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Piers Morgan’s Life Stories: Paul Gascoigne (ITV Player)

Paul Gascoigne recently appeared on Piers Moron’s Life Stories, which is generally a show that has “stars” revealing all and then shedding crocodile tears in a choreographed response to some shambolic piece of video. Gazza looks in a real mess, and swung behind denial about his alcoholism, and fantasism regarding his substance abuse. In addition his sickening assaults on his ex wife were skated over. In 2006 I read a book about his travails. This is the review. 

“There is no masking that Gazza is mentally ill. You only had to see him on telly last night to see that. All that tongue poking and shouting. I feel quite sorry for him actually”. 

I wrote that in my diary (whatever happened to pen and paper?) on Monday 15th April 1991 in the wake of his single handed destruction of Arsenal during an FA Cup Semi at Wembley, an occasion I was “lucky” enough to attend and vividly remember being behind the goal as Gascoigne launched an amazing 30 yard pile driver of a free kick past the helpless David Seaman. It was never a free kick by the way, but a couple of minutes later another slice of Gazza genius saw him put Lineker in for 2-0. Game over. 

If Mr. Non Perceptive could see Gazza was ill, why was nothing done about it at the time? 

What comes across in this amazing book, is how utterly alone Paul has been throughout his life, the combination of terrible childhood trauma allied to his peerless talent as a footballer, leaving him isolated by his experiences and talent.

At the age of 12, Paul held his dying young friend in his arms. A ten year old that he was “looking after” dashed out if the sweet shop and before Paul could stop him, the boy lay sprawled in the road hit by a car. 

How on earth do you get over that, factor in numerous hardships at home, and a typically Northern Working Class attitude to trauma (we lived through a war!) and you have an emotional disaster waiting to happen. 

This book is part of the new breed of confess all public catharsis which includes such horrors as Sara Payne’s experience of losing her daughter to a child killer, son of a Ripper victim’s story, and in the football world Tony Adams’ Addicted, a terrible self pitying load of drivel. Thus when I spied Gazza’s book on the floor of Rich’s car I wasn’t that fussed but I remembered it had been written by the wonderful Hunter Davies, so why not? 

The book is basically a transcript of Paul’s therapy, with comments from his carers and other addicts. Thus if you are after a chronological account of events, it’s not the book for you. 

I was of the school that he should just grow up and be grateful for his gift. And stop drinking. But there is so much more to it than that. Paul is very, very ill. I’m lucky. A MRI Scan and blood tests show that I have a “real” illness, plus the Guide Dog Cled and dark glasses give people a clue. Thus, although life is incredibly tough, people can’t say it’s my “fault”, but with Gazza’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Bipolar illness, alcoholism and co dependency, it is all very nebulous and easy the “blame” the sufferer. 

Seeing a therapist myself, I can empathise with a lot of what is said and how Paul feels, as I find increasingly that trying to articulate how you feel to others without a common reference point is impossible. I don’t know anyone in my position. When my Mum died, the way it happened also caused this, but that was a battle I could win, I can’t win this one and accepting that is hard. I have to see it in terms of grieving for my lost career, which is rendered impossible as every night I dream about being well and at work. Now I find the gap between how I’m presenting myself (I’m a survivor!) and how I actually feel is almost getting to be unbridgeable. It’s something I need to work on and figure out. 

I think this book will help a lot of people with problems, so stuff the cynics slagging Gazza off, saying he is doing it for the money. If it persuades one person to seek help, then it’s done its job. 

Beware though; it’s a tough read.


About dermotrathbone

Writer and co author "Through Red Lenses". Activist Unite the Union, Save Our NHS Hull. Fan of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Hull FC, Munster and Ireland Rugby. Views are mine alone and may not reflect the organisations concerned.


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