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Paul Gascoigne says watching BBC documentary about his life was 'emotional'

Episode one of ‘Gazza’ airs on BBC Two on Wednesday, 13 April at 21:00 BST, with episode two broadcast exactly one week later. Both will be available on BBC iPlayer from 21:00 BST on Wednesday, 13 April.

“It was really emotional watching back everything. Some things are very hard to watch, but others are good memories with my friends.”

Former England footballer Paul Gascoigne is reflecting on a new two-part documentary about his life and career that will be shown on BBC Two later this month.

“This is the real story of my time in football – the good and the bad of who I am – and what really happened around me,” the 54-year-old says, adding: “So much of this has never been seen before.”

Gascoigne was the most eye-catching English player of his generation and captured the country’s attention with his flair and quirky, working-class Geordie charisma.

‘Gazzamania’ really went into overdrive at the 1990 World Cup, with England’s run to the semi-finals turning the then 25-year-old midfielder into an international star.

He left Tottenham to sign for Italian side Lazio in 1992, and four years later helped England to another semi-final – this time at the Euros.

But that is not the whole story of Paul Gascoigne.

He has struggled with alcoholism, for instance.

He has also, at different times, been found guilty of assault, harassment and racially aggravated abuse and has admitted to domestic violence against his ex-wife Sheryl Gascoigne.

Lots of this is explored across the two episodes, alongside another major theme, which is Gascoigne’s troubled relationship with the tabloid press.

‘Paul would wake up screaming in the night’

During the first episode we hear a tragic story of childhood trauma that deeply affected Gascoigne.

Aged 10, he held one of his friend’s younger brothers in his arms as he died.

Gascoigne had been escorting Steven Spraggon to a local shop when he was knocked down by an ice cream van.

His family speak in the film about the impact it had.

His sister Anna says: “Paul blamed himself. He’d wake up screaming in the night.”

Gascoigne’s mother Carol says her son developed a stutter after the accident.

‘I thought it was just Paul’

Paul Gascoigne.
Gascoigne snubbed Alex Ferguson to sign for Tottenham in 1988, for a British record transfer fee of £2.2m

Gascoigne’s former Tottenham team-mate Paul Stewart is among those to feature in the documentary – the two played together from 1988-1992 and won the FA Cup.

In 2004, Gascoigne wrote in his autobiography about his struggles with obsessive compulsive disorder, bulimia, depression and Tourette’s syndrome.

Stewart saw those compulsive behaviours in the dressing room, but says they did not stop ‘Gazza’ being “the best player in the world” at the time.

“I did see that he would just gorge on food and make himself sick,” he says. “I just thought it was one of Gazza’s traits. He would develop twitches, he’d check doors umpteen times.

“I had no idea it was a condition – I just thought it was Paul.”

Stewart, too, had issues with addiction during his career, and in 2016 revealed he had been abused as a child by his football coach.

And in a line that did not make the final documentary, Stewart says poignantly: “We were all dealing with our own things.”

Paul Merson, who has been open about his own struggles with alcohol, substance and gambling addiction, was one team-mate who did understand Gascoigne.

The two played together for Middlesbrough and England.

“We understood each other,” says Merson. “We got on. We had the same problems.”

‘We’d go straight from training to the hotel bar’

Paul Gascoigne by pool in Italy, with Jim Rosenthal, 1990.
There is a story in the first episode about Gascoigne going missing during Italia ’90, only to be found playing football with local children on the beach

Stewart gives some insight into another side of sharing a dressing room with Gascoigne.

“Paul used to invite most of Dunston [the area on the west of Gateshead, north east England, where Gascoigne grew up] down to London,” he says.

“We’d go straight from training to the hotel bar, getting drunk on the football club and Paul and I signing all the bills.”

To illustrate the chaotic scenes, we see pictures of one of Gascoigne’s friends or team-mates (it’s hard to tell because they have a mask on) running around Tottenham’s training complex completely naked.

‘The kids wanted to go to Euro Disney so he left’

When Gascoigne joined Lazio for about £5.5m – a big fee at the time – he was given a hero’s welcome.

But Jane Nottage – his personal assistant at the time – says his behaviour became increasingly erratic, including problems in his relationship with future wife Sheryl.

And she tells a story of him going AWOL before a friendly against Sevilla.

Nottage says Gascoigne had a temperature the day before the game, so was sent home from training.

“Next day, he’s gone missing,” she says.

“It turned out the kids wanted to go to Euro Disney, so he just got on the plane and left. Eventually, we arrive something like 45 minutes before kick-off. He hasn’t had sleep, he’s been stressed from the flight, he’s had alcohol.”

Despite the unconventional preparation, he would score a brilliant goal. Nottage recalls asking him how he had done it.

“He just looked away and shook his head and said, ‘I can’t remember anything about it’,” she remembers. “I think at that point, I understood he was struggling.”

‘There are lots of things I look back on with sadness’

One of the tough subjects the film deals with is Gascoigne’s violence towards wife Sheryl.

In 1996, pictures were published of Sheryl with a black eye and badly bruised face and arm after an attack at Gleneagles.

Sheryl was approached for interview by the documentary team, but declined. Director Sam Collins said it was very important for them to “try to tell her side of the story, with the material available”.

Sheryl Gascoigne, 2011
Sheryl Gascoigne divorced Paul in 1998, following repeated incidents of domestic violence. She has since worked with female survivors of abuse

And Stewart describes the moment he discovered Gascoigne had been hitting Sheryl, when their families were on holiday together.

“Sheryl came down with dark sunglasses on and told my wife he’d hit her that night,” he says.

“Paul and I didn’t speak for seven, eight months.”

Gascoigne says: “There are definitely lots of things I look back on with sadness – things I’ve done that I wish I’d done better or not done.”

‘We thought he was just paranoid’

In 2011, the News of The World ceased printing after allegations of phone-hacking came to light.

Since Gascoigne’s playing career came to an end, it has emerged that private messages on his phone were hacked – something he has saidexternal-link drove him to severe paranoia.

Former editor and chief executive Rebekah Brooks was cleared of all charges, but two journalists who were punished feature in the documentary.

Graham Johnson, who acted as a whistle-blower, was given a suspended sentence, while Greg Miskiw was given a six-month prison sentence after being found guilty of phone-hacking.

Both speak in the film about some of the unscrupulous methods they and their colleagues used to obtain information on celebrities, including the Gascoigne family.

“I formed a relationship with a detective agency,” says Miskiw. “I could make one phone call and within two hours I could have bank details and voicemails.”

Miskiw says Gascoigne was one of the first to fall prey to these “dark arts” and he was “easy meat”.

During the film, Gascoigne’s sister Anna says story leaks led her brother to become paranoid.

“He would have private conversations with my mam, then the next thing you knew it was in the papers,” she explains.

“I know that he fell out with my mam massively and we just thought he was paranoid.”

Paul McMullan, another former journalist, says: “The guy ends up diagnosed with extreme paranoia, when the reality was, it wasn’t paranoia, it was genuinely true.

“We put the paranoia there.”

‘They’d make stuff up about me’

Gascoigne said he loved being in the public eye at times during his career.

“Opening shops, switching on the London lights, recording Fog on the Tyne, doing adverts… I enjoyed every minute of it and I was still performing on the pitch.

“At the time people – or parts of the press anyway – criticised me and said I was doing too much, but my football was as good then as it ever was.”

However, he also speaks about the negative impact.

“The press would follow us and our family and it was difficult to go out and about sometimes with constantly being followed by sometimes hundreds of cameras.

“A lot of the stories the press would print weren’t true; and they’d make stuff up about me and that would then cause me problems.”

Asked what he hopes viewers will take from the film, Gascoigne says: “Hopefully they’ll take away from it, the great times I had.

“There’s a lot that wasn’t good or perfect, but when it comes to the past, you can’t change it and have to take the bad with the good things that you’ve done, and the good things I would repeat in a heartbeat.”

If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article, help and support is available via BBC Action Line.

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