Paul Gascoigne on drink, drugs and nearly signing for Man Utd

The former England footballer talks about the highs and lows of his colourful life and career

Gazza on his school days


I was practising autographs [in a geography lesson] and the teacher Mr Hepworth said, “What are you doing that for?” And I said, “I am going to be a professional footballer.” He said, “Only one in a million make it” and I said, “I am going to be that one.” I got kicked out of the classroom. 

After the World Cup in 1990, the only thing I could think of was Mr Hepworth. I knew what class he was in so I went to the school and knocked on his door. I looked in his little window and he looked at us and went, “I know.” 

On nearly signing for Manchester United

I was thinking Man U is a massive club, so I thought I’ll go to Man U – they offered us big wages. Alex Ferguson says, “I’m going on holiday, I’ll see you when I get back.” “OK, enjoy your holiday, I’ll sign.” 

And so as I was driving to Manchester I get a phone call from Irving Scholar [chairman of Tottenham]: “Paul, we’ll give you £2,500 a week. Not only that, we’ll buy your dad a house, so I said, “Ma and dad, Spurs are gonna buy us a house, what do you think?” “Sounds good, son.” So I said, “All right then, yes.”

Going a bit further, dad calls up, he says, “Son, what about a car?” and I say, “Irving, listen, what about a car for me dad, BMW private reg?” “Yeah, we’ll give him that as well.” And now I’m like, “Dad they’re giving us that as well.” I can hear my sister in the background: “I want a sunbed,” so they threw that in as well.

On drink and drugs

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. I’d probably have about 16 lines of coke in a day. Which is a hell of a lot.

The football is what I lived for, what I woke up for, but that was gone. It’s taken away and you think, “Oh s**t, what now?” My solution was drink and cocaine. I went loopy. The phone calls I made was unbelievable. I remember ringing my dad saying, “Listen, get your stuff, we’re going to play President Clinton and Bush at chess” and I honestly believed it.

I was on four bottles of whisky a day. The worst one was when I went four months without any food or water – not even water – and four bottles of whisky a day. I went to about nine stone. When I went to the treatment centre it took us about three weeks to start drinking water. I thought water was gonna kill us. When you go in hospital they say, “Paul, there’s 10mg of valium to calm you down.” They didn’t know I was on 70mg a day, so I was in the s**t straight away…

On playing the fool

During the World Cup in 1990, England were flying to Napoli and I said, “Can I sit in the cockpit?” And they said yeah. So I said to the captain, “Can I have the controls?” And he said, “OK, no problem,” and I said, “How do you get this plane to go right?” And he showed us this button, just gave it a turn, so I said, “Can I have a go?” and gave it a little turn, and he went, “You can give it a bit more,” and I just went whoosh and this plane must have went about three miles off track. And I s**t meself. You should have seen the pilot’s face while he put it right.

On rehab

I’ve tried for 14 or 15 years to get well and I keep thinking I can beat it man, and I keep trying to beat it and I keep messing up and then I give it another shot.

And sometimes when I’m in Bournemouth [where he is currently being treated at the Providence Treatment Centre] people say, “What are you doing in Bournemouth, Paul?” I say, “I had a fight with a can of beer and got beat.”

And I’ll continue to get beat. And if I start drinking again I’ll get beaten again, there’s no doubt about it and I know where I’ll end up and it could be in a coffin and, you know, but I’d rather be cremated because I don’t want to be in a coffin because I suffer from claustrophobia!

I learnt to love myself again – I’ve definitely learnt that. I’ve learnt to realise that some people have problems as well, it’s not just you Paul, it’s not all poor me, poor me, pour me a drink. Other people have got problems.

I think I’ve learnt, I’ve learnt that because of where I’ve been – the treatment centre – I can actually have more fun without a drink than I can with.

On life with Sheryl

What I did [in 1996, he assaulted his ex-wife Sheryl, below with Gascoigne and her children] was disgusting. People don’t know what I went through, what really went on in our marriage. I took alcohol to try to ease the pain, to block it out. But it had the other effect where I did go off the rails.

I still love Sheryl, yeah course I still love her, but I don’t know if I’m in love with her, if you know what that means. I just feel that I’ve got to move on. I could see myself getting married again. I am a good bloke. I’m a nice bloke, I’m kind hearted. 


Paul Gascoigne is the guest on Piers Morgan’s Life Stories on ITV1 at 9:45pm on Saturday 12 November