His hands shaking uncontrollably and a stream of swear words tumbling out of his mouth, it was a very different “Gazza” to the man who wowed a global audience at the 1990 World Cup.
Paul Gascoigne’s appearance at a charity event has sparked renewed fears about the health of one of England’s most talented and popular soccer players, with some even saying his life is in danger.
“He sounds as if he needs almost a 24-hour watching brief at the moment,” Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) chief executive Gordon Taylor said on Monday.
Gascoigne has been plagued by alcohol and mental health problems since quitting the game in 2005. However, he had been keeping a relatively low profile over the past two years until he made a public appearance at an event in Northampton, England — footage of which was shown on the Web site of British newspaper the Sun at the weekend.
In a question-and-answer session in front of what appeared to be a raucous crowd, the 45-year-old Gascoigne struggled to hold on to the microphone and slurred his words. The audience cheered every answer, but the sadness soon hit home as he began to sob.
“I’ve had a [expletive] hard month — [expletive] hell,” said Gascoigne, who later added that he had been on a “whisky diet.”
His agent, Terry Baker, said Gascoigne had been drinking again and did not know he was shaking during the event.
Gascoigne’s management company said on Monday the former player would be admitted to a treatment center in the US, adding that he “has complex issues that are currently been dealt with by professionals.”
“Paul has been extremely touched and overwhelmed by the generous offers of help and support over the past few days,” GamePlan Solutions said in a statement. “He is motivated to fully understand and control his addiction problem under guidance.”
Gascoigne’s lapse back into alcoholism has led to a flurry of comments on social media Web sites from members of the public and former players.
Former Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel said on Twitter: “This is not fun watching. Gazza needs help. Come on PFA and Gordon Taylor, time to step up.”
Taylor said he had been in touch with Gascoigne over the weekend.
“He’s said it’s just a blip,” Taylor told the BBC. “But it really is down to him.”
“We just don’t want this to be another George Best tragedy,” Taylor added, in reference to the Manchester United great who died in 2005 after a battle with alcoholism. “But there is a frustration that when things look to be improving, it all goes off wire.”
Taylor said “there isn’t a player we’ve done more for” in his time at the PFA.
“In fact, we’ve been criticized for doing as much as we have, because he has not made the improvements that some of our other members have,” Taylor said.
Gascoigne — a skillful central midfielder — scored 10 goals in 57 matches for England, making his name at the 1990 World Cup in Italy and then at the European Championship in 1996, when he helped his country reach the semi-finals on both occasions.