'Can of lager, chicken and a fishing rod': Paul Gascoigne's most iconic off-field moments

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From innocent beginnings as he was catapulted into a national obsession in 1990 to constant struggles with his demons, Gazza has rarely been out of the newspapers - and it is not always all that positive. Here, we take a wander through the iconic off-field moments of the one and only Paul Gascoigne.

'Music' career

Once upon a time, when footballers became successful the given thing was for them to release music. Glenn Hoddle and Chris Waddle did it, Kevin Keegan did it, every team which reached an FA Cup final did it, and plenty others. Gazza did it too. Of course he did.

In fairness, this was before the days of mega contracts that made top players instant millionaires. Football was still an industry with a relatively modest income, so players were keen to take advantage of every avenue they could to cash in on their profile.

After Italia '90, Paul Gascoigne was the biggest name in football anywhere in the world. Gazzamania was real and it was immediate, so he did what all people who can't sing would do in his position: took a local folk song and released it as a rap version.

Thus, Fog on the Tyne was born. The original band who released it, Lindisfarne, were roped in, the video was shot on the actual Tyne and Gazzamania saw it effortlessly climb to number two in the national charts.

It wasn't well-received by everyone, though, with original Lindisfarne member Ray Jackson quitting the band over the project.

"I felt uncomfortable right from the start of this process and considered it ill judged," Jackson said. "In my opinion it was totally at odds with our solid reputation, built over the previous two decades of performing and writing. I felt we were selling out; the rest of the band disagreed. "I left Lindisfarne after not wanting to take part in the Gazza video as I was extremely unimpressed with the collaboration from a musical point of view." To be fair to Jackson, it was very hard not to be very unimpressed by Gazza's take on Fog on the Tyne from a musical point of view.

Gascoigne's follow-up Geordie Boys was less successful, peaking at 31 in the charts and signalling the end of Gazza's brief flirtation with the music industry.

Dentist's chair

Arguably the most infamous night in the history of the England national team came in Hong Kong in 1996, and naturally Paul Gascoigne was at the centre of it.

Given a night off by Terry Venables during a pre-Euro '96 trip, the England boss had assigned assistant manager Bryan Robson to chaperone the touring party. The former Manchester United captain didn't prove to be an entirely positive influence, though.

Paul Gascoigne - Gazza dentist chair celebration
Paul Gascoigne - Gazza dentist chair celebration

"Bryan Robson was standing there with a pint, and he was wearing one of those shirts with a round collar, and someone grabbed it and ripped it," former England keeper Ian Walker recalled.

"All he had left was the little round collar: the rest of it had gone. And he just carried on drinking like nothing had happened!

"He was supposed to be looking after us, so from then on it went a bit mad. And then someone found a dentist's chair in another room.

"So of course - bang! - straight away we're on it. I think Gazza went on first, then I had a go, then Teddy Sheringham. Then it all went off, just bedlam."

By 'on it' Walker means they were lying back in the chair with their mouths open, and by 'bedlam' he is obviously referring to team-mates pouring spirits down their necks straight from the bottle.

The press inevitably got photos and there was outrage back home. These players, after all, were trusted to take England's first home tournament for 30 years seriously. Naturally, when Gazza scored against Scotland, he turned the dentist's chair into one of the most iconic celebrations in football history.

Attempts at coaching

Paul Gascoigne Gazza appointed Kettering coach
Paul Gascoigne Gazza appointed Kettering coach

The whole world knew Paul Gascoigne was the last footballer who should hold coaching aspirations, except Gazza himself of course.

In 2003 he dipped his toe into the coaching pool by accepting a player-coach contract with Chinese side Gansu Tianma. He started well, scoring twice in his first four games there before his personal demons reappeared and he sought professional help for struggles with drink and depression in the United States.

He never returned to China, instead taking a player-coach role at Boston United. "I can become a great coach and a great manager," Gazza boasted upon signing. He left after just five games, retired from playing and announced his plans to take an intensive coaching course instead.

Gazza had to drop into the Conference, the fifth tier of English football, to get an opportunity as a manager. Kettering Town gave him the chance, but it wasn't a very good one. He wanted to invest in the club personally to own a 33% share, but his reign lasted just 39 days. The owner of the club blamed Gazza's struggles with alcoholism, while Gascoigne himself said he had never been paid and the owner had constantly interfered. Whatever the truth, it was the only chance he ever got to be a manager.

Failed attempt at rebranding

In 2004, Paul Gascoigne decided that he didn't actually want to be Paul Gascoigne anymore, or Gazza for that matter. Instead, he asked the world to call him G8 instead - a combination of his initial and preferred shirt number throughout his playing career. "G8 is right for us now," he explained. "It sounds a bit like 'great', or at least it does with my Geordie accent." In fairness, it appeared to be a genuine attempt to put his past struggles with alcoholism and depression behind him. "Paul's not right for us because it's too closely linked with the past," Gascoigne said. "I just want to be the guy that enjoyed his football and entertained the fans." It didn't stick.

Run-ins with the law and struggles with mental illness

Paul Gascoigne - Gazza attending a trial
Paul Gascoigne - Gazza attending a trial

It is a real sadness that for football fans who did not get to see his playing career, Gazza is most associated with his often-flailing fights with his personal demons. He admitted he subjected first wife Sheryl Failes to domestic violence before their divorce in 1999, and 10 years later she herself released a tell-all book on those years entitles entitled Stronger: My Life Surviving Gazza.

In 1998, Gazza was sent to the Priory Hospital by his then manager Bryan Robson after drinking 32 shots of whisky left him unconscious. He checked himself out after just half of the required 28 days.

While at Everton in 2001, Gascoigne had another stint at the Priory, organised by Toffees chief Bill Kenwright, before moving to the Cottonwood clinic in Arizona. While there, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

In early 2008, Gazza was sectioned under the Mental Health Act after an incident at a Newcastle Hotel due to fears over him self-harming. In Hune, he was sectioned again after attempting to commit suicide via a drugs overdose.

Paul Gascoigne in rehab
Paul Gascoigne in rehab

Later in 2008, Gascoigne was facing bankruptcy due to an unpaid £300,000 tax bill. It was alleged he had not filed any tax returns for two years, although he escaped in the High Court despite still owing £32,000 of the total.

Two years later he was arrested following a fight outside a takeaway, and a month later charged with a plethora of driving offences. He received a suspended sentence and re-entered rehab.

Following a string of further alcoholism relapses, Gascoigne was fined and given a restraining order for harassing an ex-girlfriend and assaulting a photographer, and then fined again for racially abusing his bodyguard.

A sexual assault charge followed in January 2017 after being accused by a woman on a train. He was cleared, but failed to endear himself to anyone by calling his accuser a "fat lass" who he had "only given a peck on the lips" to in an attempt to "boost her confidence".

'Can of lager, some chicken, and a fishing rod'

In July 2010, Gazza surprisingly involved himself with a serious manhunt.

Bouncer Raoul Moat had already claimed three victims in a terrifying shooting spree, killing one person, in the Newcastle area before turning his weapon on a police officer and blinding him. He fled to the rural Northumberland village of Rothbury, which sits on the banks of the River Cocquet.

With police closing in and surrounding Moat, a stand-off was in progress. Unexpectedly, Gazza arrived on the scene saying he was there to help and had "a can of lager, some chicken, and a fishing rod".

At that time, Gascoigne was in a highly vulnerable state and had been drinking and taking cocaine, as he readily admitted in 2015 when he recounted the story.

"You've got to realise I'm half cut anyway, sitting in the living room, I've got about six lines [of cocaine] lined up," explained the ex-Spurs midfielder during his 'Evening with Paul Gascoigne' talk in November 2015. "I'm not realising much but a good line and me and Raoul Moat are sort of friends. A couple more lines and we are good buddies. "A few whiskies, another few lines, I've had about eight lines and we went to school together. "He was in Rothbury, that's where I used to go fishing so I know the area quite well "Another line and I have a couple of fishing rods and a chicken. He's going to need a drink. I've had 14 lines now and he's my brother. "I've got my fishing rods, I've got Barbour jacket, I've got my four cans, I've got my chicken. My chicken is important because he must be starving."

In a later interview with the Daily Mirror, he continued: "I thought that I could take Raoul Moat fishing because he was near a river.

"I told the taxi driver 'head for the airport' and then when we got to Newcastle airport I said 'head for Rothbury'.

"The taxi driver said 'you are not going where I think you are going?' And I said 'yes I am'.

"I was telling the taxi driver I could save him. I told him: Listen, I have been through so much, I am the best therapist in the world, I can save him'. "I think that I genuinely believed that."

Celebrity Island

Gascoigne was close to appearing in the UK version of I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! at the end of his playing career, but his then-club Boston United blocked it.

In 2021, though, he was a contestant on a similar show in Italy called Celebrity Island.

He lasted 40 days on the reality TV show, proving a popular contestant among the Italian public who remembered him fondly from his years playing for Serie A side Lazio.

As so often was the case when he was a player, though, it was injury that cost him. On a task that involved negotiating a beach obstacle course, he hurt his shoulder.

Gazza was reportedly paid £6,000 for every week he spent on the show and still left his mark despite his early exit, becoming the first contestant to sunbathe completely naked.

The article 'Can of lager, chicken and a fishing rod': Paul Gascoigne's most iconic off-field moments appeared first on Planetsport.com.

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