From his disastrous tragi-comedic cameo during the final hours of Cumbrian killer Raoul Moat‘s fatal stand-off with the Rothsbury police constabulary back in July to the car crash in Newcastle’s quayside district that left him hospitalised for best part of a week the month previous, it seemed not so very long ago that former England star Paul Gascoigne was unravelling a little further with every headline he stumbled his way in to.
Crippled by his various dependencies, intermittent bouts of bulimia and depression, disorderly behaviour and the obsessive-compulsive caricature he felt obliged to live up to, it was becoming increasingly apparent that Gascoigne – in all honesty – wasn’t ‘long for this world’.
All things considered, it should come as somewhat of a shock that the former Tottenham, Lazio and Rangers midfielder is being discussed today for more positive reasons.
Gascoigne has admitted to taking on one of the ‘biggest challenges’ of his life after being installed as the manager of non-league side Garforth Town, who are currently rooted comfortably halfway down the Evo Stik First Division North league.
Upon his appointment, Gascoigne told the News of the World;
“I feel strong right now. For me it’s a big challenge. It’s whether the players want to join me in that challenge. I never knew when I’d get back into football. I want to take the club forward and I want the players to develop. I will give commitment to the club.
Going to a club like this does not bother me one bit. I love this type of football. It is not flash and the players won’t be flash.
I will get the same publicity at Garforth as if I was at a Premier League club and I don’t want the players to get carried away with it. I am excited. I can’t wait to get in and get started – but of course I will be nervous.”
One assumes that the ‘challenge’ Gascoigne is referring to is probably one of personal affirmation rather than any impending footballing undertaking.
Garforth themselves are no strangers to the art of the publicity stunt, signing up chain-smoking Brazilian legend Socrates (who was then 50-years-old) on a one-month deal back in 2004, but controversial owner Simon Clifford insisted that the same is not true of their latest acquisition;
“This is not a publicity stunt. When we signed Socrates, that was. Everyone says they love Paul but nobody does anything about it.
I want him to be an inspiration to someone who might have depression or problems in their lives. He’s walked through hell but he has kept on walking.”
A sustained spell of focus and worthy cause is exactly what a man like Gascoigne needs to occupy his time. However, in gimmicky Garforth (a team which were once fined for wearing a see-through kit designed by a local fashion student), it would seem that the ‘Gazza circus’ may be doomed to roll on.