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Gazza: IRA threatened me after my flute band antics

By Claire McNeilly

Published 12/06/2015

Paul Gascoigne mimics playing a flute during a match against Celtic in 1998
Paul Gascoigne mimics playing a flute during a match against Celtic in 1998
Paul Gascoigne

Paul Gascoigne has revealed that he received IRA death threats after he infamously mimicked a flute player in a loyalist band during an Old Firm match.

The fallen football superstar was playing for Rangers when he did an impression of a flautist playing 'The Sash' in 1998 and was subsequently fined £40,000 by the Scottish Football Association.

But, as the former England midfielder told Stephen Nolan, he was threatened with more deadly punishment in the aftermath of the incident.

'Gazza', who has struggled with alcohol addiction since quitting football 11 years ago, told the BBC presenter he had no idea at the time of the effect the mock flute playing would have - even though it happened during a typically volatile Celtic v Rangers clash at Parkhead.

However, a subsequent communication, which Gascoigne claimed was from republican paramilitaries, made the then 30-year-old take what he had done a lot more seriously.

"I did (mimic playing) The Sash and had the IRA after us," said the 48-year-old, who had already performed a similar gesture in a pre-season friendly.

"I didn't know what it really meant the first time, so I got off with it."

But he said he repeated the gesture because he was getting so much verbal abuse during the Parkhead game.

"The second time I knew... the Celtic fans were harassing us and so I did The Sash thing... and then I got the letter from the IRA threatening to kill us."

He recalled that the letter read: "'Hi Gazza, I've seen what you done... if you do that again I'll kill you'."

The father-of-three said there was no doubt that the person who sent the letter was an IRA member.

"The CIA (sic) men came back and said he is IRA, he's gonna kill you Paul," he told Nolan.

"They showed us how to look under my cars for bombs and the copper says be careful with the mail you open because it could explode."

Gascoigne also revealed that he then asked his former best friend Jimmy 'Five Bellies' Gardner to check his mail for him - for a payment of £100 a week.

"He did it... I went to the newspapers and told them about it and Jimmy lost his dole money because he was working for me."

The troubled football legend said he was happy with his life at present, having made a huge effort to clean up his act.

In another interview this week, Gascoigne told Good Morning Britain presenter Ben Shephard: "I just want to carry on enjoying myself and staying sober, my life is good… today I love myself, I have to say that."

He added: "I'm feeling good, as long as I stay like this but, no, things have been good over the last few months, to be fair.

"I've just been on top of everything and just trying to relax and enjoy myself as much as I can."

The Geordie hero has been busy this week promoting an eponymously titled documentary about his life.

'Gascoigne' is directed by the BAFTA winner Jane Preston.

Belfast Telegraph

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