Friday, February 22, 2008

One Paul Gascoigne

Alastair has posted on the sorry tale of Paul Gascoigne, who was sectioned under the mental health act yesterday, and my post here is a re-hash and embellishment on a comment I made on that post.

Aside from Brian Laudrup, Paul Gascoigne is the most talented player I’ve ever had the pleasure to see in a Rangers shirt. On his day and at the top of his game, he was simply unplayable, and I was fortunate enough to have a pitch-side seat the day he single-handedly destroyed Aberdeen at Ibrox to win the Premier League in 1996.

Unfortunately, he is also one of the most unstable, misguided, naive and easily-led individuals ever to have been sucked into the world of professional football. Hangers-on like Mel Stein, Jimmy Gardner and even fellow celebrities like Chris Evans and Danny Baker were happy to ride Gascoigne’s coat-tails whilst the gravy train was rattling on at a fair pace, but I doubt many will be there to pick up the pieces now.

Mad? Frequently. Bad? Occasionally. Sad? As his life has spiralled downwards in tandem with his prodigious abilities, most definitely.

Had his career blossomed ten years later than it did, Gascoigne would probably have been the world's first £100,000-a-week player, and a superstar on a par with David Beckham. Beckham, talented though he is, doesn't bear comparison with Gascoigne. But Beckham is more able to handle the fame and its associated pressures, and has made far more of his less bountiful gifts.

Gascoigne may have enjoyed his greatest successes and most stable years of his career whilst at Rangers, but the nine-in-a-row dressing room was not the ideal place for an alocholic to spend the peak years of his profession. Alongside fellow party lovers Ally McCoist, Ian Durrant and Andy Goram, Gascoigne was famously part of the "dressing room from hell", not renowned for its sobriety and quiet living. Infamously, all of those players sat out the 1998 World Cup, despite all easily being amongst the most talented players in their respective countries.

Whilst Gascoigne may have been a forerunner of today’s Beckham and Rooney hysteria, unlike Beckham he seemed patently unsuited to life under that kind of media microscope, and unfortunately has been paying the price of that fame since he was only a boy. I, for one, hope he has a speedy and full recovery.

1 comment:

bigrab said...

I used to see Gazza quite regularly. He stayed at the Cameron House Hotel during part of his spell at Rangers and I had a membership of the leisure club. At that time also a few of the Rangers players used to come along and see my band at the Commodore Hotel in Helensburgh. I think Jorg Albertz was at every gig and we got to know him quite well. The Rangers players and management had a pet name for Gazza (coined I believe by Archie Knox) and it was "The Madman"
He was a magnificent talent. If only his life skills had matched his footballing ones. As the commentator at the England Germany World Cup semi final in 1990 said as Gazza cried when being booked, thus ruling him out of the final, "Poor lad".

Poor Lad indeed.