ALLY McCoist has expressed his deep fears for Paul Gascoigne amid the latest health scare for the troubled former England midfielder.
Harrowing photographs of Gascoigne, who has been plagued by alcoholism for several years, showed him being attended to by medics and police before being admitted to hospital in Dorset on Thursday.
Rangers manager McCoist, who played alongside Gascoigne for the Ibrox club from 1995 to 1998, revealed he has attempted to contact the 47-year-old without success in recent times in a bid to offer support.
But McCoist believes his friend and former team-mate can only return to a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle if he first chooses to help himself.
“I saw the pictures of Gazza and they are horrendous,” said a visibly upset McCoist. “I was utterly shocked. He just looks a poor soul and everyone has really major concerns as to where this is going to go for him. It is not good.
“It goes without saying that everyone at Rangers – the players, the coaches and the fans – are all praying for him. We were all talking about it this morning when we saw the paper and we were all so shocked and saddened by what we saw. He is in everyone’s thoughts and I just hope he can pull himself together and get the help he needs.
“I haven’t spoken to him in a while. I used to speak with him occasionally but he’s always changing his number and it’s hard to get hold of him.
“We’ve all tried to contact him, I know a lot of the boys down south I speak to have tried to contact him. But at times you just can’t get a hold of him. He’s an extremely complex character. He will need to try and help himself, the vast majority of it will have to come from inside himself. We can all do everything to help but at the same time there has to be an inner strength and desire to help yourself. That’s what Paul will have to find.
“People have tried to help him and I certainly hope he is not beyond that. You can never give up, that’s for sure. Gazza needs help and there are always people willing to help. No one should give up on him.
“But he has an illness and people need to realise that. He has an addiction problem and it’s a serious illness. Like every other illness, you have to keep treating it.
“At times you will take steps back the way. Gazza has progressed at different times when he’s looked a lot healthier than he does now. But, sadly, he’s taken a few steps back again.”
Gascoigne scored 39 goals in 104 appearances for Rangers during his eventful spell in Scottish football. Even during his playing career, it was evident that he struggled to manage his life away from football.
“There was always that slight concern with regards to what Paul would do after he stopped playing because it was his life,” added McCoist.
“Everything revolved around football whether it was playing, training or simply watching a game. There was a concern how that massive void would be filled. It’s clearly been a problem.
“Listen, he loved his fishing when he was up here but there is only so much fishing you can do. I know that was therapeutic for him when he was playing and it helped him. I don’t know if he’s still fishing, but he needs to find something that will fill his time and give him a reason to keep going and live.
“I will always remember the good times with Paul. As shocked as I was when I saw the pictures of him today, that’s not Gazza for me.
“For me, it was him scoring against Steaua Bucharest in the Champions League, scoring against Aberdeen when we won the league in ‘96 and scoring for England against Scotland the same year. That’s Paul Gascoigne for me.
“A lot of younger kids won’t even remember him like that, I will. But that’s the least of people’s concerns at the moment. It’s the least of Gazza’s worries. It’s of very little importance.
“The most important thing is that he gets help, he gets himself squared up and he gets himself onto some road to recovery because, sadly, he looks a long way from that at the moment.”