The number eight

Earlier in the week there was discussion amongst Spurs fans about how applauding Paul Gascoigne in the 8th minute (of the game against Newcastle) was an unnecessary empty gesture because football supporters clapping would hardly influence his well being with fighting alcoholism. The video of a drunken guest appearance in Northampton and his agent's reluctance for intervention was painful for most to view (I only read about it and refused to watch a man I idolised fall deeper in darkness).

Some called for a stop to the exploitation of the player, although how you quite do so with a sensationalistic headline and video wrapped into the content is beyond me. Paul's disease is an all too common one and that cliché about helping your self first is pivotal to making steps in the right direction. You need to want to help yourself. You need to believe you can. He might welcome the destruction of his body and mind or simply not be able to cope with stopping it. He appears not to have the required strength to shrug it off akin to an opposition player bouncing off his shoulders in his heyday of playing football.

Whether its drink, drugs or depression (usually it's all three) the fact he's in the public eye can be a factor that compounds it but also the trigger that can lead to help. He's still famous and if he refuses to accept his personal hell others around him can do so for him. But that won't be enough if he doesn't instil that belief.

Asking for help or accepting you need help might sound like the most obvious way to escape, to climb up from rock bottom but it's an obstacle that obstructs that light at the end of the tunnel. He's been there so many times, stumbling in the dark, lost and alone...this might be the last chance he gets.

From personal experience, you can't cure yourself, forever removing all your demons. You learn to live with them. You box it up and place it in the corner of your mind. It's always there as a reminder of the past but also as a testament that you beat it. Everyone is different and I can't pretend to know exactly what Gascoigne is going through. But I do know that when you're so low that you simply don't believe anyone cares that the last thing you think about is being saved.

Supporters (a pocket or two) applauded in the 8th minute, sang 'there's only one Paul Gascoigne'. Regardless of this, regardless of whether footballers wear t-shirts proclaiming prayers or Fabrice Muamba thanking God...away from the pragmatic reality that doctors are the ones doing the actual life saving, faith transcends, it binds our thoughts and hopes together in a more soulful, human way. Especially at a football match where so many can share that same thought and hope together because although Paul doesn't know each and everyone of us personally, we know him and what he gave us in the Lilywhite of Tottenham.

Applauding him or just talking about him is simply a way to say 'you're in our thoughts'. It isn't a contract with a higher power that will bestow a miracle on those that require one. Those that choose to pray are not grief junkies. You're hardly going to stand around and discuss the merits of treatment on offer, you're going to simply desire his recovery. Giving money to awareness groups is constructive but then you can do that in your personal time. The singing isn't meant to be a solution. It's not. It's just a nod, a remembrance to better days, a song to one of our sons. Although some would say the whole media coverage (which ironically doesn't help and hasn't helped Gazza down the years although he's never helped himself) has allowed for alcoholism to be brought to the fore. If people look beyond the celebrity. Ironically the singing and applauding at the game was subdued.

That tangible help that can be given has to be accepted. For some, that acceptance is the hardest thing to achieve. I hardly woke up one morning and said 'I need to fix myself up with rehab, a psychologist and anti-depressants'. There's a realisation that can't quite be categorised that sends you in that right direction if you open your eyes wide enough to see the sign-posts.

I'm far from religious but I won't bemoan those that choose to be. To be honest, my beliefs tend to be more scientific but then suggesting the universe is a grand design of sublime symmetry and that black holes and multi-verses and every other theory about this ever expanding bubble of stars and planets, solar systems and galaxies can be perceived as loopy as some old man with a white beard making man out of mud (okay, so not that loopy in comparison).

I've digressed a little. The point is, there is no reason to be cynical or to push your own personal agenda on what you rationalise as the way to behave just because you disagree with others. We're not meant to be robotic with emotions. Beyond the politics of opinion is a man that is hurting.

I hope Paul Gascoigne saves himself and accepts the help he's given. The sad thing is, the abuse to his body might not allow for such a full recovery. We may have already lost him, only a shell remaining reflective of someone we once all knew. He's currently in intensive care in Arizona. Only seems like yesterday I was at Wembley watching him score that free-kick.


SpookyPaul Gascoigne