Belfast Telegraph

It's easy to be smug about Gazza, but many face same battle

Gail Walker

For those who have even heard of him, or haven't forgotten him, Paul Gascoigne may be either a fallen hero or an estate boor simply fulfilling his sorry destiny.

The breaking news at the weekend that the ex-footballer is, it seems, "back on the bottle" and in what are alleged to be dire straits, was hardly what one might think from the screaming headlines. It was, in short, hardly "news".

The truth is Gazza's life story has had a certain inevitability about it for at least a decade. Binges, bust-ups and breakdowns, new starts and false dawns, hope getting the upper hand over experience for a year or two. Media invisibility taken as a good sign ... And through it all the lethal toxin of alcohol.

We know a bit about football and little houses and booze in our wee corner. And we know too the rush to judgment which some of our compatriots are keen to embark on when the problem is the so-called "moral weakness" of alcoholism. But maybe we know, too, that there is a tragic war being fought every day by people who cannot live without alcohol. That not all of them, by a long way, are poor and unshaven and jobless. That many of them are middle-class professionals so far, "respectable" so far, married so far ... That every now and then a famous person gets mauled by a drug many of us take for granted as harmless. Sadly, it seems it's Gazza's fate to live out this addiction in the full glare of media attention. It would be charitable of all of us to spare a thought and a prayer for him at this time. Better men than Gazza have succumbed to alcoholism. Worse men than him never took a drink in their lives.

Belfast Telegraph


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