Jon Dunham - Take this chance please Gazza

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.

I haven’t often spoken about those crazy 39 days that saw Paul Gascoigne take charge of Kettering Town in the early stages of Imraan Ladak’s reign at the club.

As always, football moves on so quickly and while I do often reflect on that time (one of the most challenging periods of my journalism career so far) it is a situation, like many, that was soon forgotten simply because that is just the way life goes.

But it continues to sadden me to see Gazza in the news for the wrong reasons.

Before anyone had even shown him where Rockingham Road was, Gascoigne was ‘the man’ as far as I was concerned.

At the age of nine, I watched on in awe at what he did at Italia 90.

I got into football properly perhaps two years earlier and that World Cup is one of my earlier memories of watching football.

And, as Englishmen, we were fortunate to have the best player in the tournament in our side.

An icon was born, the world was literally at his feet.

The rest, as they say, is history. Gazza is, without any doubt, one of the most talented footballers this country has ever produced.

But always along the way he has had demons that continue to threaten his life.

Having the chance to work with him, even if it was for just over five weeks, was a complete thrill as far as I was concerned.

But even in that short period of time, it was clear that there were always inner issues that he was having to deal with. Those issues eventually cost him his job at Kettering.

The latest situation with Gazza is that he is back out of rehab after his latest problems with alcohol, ironically enough, also came to a head in this county.

I, like many, saw the footage of him in the event he was taking part in over in Northampton. I had to stop watching the clip after 20 seconds or so, such was the sadness.

Seeing someone I regard as an icon in that sort of state was disturbing to say the least. Trust me when I say, he was never EVER like that during his time at Kettering, not that I saw anyway.

The question now (and it has been asked a few times before) is whether Gazza can stay off the drink and become the man every English football fan wants him to be. Happy, healthy and making an impact in the sport he has given so much to.

History would suggest he has another big battle on his hands to do that but there surely can’t be many people who wouldn’t want him to win it.

The key, I think, for Gazza is to try to surround himself with people who care about him. That hasn’t always been the case in the past.

But ultimately it will all come down to him. The only person who can really rescue Paul Gascoigne from all of this is Paul Gascoigne.

We will always have the memories of his brilliance in Italia 90 and Euro 96 but I would rather have those memories with him still being alive.

It is one of the more tragic stories that I have seen a very small part of. I am sure many others would join me in wishing Gazza the very best for the tough road that lies ahead.

He has another chance. I dearly hope he seizes it.