Friday, 22 August 2014

Can & should we still help our Gazza?

I’m so saddened to see the poor Paul Gacoigne in such a mess again. An image that looked like it had been photo shopped until we then seen the others of him getting into the ambulance. I was on twitter where it seems modern news breaks and I began to read some of the messages. I was horrified. There is clearly so much ignorance surrounding alcohol dependency. Of course the majority of people offer words of support, empathy and have intelligent understanding of the demon of addiction. But equally many can’t resist being detrimental and show a huge amount of ignorance, some even just outright nasty. They should try correcting their own ugly personalities before commenting on others problems. If anybody thinks Gazza is happy they are deluded. If they think he has done this to himself by choice they are deluded. They are saying, well they don’t have sympathy because it’s his choice. I can assure you that it isn’t choice. He doesn't want to die and he doesn't want to put his family through pain. I’ve also seen people sending messages about his family and surrounding friends. Also sending messages to the like of Gary Lineker saying he should be ashamed of himself. It’s typical of some people. Just blame someone. Total ignorance and very naive.
Until you have been in the situation of living with a chronic dependant alcoholic you should not judge how others handle it. I can assure people that to watch a loved one deteriorate into to a bag of bones in front of your eyes is not easy. Also, as a friend or family member you’re not an expert. You do what you think is right, shout scream. Threaten to walk away, actually walk away. Cry and cuddle, hide the booze, even beg and beg them, you try to enlist professional help and when they relapse it makes you angry, you start to think they are selfish, don’t want to live and don’t care about anyone else. You have to deal with the split personalities. They can become completely incoherent, violent, abusive, and argumentative. You become the victim of abuse at the hands of someone who wakes up and has no idea what they did. It is the most horrible thing to live with and only people who have will understand the strain it puts you through. I used to recall people judging all the time. I even remember people talking outside a church saying “well she had a choice” and these are meant to be our so called kindest members of our community. So we were being judged in our own circles. I remember people saying he’s turned his back, he doesn't care, of course this couldn't be further from the truth, they never knew what we went through, just because we kept it private. On top of all the things I've described there is the added stress of your every move being scrutinised and judged in the public eye, that is something I and few people can understand. I feel so sorry for Paul and also for the loved ones around him.
Although I'm not an expert my view is that alcohol reaches a point where it ‘grabs’ you. Once it does it doesn't let go. Unlike what people think it is now not a choice, not a switch you can turn off. Once it has a grip on you I think we all focus too quickly on the problem we can see. The alcohol. So we try to stop that. But after the passing of our loved one I have looked back and I think, what if we addressed the real issue, earlier. The underlining problem. Only now with further investigation we learned there were indeed deeper issues and these were clearly being masked by drink. I wonder if you could find piece in your sober mind would you organically want to return to that state more often? I think originally the drink is a result of circumstances, depression, boredom and other more deep complex mental issues. Some seek out the ‘atmosphere’. Perhaps why so many footballers battle booze? Because they are hard-wired for work hard and play hard. That joyful state that the dressing room gives is replaced by the pub. I’m not ‘sober’, I go to the pub. I drink occasional wine at home. I enjoy it, but I’m always mindful. I know I’ve got to be careful and avoid the ‘grip’. I always tell myself to give my body a break, almost for my own piece of mind as well.  I think then it becomes less of a mental thing and more physical as your organs start to depend on it and dictate your brain function. Of course this is where you need the experts and medical help.
Gazza of course has had so much money and so many chances. But what do we do now? Do we write him off then? Yes he’s had his football community put funds together and try to save him. He’s been in clinics everywhere and failed. So, that’s it? He’s gone. Well maybe he is, maybe he will never recover and by the looks of things it won’t be long before he goes. We will all then line the streets and say how sad we are. We will all recall how much joy he brought us and gave us such fantastic footballing memories. From a footballing perspective, us coaches have sat in the ‘FA’ meetings and listened to how we should be technically better like the foreigners and in particular the Spanish. But they rarely talk about what we had. Are they scared to use him as a role model because of his illness? Paul Gascoigne is in my mind one of the best ever technical players. He must be because we all talk about 1v1’s yet this so called ‘out of shape’ footballer used to breeze past people in 1v6’s. I recall great dribbling for Lazio, Spurs, Rangers and most of all England.
Paul Gascoigne spent years lifting us off our chairs, maybe its time we the people, the fans lifted him off his bed. I've met Paul a couple of times, once about 7/8 years ago at Newcastle United. I was a youth coach at Luton Town and he was in an ambassador role there. He took time to talk to the kids and then to us the coaches. He of course was stone cold sober and believe me I know when it’s being hidden. He seemed to me very content and like he had a purpose. Then I met him around a year ago in London. He was publicly on one of his ‘dry’ spells. He had his own twitter account etc. I literally bumped in to him in a shop in Oxford Street. He was distressed and clearly was in a stale booze state. Yet according to the media he was sober. I won’t repeat the conversation but we tried to help him before he quickly disappeared.
For me, when I walk past a homeless drunk I don’t prejudge, none of us know the true extent of what put them there. Equally, we shouldn't do the same with Gazza. I woke up this morning and was a little hesitant opening twitter and the news as I do in my morning ritual. I’m petrified to see the words RIPGazza trending. We all know it’s coming. But for a man that gave us all so much joy do we owe it to him to try and help. Giving him money won’t help but he needs proper medical treatment. (Albeit again) Yes, throwing good money after bad is not the answer. Many people are desperate for saviour and don’t get it, I know. But this would be an incremental fund, money that doesn’t exist anyway. The ‘gazzafund’. This fund should be used to help him and provide him the last chance treatment he needs. If he relapses ok, there is still a fund and this should be used to support others that will and can be saved. If god forbid we lose Paul Gascoigne we would then have a great fund to help others. Something great in his legacy. But today, he is alive and whilst he is alive he deserves a chance. Of course the fund would need to be secure, every penny accounted for. Paul would never get access to it but it would mean he’s warm safe and getting treatment.
He’s a human being with a heart and soul and we shouldn't turn our back on him. He loves England, we should show him what great fans we are. Remember, for all those pessimists, were not talking about taking money from others that need it.
Update 30.12.16
Ive just seen the appalling pictures printed in the Daily Mirror and subsequent articles in the Daily Mail. Wow, does journalism get any lower? Please leave him alone, those pictures dont help him and dont serve the public warranted news. We know what a broken man looks like, we dont need to see it. I was however warmed with the comments below the article that i read on twitter. Some proper people out there online thank god!
I dont have the time or the profile to make it happen but maybe the paper should focus on doing something positive for Gazza. Instead of all us fans lining streets when hes gone, why dont we do it now? Maybe it could help him? Only yesterday I worked out, Why dont we do a money raising event. For one of the key Alcohol related charities of which Gazza could benefit if he can. Even if again...
Gather lots of people to do a cycle. Ordinary fans on ordinary bikes. I worked out that if you cycled from Glasgow Rangers to Newcastle United to Middlesbrough to Everton, to Spurs and Finish at Wembley its around 600 miles. 600 miles for Gazza. Personally, I would love to do that and have a memorable time along the way. Maybe do it in the shirts that he wore and create a buzz for him. A positive supporting event. Lets face it, if we do nothing, hes gone. 

I do know that this man needs help. We the football community, the people in the pro game, the fans, the authorities can rally round and yes, hes one man, but hes an awful special one and either way this campaign could end up saving thousands.

Tony McCool


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