Football union chief Gordon Taylor fears Paul Gascoigne could be heading the same way as George Best – but vowed he will not be giving up on the troubled former England midfielder.
Gateshead-born Gascoigne, who has spoken about alcoholism problems in the past and was sectioned five years ago under the Mental Health Act, appeared to be unwell and trembling at a charity appearance in Northampton on Thursday.
His agent Terry Baker says the 45-year-old former Newcastle United star had been drinking and needs immediate help, suggesting Gascoigne’s life is “always in danger”.
Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Taylor has expressed his concern that the case could be comparable with that of Best, the former Manchester United and Northern Ireland winger who died aged 59 in 2005 after a long struggle with alcoholism.
Gary Lineker admits he is struggling to see a positive outcome for Gascoigne, his former England and Tottenham team-mate.
Match of the Day presenter Lineker, who played with Gascoigne at the 1990 World Cup, wrote on Twitter: “I can only hope he finds peace somehow, but fear those hopes may be forlorn.”
Taylor is adamant, though, that his union will continue to give Gascoigne as much support as possible.
“We have tried to support him throughout all his problems with rehabilitation at various clinics, with medical help,” Taylor said.
“We are in regular touch with him and have been again.
“We go one step forward and two back at times and this is just the situation.
“If we are not careful, it is going to be akin to George Best.
“It is unfortunate, but we try to keep going.”
Former Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel has called on the PFA to “step up” their efforts to help Gascoigne.
Referring to a video of the charity appearance, Schmeichel wrote on Twitter: “This is not fun watching. Gazza needs help. Come on PFA & Gordon Taylor, time to step up.
“Instead of getting great deals on cars & other luxury goods for members, PFA should commit more time and funds to help the like of Gazza.”
Reacting to those comments, Taylor said: “I can’t think of a player who has had more support and constant help over the number of years that we have been there for Paul.
“It is quite ironic – it is nice that people like Peter Schmeichel care about him, but they don’t appreciate the work we have done for him, a lot of which has to be confidential. If anything, I have been criticised at times for keeping faith and trying to keep going with him.”
Having spoken today with Gascoigne, who he says believes he can “get back on track”, Taylor has emphasised how important the former Newcastle, Tottenham, Lazio and Rangers playmaker’s role will be in any recovery he makes.
“I offered all our help that he needs,” Taylor said.
“It is just sometimes, it is down to the individual – it is down to him, and he just knows we are here for him whenever he needs us. We are not going to give up on him.
“He still feels he is capable of getting back on track and it is a relapse he has had.
“I can only say, whatever help he needs, he must come on board, and we will help to provide it.
“I think he does need specialist care and a very strong 24-hour support system, but again, it needs him to be part of that.”