Garry Birtles: I have sympathy for Gazza as he looks to fill the biggest void
WHEN you leave football, it can create a gaping void in your life.
The dressing room banter, the camaraderie between team-mates, the day to day existence of a professional player is something special.
And, when it ends, that is it. Everything changes, there is a hole left that needs filling – and you never quite can, in the same way.
Basically, you find yourself needing to start a new life entirely.
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Some players adapt to that. Some even embrace it.
I found it difficult, but eventually, I was lucky enough to find a way to stay involved in the game, through the media.
Some men are not so fortunate. One of those, sadly, is clearly Gazza.
One of the most talented players of his generation, the midfielder was always troubled by inner demons. But you sense football kept them at bay.
Now, Paul Gascoigne looks like a man who has never managed to fill that void. He has certainly struggled with life since hanging up his boots.
He wasn't the first and he won't be the last.
But what is encouraging is that he does still have people who care.
It is great that people like Gary Lineker, Piers Morgan and Chris Evans have clubbed together to pay for Gazza to receive specialist treatment for his alcoholism in America.
Hopefully he can pull through; hopefully he can get back to health.
Most importantly, hopefully he can find a successful way to fill the void.