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Fallen football legend Gazza back in rehab after friends rally round

By Paul Gittings, CNN
updated 1:14 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
The strain shows on Paul Gascoigne's face at an event to publicize a book highlighting the best moments of his football career. The strain shows on Paul Gascoigne's face at an event to publicize a book highlighting the best moments of his football career.
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Fallen star
Famous tears
Lazio hero
Boundless talent
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Scottish success
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Former England star Paul Gascoigne in rehab facility in Arizona
  • Gascoigne admitted after latest alcohol fueled incident
  • The troubled 45-year-old has "complex issues" say his management company
  • A number of leading showbiz and sports stars show public support

(CNN) -- Feted as the most talented English player of his generation, whose tears after their semifinal exit of the 1990 World Cup touched a global audience, Paul "Gazza" Gascoigne had it all.

His working class background and precocious talent drew comparisons with George Best, but like the former Manchester United legend, who died in 2005, the demons of alcohol addiction have taken an ominous toll.

"Alcoholic Paul Gascoigne has been experiencing a tough time of late," said his management agency GamePlan Solutions in a statement released to CNN on Tuesday.

"He has been asking for help and has willingly been admitted to a treatment center in America. He has complex issues that are currently being dealt with by professionals.

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"Paul has been extremely touched and overwhelmed by the generous offers of help and support over the past few days. He is motivated to fully understand and control his addiction problem under guidance."

Since his playing career ended in 2004, Gascoigne's life has been on a downward spiral as he has battled both the bottle and compulsive disorders.

The 45-year-old has been sectioned three times under Britain's Mental Health Act and made regular trips to rehabilitation clinics.

Barely coherent

Each time has come promises of a new start, but the grip of addiction manifested itself again last week at a charity event in the Midlands town of Northampton.

He is motivated to fully understand and control his addiction problem under guidance
Paul Gascoigne's management agency

Barely coherent as he answered questions on stage, he broke down in tears in an appearance lasting less than 10 minutes.

Not for the first time, fears for Gascoigne's well being were raised by friends and supporters, including Gary Lineker, a teammate for both England and Tottenham Hotspur.

It was Lineker, who famously signaled to the England bench in the semifinal against Germany at Italia 90 after Gascoigne had been yellow carded, meaning the heartbreak of missing the final should the team have made it.

Gascoigne's tears of frustration that day formed the basis of Lineker's concern -- now nearly 23 years later, his fears are over a more serious matter.

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Reacting to the latest sorry incident, Lineker, a respected television presenter, tweeted: "Lots of you asking for my thoughts on Gazza's plight. I can only hope he finds peace somehow, but fear those hopes may be forlorn."

From outside the game, CNN's Piers Morgan was quick to lend his support to the fallen star.

Great support

"Anyone who knows Paul Gascoigne knows how desperate he is, and has been, to sort himself out. He deserves our sympathy, not ridicule. #Gazza," he wrote on his Twitter feed.

Lineker and Morgan were reported to have assisted to get Gascoigne admitted to the specialist clinic in Phoenix, Arizona to deal with his alcohol and related problems.

Another close friend, former England Test cricketer Ronnie Irani, helped to get Gascoigne on a plane to the United States, as he confirmed in an interview on national radio.

He deserves our sympathy, not ridicule
Piers Morgan

"I had a chat with (BBC radio DJ) Chris Evans and he just asked how we could help him," Irani told TalkSport.

"We knew we just had to get him on this flight, out to Phoenix, we just had to get him on the plane.

"I called British Airways and explained the situation, that we had to get him out to Phoenix to get him some help. He needs it, and if not, who knows what's going to happen?"

Irani added: "It's tough. Mental health issues are a serious, serious subject.

"But sadly he's not been able to help himself.

"So many people rang up yesterday to help Paul Gascoigne, like you could never believe, but the truth is he hasn't been able to help himself."

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Gascoigne's precocious talent was first recognized by his local club Newcastle, though his troubled upbringing in an area of the north-east city noted for social deprivation, may well have been the basis for his troubled life.

Top talent

But the midfielder's talent on the pitch was undoubted, once taunting opponents by sitting on the ball in the middle of a hotly contested English top division match.

Turning down an offer from Alex Ferguson's Manchester United, Gascoigne signed for Tottenham and made his first of his 57 appearances for England shortly afterwards.

Then national manager Bobby Robson famously labeled him as "daft as as brush" because of his unpredictable and compulsive behavior, but had no complaints as Gascoigne proved central to England's 1990 World Cup success.

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Robson's predecessor Graham Taylor first flagged up a wider problem, referring to Gascoigne's "refuelling" problems -- a clear reference to his liking for alcohol.

When Terry Venables, Gascoigne's club manager at Tottenham, took over the England team, he had to cope with the infamous "Dentist's Chair" incident in Hong Kong.

We just don't want this to be another George Best tragedy
Gordon Taylor

Supposedly preparing there for Euro 96, Gascoigne and teammates were pictured in a bar sitting in a chair and having alcoholic drinks poured down their throats.

After scoring a brilliant individual goal against Scotland in the tournament, Gascoigne lay prone on the Wembley turf and allowed teammates to spray water in his mouth, mimicking the controversy.

But eventually the jokes turned sour and off field problems and lack of fitness were cited when Glenn Hoddle left him out of England's squad for the 1998 World Cup.

Gascoigne reportedly smashed up his hotel room in response and at the same time was going through a very public divorce from his wife of two years Sheryl.

In two subsequent "bare it all" autobiographies, Gascoigne admitted to once striking his wife during an argument, asking for forgiveness.

Fading career

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After spells at Lazio in Serie A and Scotland's Glasgow Rangers, Gascoigne saw out his career with Middlesbrough, Everton, Burnley, a Chinese club Gansu Tianma and lowly Boston United.

Since retiring, Gascoigne has tried a career as a TV pundit, briefly coached a non-league side and played in a number of charity matches, still displaying his formidable skills.

Interspersed have been appearances in British courts for drunken driving and a drugs offense, but he has narrowly avoided serving a custodial sentence.

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His fall from grace mirrors that of Best, who battled alcohol problems after his glittering career came to an early end.

Northern Ireland's Best died of complications arising from an earlier liver transplant eight years ago and Gordon Taylor, the chief of the Professional Footballers Association (PFA), is worried the same fate could befall Gascoigne.

"We just don't want this to be another George Best tragedy," Taylor told BBC national radio.

"He does need a big support system, and he's got it from lots of friends. But there is a frustration that when things look to be improving, it all goes off wire."

Taylor also refuted suggestions that the PFA had not done enough to help Gascoigne.

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