A human being who has battled depression, alcoholism and suicidal thoughts for the majority of his adult life was publicly humiliated last Thursday, just 24 hours after World Mental Health Day.
The fact that it was a high-profile footballer is irrelevant. The basic human element in what Paul Gascoigne has been subjected to over the past week is appalling.
The timing of the decision to withdraw Gascoigne’s nomination into the Hall of Fame actually made me think: ‘Is this some kind of sick joke?’ Football has made really good progress with mental health. It is no longer the taboo it once was and campaigns like WMHD are so important in driving that.
Paul Gascoigne’s snub from the Scottish Football Hall of Fame was quite frankly appalling
The fact that Gascoigne is an alcoholic isn’t the reason why the Hall of Fame have snubbed him. It would be ridiculous for them to take the moral high ground on something like that.
But the booze does serve as the fuel to all of the other issues that will have been behind their decision. It’s a toxic mix.
The racial slurs, the allegations of sexual assault, domestic abuse, drug abuse – these are the reasons as to why the decision has been taken.
It’s so painful for me to watch and it has brought back memories of a phone call I got from my wife Lisa a few years ago.
She rang me up and said: ‘I’m sat in a bar and you’ll never guess who’s just across from me. It’s Paul Gascoigne.
The former Rangers legend was nominated by fans but his induction has been taken away
‘He’s in a really, really bad way. He’s just sitting all on his own, absolutely blind drunk.
‘You wouldn’t want to see him like this.’ And she was right, I wouldn’t have. Gazza was my idol as a young lad growing up – my biggest inspiration to start playing football.
You know the old phrase about how you should never meet your idols? That’s what was going through my head when I got that phone call from Lisa.
I would have found it really upsetting to see him like that. Lisa knew I was gutted just by the tone of my voice.
I was 12 years old during Euro 96. In my eyes, Gazza was the best player on the planet by a million miles.
There was a documentary made about him not long after that. I must have watched it over 100 times. I really was obsessed with him.
Over the years, I have spent several thousand pounds on his memorabilia – signed shirts, signed pictures, signed boots… just all sorts.
I remember running around my back garden trying to recreate that goal he scored against Scotland – and even the celebration.
But, a few years later, I became aware of the fact that even the celebration was related to a boozy night out and the infamous dentist’s chair incident.
It’s just so painful for me to watch because I absolutely idolised the guy and his life now is overshadowing what he did on the pitch.
Purely in terms football, of course he should be in the Hall of Fame. It’s not even a debate. He’s one of the greatest players Rangers have ever had.
Ally McCoist always says that Gazza actually produced the best football of his entire career for those couple of seasons he was at Ibrox.
He was Scottish football’s player of the year in the first of his three seasons north of the border
He was a truly phenomenal talent. It’s just sad that his life has unravelled the way it has.
Just a few weeks ago, he was on Soccer AM. It was really uncomfortable to watch because he could hardly string two words together. You could tell he was seriously unwell.
As a society, we shouldn’t be exposing him to situations like that. We should be affording him a degree of privacy to try and rebuild his life.
But, even if we did, I’m not sure it would work. It has gone too far with Gazza.
How many times has he been in and out of rehab over the years?
He’s caught in a vicious cycle. Building him up and then shooting him down.. Chewing him up and spitting him out. It has been relentless.
While I think the timing of the Hall of Fame decision and the way it was handled was disgraceful, I do understand why it was made.
Such a sporting institution cannot be seen to be endorsing a guy who has faced such serious accusations.
It might be wishful thinking at this stage, but I pray that Gazza can somehow get his life back on track.
He brought so much joy to so many people. That’s the way I want to think about him.
A magnificent footballer who, purely in terms of his ability on the pitch, would be fit to grace any Hall of Fame in world football.
It is now a top priority for Alex McLeish to speak to Leigh Griffiths, build a few bridges and get the striker back onside.
The final two Nations League games are only a month away, so it has to be a matter or urgency for the Scotland manager.
If we go and lose to Albania and Israel in that double-header, McLeish could potentially find himself out of a job.
He was never the most inspiring appointment in the first place and a lot of the Tartan Army have already lost patience with him.
And no wonder. Our standout result this calendar year has been a 2-0 win over Albania. Our only other victory was in a friendly against Hungary.
Sunday night’s 3-1 defeat by Portugal was McLeish’s sixth loss in eight matches since taking the job earlier this year.
But we are no better now than we were at the start.
We have scored just five goals in that period. One of those was a penalty, while another was an own goal from the Albanians.
It’s just not good enough. There are no signs of progression and we never even laid a glove on Israel last Thursday.
This was a team who were 50-odd places below us in the world rankings and whose only victory in the past year had come against Liechtenstein.
But their keeper hardly had a save to make. It was a game that was crying out for Griffiths to step up and produce a bit of magic.
I do feel for McLeish slightly because he has been dealt a tough hand with injuries and players pulling out of the squads.
There was also the debacle around his appointment. It was last-ditch from the SFA, who made it public knowledge they wanted Northern Ireland’s manager Michael O’Neill.
But those two games next month are now vital because, if the SFA do want to make a change, the break until the Euro 2020 qualifiers next year provides a natural window for them to do so.
They won’t want to do that. But the pressure from fans would become too much if we don’t get the results we need against Israel and Albania.
The atmosphere around the national team at the moment is just pathetic. Griffiths, as we saw against England, can change that in an instant…