed him into the clinic whilst he was unconscious. His subsequent visits to the Priory became more infrequent, and he eventually lapsed back to alcohol drinking. In 2001 Gascoigne's then-chairman Bill Kenwright contacted Gascoigne's therapist at the Priory, John McKeown, who organised more treatment to help Gascoigne to control his drinking.
As part of the treatment he was sent to the United States where he had a stay at a clinic in Cottonwood, Arizona. He also had a stay at the clinic in 2003 and again in 2004 after retiring from football. And here I am afraid we have indications that Paul became a victim of not only alcohol but his medication. He was 'treated' using pharmaceuticals.
His mania disappeared but so did the vital spark that made him who he was. His tenure at Kettering as manager lasted just 39 days, and he was dismissed by the club's board on 5 December. The club's owner blamed Paul's alcohol problems, stating that he drank almost every day he worked. But the reality may have been different, Paul explained that his apparently drunken state in an interview with Sky News was due to his poor mental state, tiredness and prescribed medication - not alcohol.
In February 2008 he was sectioned under the Mental Health Act after bizarre behaviour at the Malmaison Hotel in Newcastle upon Tyne. He was taken into protective custody to prevent self-harm. In 2013 his agent, Terry Baker, told BBC Radio 5 Live that Gascoigne had relapsed again:
"He won't thank me for saying it but he immediately needs to get help ... His life is always in danger ... Maybe no one can save him - I don't know. I really don't know."
May the good angels save him.
Paul's autobiography was released in 2004 Gazza: My Story, written with Hunter Davies. In this book, and in Being Gazza: Tackling My Demons published in 2006, he refers to treatment for bulimia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolar disorder, and alcoholism.
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