Paul Gascoigne is the greatest player I ever faced on a football pitch ... by a country mile.
I was fortunate enough – or should that be ‘unfortunate’ enough – to play directly opposite him while I was at St Mirren and Aberdeen.
You couldn’t get close to him ... and that wasn’t just because of his flailing arms.
The skill and first touch he had was frightening. He was, quite simply, a world-class player.
In fact, the only reason I started watching Channel 4’s Italian football coverage was to see Gazza play for Lazio.
That’s why seeing him now, with all his personal issues, is just heartbreaking for me and everyone else who ever got close to him.
All those people who made a mint out of him have now vanished into thin air and left Gazza all alone, with only his demons for company.
I watched a clip on YouTube of Gazza appearing at a recent talk-in and it made for really tough viewing.
To see him in his current state was just so distressing.
When I was a young player coming through at St Mirren, he was the man making the news ON the football field – first with Newcastle United, then at Spurs and Lazio.
He was a supremely talented footballer and one of the few players you would pay good money to go and watch.
Later, when he came to Scotland and played for Rangers, I was fortunate enough to share a pitch with him on quite a few occasions.
We were in direct opposition to one another.
In fact, I remember one occasion at Love Street when he nipped up to the directors’ box just before the game, downed a quick half and then ran straight back out onto the pitch!
Gazza was a real character, so it’s a crying shame how his life has panned out.
I’m now working for the Professional Footballers’ Association Scotland and we look after the interests of younger players, both in the here-and-now and for their future.
I can’t help thinking that, if something like that had been available to Gazza in his playing days, then he might not be in his current predicament.
Hopefully, some of today’s younger players will look at Gazza and think about what can happen if they don’t look after themselves.
Footballers are in some sort of bubble and it’s only when you’re thrust back into the real world at the end of your career that you look back and think you might have done things a bit differently.
Players can have great highs during their careers but they have to come down from them at some point – and that’s when the problems can kick in.
I’m hoping with all my heart that Gazza can somehow survive his troubles and make a full recovery.
People are rallying round. I just hope it’s not too late.