Gazza’s Grief: A Sobering Reminder

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Twenty years on from his breakout efforts at Italia ’90, Paul “Gazza” Gascoigne continues his tragic, downward spiral as he was admitted to hospital after a car accident in his home town of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Thankfully, he’s not thought to be in a life-threatening condition (though it is described by the hospital as “serious”) and reports suggest that the car, in which Gascoigne was a passenger, went off the road before hitting a signpost. A 36-year-old woman has been arrested on suspicion of drink driving.

The grim irony of the timing of this latest incident (Gascoigne has had long-running battles with his fitness, health, alcohol and domestic abuse) will probably not be lost on one of the greatest “lost” midfielders of his generation. His manager at the 1990 World Cup, the late Sir Bobby Robson, memorably labeled him as “daft as a brush” yet he somehow managed to mix his tomfoolery off the pitch with a sublime talent on it. He was the catalyst — as well as Robson switching to the sweeper system — that spurred England through to the semi-finals, though that crucial game will always be remembered for the booking he picked up, meaning he wouldn’t play in the final had England got there. Of course, his side were knocked out by West Germany on penalties. He cried (making it acceptable for English men to shed tears), returned home a hero and was even named in that World Cup’s All-Star team.

Despite breaking his leg in the 1991 FA Cup final — in classic Gazza fashion, he was so pent up before the game that he caused the injury by throwing himself into the challenge with Stuart Pearce — he got a second wind and yet again drove England forward into a semi final five years later during the EURO ’96 tournament held on home soil. Once more, the opposition and manner of defeat in the semi-final would be exactly the same. And from there, his behavior on and off the pitch never recaptured the undoubted potential he had. We can but hope that the same sorry fate doesn’t befall the emerging stars of the class of 2010.