Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Flawed Genius Desperately in Need of Help

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Flawed Genius Desperately in Need of Help

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Douglas

EVERY week, football is full of catastrophe, disaster and tragedy. It is the nature of the sport that events which unfold over 90 minutes on a patch of grass are framed in those kind of terms. Sometimes, though, things happen in the football world that jar all of us connected with the game out of the trance and bring us back to reality.

The greatest anxiety that the North East football scene has is that the next time this scenario will happen for us is the death of Paul Gascoigne.

The latest pictures of Gascoigne from a charity talk-in were harrowing: the portrait of a man in a desperate state. His anecdotes were all present and correct but the banshee laughter coming from the audience is that of pity.

He looks in trouble and the admission of his agent Terry Baker that he is in need of help and his life is in danger is worrying.

It is surprising, too, for the last time Gascoigne was in the public eye he seemed to be getting better. His message was hope - a hope underlined by the usual brand of Gazza chaos, in all fairness - and it felt like he was approaching the foothills of salvation at last.

It would be a lie to say that interviewing Paul Gascoigne for The Journal last year was an entirely edifying experience.

The idea was put to me and a colleague from another regional title to promote a forthcoming charity talk-in appearance that the promoter was desperate to shift tickets for. Although sales for Gazza's events in the rest of the country were brisk, the North East seemed less ready to flock to see one of their most famous sons.

The theory was that many didn't want to book tickets because they thought he wouldn't turn up, so it was arranged that Gascoigne would ring and chat - frankly - about his alcoholism, football and any other issue to prove that he could be trusted.

Only Gascoigne didn't ring either of us for weeks. I didn't push it in case something had happened but eventually a call to one of the promoters saw a message relayed to Gascoigne and the phone rang. …

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