He’s one of the UK’s most iconic footballers of all time, lifting trophies including the FA Cup and the Scottish League Cup during his career.
Playing for Newcastle, Tottenham Hotspur, Glasgow Rangers, Everton, Middlesbrough and Burnley during his career, he also did a stint at Italian club Lazio and made 57 appearances for England.
Paul Gascoigne won hearts across the nation when he burst into tears at the Italia 90 World Cup semi final after being given a yellow card in the 98th minute.
As he’d already been booked in a previous match in the tournament, the caution meant he wouldn’t be able to play in the final if England made it to the final two. A defeat to West Germany in penalties meant it was heartbreak for England at the end.
Off the pitch, the midfielder’s private life has been blighted by mental health problems and alcohol addiction.
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A new documentary airing tonight on BBC Two, simply called ‘Gazza’, details the footballing hero’s struggle, which it is claimed was worsened by the actions of the tabloid press.
Since his retirement, the cheeky personality has bravely opened up about his battle with alcoholism, depression and insomnia – all the while maintaining a sharp sense of humor and cheerful demeanour.
Alcohol and cocaine addiction
After retiring from football, Gazza admitted he struggled to cope with life and turned to booze and cocaine to take the edge off.
Appearing on Piers Morgan’s Life Stories in 2011, he recalled putting away four bottles of whiskey every single day – and went four months without eating or drinking anything else.
As he went to rehab, the 5’10 star said his weight had dropped to nine stone and he was frightened to drink water because he thought it might kill him.
He also told Morgan at the height of his drug addiction he was snorting 16 lines of cocaine every single day.
He said: “You think, well, how did I get myself in a state like that? Especially taking cocaine.
“It was there on a plate and I thought I’d try it and I couldn’t stop. I locked myself in a hotel room for six weeks.”
Gazza has always been open about his battle with addiction – particularly alcoholism – and the lengths he’s gone to try and get off the drink.
In 2020, he revealed he’d splashed £20,000 on an operation two years earlier to have anti-alcohol pellets sewn into his stomach that would make him feel sick if he took a drink.
However, last year the footballing legend told The Sun he was back on the booze – adding he was much more in control of his addiction now.
“I’ll always be an alcoholic,” he said.
In 1996, Gazza married his long-term girlfriend Sheryl Failes – but the pair split just a few years later amid Sheryl’s claims that her husband was physically and emotionally abusive.
Speaking to The Herald in 2009, Sheryl said: “The world got Gazza the charmer and I got Paul the abuser. They’re two different people.”
That year Sheryl published her memoir Stronger: My Life Surviving Gazza which talked about their relationship in more detail.
The pair share a son, Regan, and Gazza also took on Sheryl’s children from a previous relationship, Mason and Bianca.
In 2008, The Mirror reported the footballer broke down in tears when Sheryl visited him at The Priory after he’d been sectioned after suffering from suicidal thoughts, panic attacks and had had violent outbursts.
He reportedly apologized to his ex-wife, who had been described as his “rock,” for being violent towards her during their marriage.
Gazza told a friend: “I’m made up she’s in my life again. I want us to become a proper family again. She is a remarkable woman. I don’t deserve her.”
Despite a turbulent relationship, it has been reported that Sheryl has been there for the troubled star over the years when he has been at his lowest.
Mental health struggles
In 2001 Gazza was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He has also opened up about struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and bulimia.
For the next decade, Gazza was in and out of rehab for issues with his mental health and addiction – and was arrested several times for drug possession, drink-driving and assault.
He made headlines in 2010 when murderer Raoul Moat, who had killed one and injured two others, was involved in a stand-off with cops after going on the run for a week.
To everyone’s surprise, Gazza turned up at the scene of the stand-off in Rothbury carrying some chicken, a can of beer, a fishing rod, a Newcastle shirt and a dressing gown.
Cops kept the footballing legend far away from the scene and the stand-off ended with Moat taking his own life.
Later, Gazza recalled he’d taken 14 lines of cocaine before heading down to the scene after he’d followed the story on the news. While many were left wondering if the footballing legend and Moat were known to each other, it later emerged the pair had never met.
Speaking to The Mirror in 2020, he explained: “I thought that I could take Raoul Moat fishing because he was near a river.”
I’m a Celeb Italy
Last year, Gazza made an appearance on the Italian version of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here, which is set on a Caribbean island.
Although he had to bow out earlier than planned, the former Tottenham star made his mark on L’Isola dei Famosi as the first contestant to sunbathe naked.
During his 38 days on the island, Gazza participated in plenty of trials – but had to be airlifted to hospital after one trial caused him to dislocate his shoulder.
He tried to soldier on despite the injury, but ultimately it proved too much and he was forced to come home after just over a month.
Since his stint on the island, Gazza has appeared in good spirits, putting worried fans at ease after an appearance on Good Morning Britain last September to talk about his friend Jimmy Greaves.
Susanna Reid told him: “You look well, you really look well” while Richard Madeley congratulated him on battling his “demons.”
Most recently, he broke down in tears of pride watching his son Regan, now 26, skate on ITV show Dancing on Ice.
Although he seemed overwhelmed by his son’s talent, he didn’t attend the final to watch Regan lift the trophy.
If you’re struggling with addiction you can find help and support here
Gazza will air at at 9pm this evening, Wednesday 13th April 2022