Paul Gascoigne is 50 Today
It’s 27th May 1982. I’d like to imagine that, as a special treat for his fifteenth birthday, a kindly uncle has invited young Gazza round to his place to watch the replay of the FA Cup Final between Spurs and QPR on the 26″ colour TV he’s just rented from Rumbelows. I’m also pretty sure that uncle, with great prescience, will say, as Hoddle scored Spurs’ winning penalty, “In nine years time you’ll be winning the FA Cup with this team, Gazza – though, unless you cop yourself on, having scored a beautiful goal against Ars*nal in the semi-final you’ll have to go off after seventeen minutes with a self-inflicted cruciate ligament injury”.
But will even his fictional uncle be able to foresee the entire extraordinary list of tragicomic events that will befall Paul throughout his life? The addictions, the goals, the Raoul Moat incident, the tears, the violence, Gazzamania, the Lindisfarne collaboration, the alcohol?
‘Apparently, Gazza’s in rehab. Again.’
Yes. You can say that sarcastically, scornfully, dismissively. You can say it pityingly, patronisingly, parentally. Or you can say it factually, objectively, disinterestedly. So often celebrities become a repository for all our own crap, all our rage and self-loathing and fear. Or they become figures of intellectual curiosity, handy ways of distancing ourselves from our own stories, our own culture. Only rarely are they absolute geniuses. and only rarely are their faults and flaws so nakedly exposed, so indulged and so excused. Those two things are connected, of course. The indulging and enabling of his self-destructiveness have stemmed in part from a respect for that immense talent. And the immense talent – and the consequent visibility and semi-deification – was one of the reasons a shy, fragile, traumatised working-class kid ended up in and out of cells and mental health units and the tabloids. But there’s also a warmth and a humour to him, a wide-eyed, twinkling love of life and country and a recognition of its (and his) absurdities that chime with all of us. He was the second-best player we ever saw at Spurs. But he was the most loved. Here’s to this round of rehab being a success.