Tragic ex-footballer Paul Gascoigne has admitted that he is drinking himself to death. In an ITV documentary to be shown tomorrow night Gazza accepts that despite his well-publicised attempts at rehab, he will hit the bottle again and that his alcoholism will kill him.
“I know probably in the future I am going to drink again… and that means a wooden box and six nails,” he tells film maker Jane Preston. She then asks whether people who claim he is drinking himself to death on purpose are correct. “Yeah, They are right. We’re all dying.”
The film – which ITV admits it paid Gascoigne a fee for – follows the fallen star as he returns to the UK in the spring after an emergency spell in rehab in America where a reaction to the treatment nearly killed him. It ends four months later with him reflecting on another headline-grabbing crash from the wagon.
It’s a tender and sympathetic portrait with intimate access to Gascoigne’s home life both in Bournemouth and in his native Tyneside. But the scars of his alcoholism are all too visible. Though sober throughout the filming his conversation is slurred and often hard to discern.
The mischievous grin that characterised his approach to life replaced by a careworn and haunted look. At times the film feels like one chronicling someone with a terminal illness as they approach the end of their life.
The hardest thing to witness is Gascoigne’s child-like vulnerability – a man in the grip of something he clearly doesn’t know how to control.
“I didn’t ask to be an alcoholic. It’s like asking someone why he is a diabetic. I wish I wasn’t but I am. If I’m having a good day I’ll make the most of it because I don’t know what tomorrow brings, or even the next five minutes.”
He’s seen having botox to help restore some sparkle in his face and tucking into the cupboards full of sweets he’s bought to feed this replacement addiction.
But the most tender moments are those with his family – wife Sheryl and children Bianca and Regan. They gather together for the first time in years to celebrate his 46th birthday. Gazza’s tears flow again as he accepts the damage his drinking has caused.
Daughter Bianca says: “I would like them to get back together. When the family is back together there’s a nice vibe. It just feels completed. Everyone wants to save him, but he can only save himself. And I’m just so pleased and proud that at the moment he seems to be doing that.”
But the demons area never far away. As Gazza acknowledges: “It would devastate me if I came back into their lives and ruined it all for them again.
Hopefully it doesn’t happen again but if it does I’m sorry. I am an alcoholic. I hope I don’t die, but there wouldn’t be any sympathy. People will say he was warned. “
And happen it does. The film shows CCTV footage of Gazza guzzling from a bottle of gin in a London corner store. Another spell in hospital and back into the care of the heroic Sheryl.
Says daughter Bianca: “I was angry and disappointed. He was just doing so well. The time we have with him we cherish because we know it could be the last.”
Being Paul Gascoigne is on ITV1 at 9pm tomorrow