Former England midfielder Paul Gascoigne is hoping turning 50 later this month will see the start of a “happy and sober” future, having just got through the “worst year ever”.
Gascoigne, an icon of the game who has had several stints in rehab for drugs and alcohol addiction, said he has had a bad time since the death of his 22-year-old nephew Jay last year, but that he was now “doing really well”.
The 49-year-old, who carried the coffin at Jay Kerrigan-Gascoigne’s funeral almost a year ago, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “I haven’t had the best of years. I was doing really well the last time I was here, and then obviously Jay, who had mental problems…
“It was 5 o’clock in the morning and my dad rang. Before my dad even said anything I said, ‘I know, he’s passed away’. Since then… I’ve had a terrible year, keeping everything to myself.”
Everton winger Aaron Lennon has been in the headlines for the past week after he was detained under the Mental Health Act, with his club saying he was suffering from a stress-related illness.
Gascoigne, who himself had a spell with the Toffees after playing for Newcastle, Tottenham, Lazio, Rangers and Middlesbrough, stressed the importance of not bottling things up.
“All of a sudden sometimes I’m in a good mood and then all of a sudden I wake up and I’ve got a bottle of gin and I think ‘where’s that come from?’. It’s good coming to talk to you – it’s saved me £15,000 in rehab.”
He continued: “You look at the Everton player, who’s just been sectioned…
“There’s a lot of people out there who have got everything, but, inside, they don’t share enough.
“There needs to be more done – especially with the guys. It’s a macho thing. They think, ‘Nah I’m not doing this because no-one will like us’.
“Sometimes their ego’s getting battered. With me, sometimes I needed my ego to be battered and squashed. That’s the only way of going forward – by talking about it.”
Gascoigne appeared on the morning TV show with a bandage around his hand protecting a couple of broken bones in his little finger – an injury he said occurred when he confronted thieves.
On the prospect of turning 50 on May 27, he said: “I don’t mind. I’ve had a good life and I’ve had my ups and downs. Just this year hasn’t been the best. It’s probably the worst year ever.
“Hopefully 50 will turn a good point. I’m working on things. I’m writing down the pros and cons – what’s good for me and what’s not good for me, and that’s important. This time I didn’t go to treatment – I did cold turkey, and that wasn’t very nice.”
Gascoigne has turned down an invite from former club Spurs to mark the end of their time at White Hart Lane in order to focus on his health.
“I’m trying to get well again, which I’m doing really well,” he said. “It’s best I focus on me staying well.
“As long as I just keep working on myself because there’s so many fans out there that I don’t want to let down. I’m the worst one – I let myself down more than anything else.
“I want to be happy and sober. It’s about getting the happiness, getting the balance right.”