21 February, 2008

Gazza Detained under the Mental Health Act

News just in of yet another pretty tragic state of affairs for football, this week involving one of England’s few true footballing geniuses, Paul Gascoigne. The former Newcastle, Spurs and Lazio prodigy was arrested at the Hilton Hotel in Gateshead last night, and instead of being held in custody, was actually sectioned under the Mental Health Act. For this to happen to the most gifted English player of his generation is so sad that we will forgo the standard witty repartee and not even post any clips to the relevant Peep Show episode. We'll link to them instead.

Police arrived at the hotel yesterday evening after receiving a report of concern for a 40-year-old man staying at the hotel, however nothing was damaged and no-one was injured during the incident. The Mental Health Act is only invoked when a person is considered to be a danger to themselves or to others, but as yet no further specifics have been released to the press.

Undoubtedly one of the most individually talented players to ever come from these shores, Gazza unfortunately always had a self-destruct button, and scuppered what could have been perhaps one of the most successful careers in history with moments of severe emotional instability and erratic behaviour, both on and off the field. He was famously dubbed “daft as a brush” by former England manager Bobby Robson at the 1990 World Cup in Italy, and rose to national fame after crying in the semi-final of that tournament when he thought he would miss the final due to suspension.

Consistently in the news throughout his career, journalists seemed to spot the intrinsic vulnerabilty of his party lifestyle and take advantage of it to sell newspapers, casting him as Hero and then Villain almost weekly. Like David Beckham in more recent memory, he couldn’t stay out of the spotlight however hard he tried, and every one of Gazza’s weaknesses was laid bare for all to see. Most famously, he was crucified for going on a wild drinking session with fellow England team-mates in the build-up to the 1996 European Championships, but answered those critics with a sensational goal against Scotland in the tournament at Wembley. Ever the joker, he even celebrated by mimicking the infamous “dentist chair'” drinking game he had been caught playing:

Sky News sports correspondant Jon Desborough said that this arrest was just the latest example of “the demons he has had to deal with throughout his life,” and today’s news is perhaps not that surprising to many people. It comes under a year after Gascoigne was arrested first for an alleged assault outside a Liverpool city centre hotel, second for fighting a nightclub bouncer, and finally a third time after accusations that he racially abused a photographer. Last year he was also shockingly sacked from managing Nationwide Conference North club Kettering after being “under the influence of alcohol before, during and after several first-team games and training sessions,” according to club chairman Imraan Ladak. After this dismissal, he told Sky News: “Two years ago, I would have given in. But now, I'm stronger. I'm the man, I'm a genius and I know what goes on on a football field.”

Couldn’t have put it better myself, but that makes it all the more sadder that we might never see Gascoigne as the man we remember again. Peep him at his sublime best here:

UPDATE: Gazza is now on suicide watch and more details have emerged about his 2 month long stay in a hotel, surrounded by drink, drugs and electronic parrots, that he'd taught to say 'fuck off'. It would be funny if it wasn't so sad.