Paul Gascoigne: I was glad when told I was an alcoholic

Paul Gascoigne
Paul Gascoigne is the subject of a new documentary about his life

Paul Gascoigne says he is "happy in life" at the moment but revealed he was glad when he was told he was an alcoholic at the age of 33.

The former England international, who retired from football in 2004, has spent years battling alcoholism.

Gascoigne, 48, knew something was wrong during his playing days and spoke of his relief at finally being diagnosed.

"When it was explained, and when I heard other people's stories, I was like 'thank God'," he said.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 live, he added: "I didn't know what was going on. Why did I wake up at 5am and want a drink? It was not normal.

"People want to know if there is any medication they can take when they have an illness and it was a relief."

In a wide-ranging interview, Gascoigne also spoke openly about:

  • his past struggles with alcohol
  • the way he has been depicted in the media
  • attempting to help Kenny Samson recover from alcoholism
  • struggling to watch current football
  • how Raheem Sterling should take booing as a compliment

'I'm happy, but it won't last forever'

Paul Gascoigne
Gascoigne, above with former Tottenham team-mate Gary Mabbutt (right), played for Spurs between 1988 and 1992

"I am happy in life, I am happy with the way things are going," said Gascoigne.

"I know it won't last forever because I know what the press can write. The lies written about me over the last two years have been horrendous and you have to be strong to get through that.

"I accept that is going to be for life for me. I admit I haven't dealt with it properly sometimes and hit the drink, it hasn't been month-long benders, it has been a few days and I have paid the consequences.

"I might drink tomorrow, I might not. Hopefully I don't. When I drink, the only thing I am doing is making things bad for myself."

'I went from the pitch to the courtrooms'

Paul Gascoigne
Gascoigne admits he struggles to cope with negative press at times

"I am a nice guy, I would not treat anyone the way I have been treated," said Gascoigne, who starred for England as they reached the semi-finals of both the 1990 World Cup and the 1996 European Championship.

"I don't play football any more so I have to earn money other ways. I get good jobs and the press write lies and I lose that job because they think I am in rehab, or injecting myself with heroin or jumping off a pier, or falling out of a casino drunk - but I am just sitting in the back garden doing nothing.

"I have to ring the lawyer again and it takes two years and in that two years I have lost money again.

"I went from being on the pitch all the time to being in courtrooms. I should become a lawyer and defend myself.

"Everything is good at the moment but I know what is going to happen in time."

'I've paid £300K for rehab clinics'

Former England defender Kenny Sansom recently revealed he had contemplated suicide after becoming homeless because of his alcoholism, admitting in a Sunday Mirror interview he fears he will never stop drinking.

Gascoigne said: "I have paid about £300K of my money. I am trying. I want to win this over. I went to rehab to help Kenny and he ran out after half a day, he is not wanting that.

"I can't help him, no-one in the world can help unless he puts his hand up and says he needs help."

'I can barely watch football any more'

Paul Gascoigne
Gascoigne played for England between 1988 and 1998

Gascoigne was capped 57 times by England and made more than 400 appearances for clubs including Newcastle, Tottenham, Lazio and Rangers, before retiring after leaving Boston in 2004.

"I still haven't coped. I hardly try and watch games because I still wish I was playing.

"I cannot handle watching players getting lots of money and not putting 100% in. The fans paid for my house, my car, my holidays - but I've seen players score a goal, even for England, and just walk back.

"There are young kids there seeing that and thinking it means nothing to score goals. I don't like that."

'Criticism means Sterling's doing something right'

On Sunday, England forward Raheem Sterling was booed by some fans during the goalless friendly draw with the Republic of Ireland.

The 20-year-old Liverpool player has been criticised for wanting to leave the Reds and rejecting a £100,000-a-week contract with them.

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England boss Roy Hodgson 'trusts' Raheem Sterling

England boss Roy Hodgson said he "trusts" Sterling, but suggested he also needs to work harder and develop a thicker skin.

"There are 11 players on the pitch and Raheem was picked out," said Gascoigne. "That means he is doing something right, because Roy knows he is a great player.

"I'd say to Sterling if you are getting kicked left, right and centre and getting booed it is because they are scared. They don't want you playing and don't want you on the ball because you are dangerous. Take it as a compliment.

"Take a little bit from your club manager, a little bit from England manager and a little bit from what is being said by other people as well. The time to worry is when they stop talking about you."

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