I pulled this off the shelf to re-read after seeing the latest pessimistic news item about Paul Gascoigne's health. It's one man's view of Gascoigne's footballing career up until 1994, with a postscript taking it up to 1998. Since that man is the literary critic and poet Ian Hamilton, the standard of writing is miles above that of the usual book about sport (or indeed, about anything). Hamilton was also a Spurs supporter who'd become fascinated with Gascoigne as the latest bright hope of English football, so it's a fan's story - of hope, fulfillment and disillusionment as the idol's early promise is eventually burnt out by the pressures of life at the top. The author describes the arc of Gascoigne's career at Newcastle, Spurs, Lazio, Rangers and thereafter in detail, which represents about as eventful a life as you could hope - or fear - for. As Terry Venables, his erstwhile manager, comments on p164: 'Paul always seems to be at a critical stage in his career, ever since I have known him."
Perhaps I might be permitted to mention a personal encounter with Gascoigne which occurred in May 1996 at Heathrow airport. From I know not where (I'm not a soccer fan), I managed to recall that he'd been playing for Rangers in the Scottish FA Cup Final a few days previously; when I asked him how they'd got on, he gave me a robust account of their victory. He was friendly, pleasant and approachable, with an impressive air of physical strength and stamina. The fact that he was about to get on a plane with the rest of the England squad and enter into the next chapter of his eventful life (they were flying out to Hong Kong on a short tour, and a disapproving account of his antics on the flight back formed much of the build-up to the Euro 96 tournament) made the encounter especially memorable for me.