Former footballer Paul Gascoigne says he’s ‘falling to bits’ after suffering a series of injuries but he is determined recover and get fit enough to land a place on I’m A Celeb

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When we arrive at Paul Gascoigne’s Dorset home, he’s just returned from a three-day fishing trip. But rather than being grumpy – he didn’t catch anything and has hardly slept – Gazza is nothing but charming.

The 54-year-old Geordie is softly spoken and gentlemanly and his stint in Italy’s I’m A Celeb earlier this year has clearly done him the world of good.

The ex-England and Spurs midfielder admits the 12-week appearance was like “therapy” as he was without his coffee, ciggies and mobile phone, while overcoming both the starvation and challenges left him feeling mentally strong.

“I’m really feeling good,” he tells us. “It was very tough, but it was good for me and I’m glad I did it. Now I want to do the Australian one!”

Paul Gascoigne is wanting a quieter life nowadays
(Image: Adam Gerrard / Daily Mirror)

These days the former footballer – stepdad to Bianca, 34, and Mason, 31, from his marriage to Sheryl and dad to Regan, 25 – leads quite a calm life and his hobbies include fishing and cycling.

His biggest passion will always be football, but his love is so great that he struggles to watch matches. “It upsets me too much,” he says. “I wish it was me out there.”

Here, we chat to Gazza about his footballing heyday, his adventures in reality television and how he’s finding life in the south west.

Hi Paul! How was your time in Italy’s I’m A Celeb?

So, it was in Honduras and the first few days were really tough, but then you get used to it. It was hard – no cigarettes, no coffee, no food. It was a challenge for all of us. We had to hunt for our own food – though it felt like there was no food to hunt! You were given a little fishing line and I caught a barracuda, so that was OK.

Gazza said he can't bring himself to watch football matches
(Image: Getty Images)

How did you get by with your Italian?

It was OK. I could understand more than I could speak. They were all very nice to me.

What did you miss the most while you were in the jungle?

To be fair, not much. There was a lockdown in England, so I didn’t miss much back home. I suppose I missed my TV. I like a bit of Netflix – I like horror films, documentaries and thrillers.

Who was the first person you called when you were out?

I called my agent Katie and my mum and my sister. It was difficult for them to watch, but they managed to see bits.

You said you felt the healthiest you’ve ever been after leaving the jungle. How are you doing health-wise?

I’m OK, apart from my shoulder. Once I’ve got that fixed I’m going to start training again. I’ve always been into my fitness. I get on the bike and do sit-ups and press-ups.

Would you do any of the other reality TV shows?

I would like to do SAS: Who Dares Wins or a Bear Grylls show, but I need to get my shoulder and hip sorted out. I slipped and broke my neck doing Strictly Ice Dancing [a Strictly Christmas special in 2004]. I have screws in my neck now. I’m falling to bits!

Is it true you were named after Paul McCartney and John Lennon? [His middle name is John]

Yes, that’s my mam, that. She is a big Beatles fan. She met Paul McCartney in France, so I think that’s where that came from. I don’t know why she named me after John Lennon – I should probably ask her.

Have you been watching Euro 2020?

I don’t think I will get to any games. I watch it on TV, but I don’t like to really. I miss football so much I find it hard to watch. I want it to be me out on the pitch.

What about managing, you’ve had a little dabble with that…

Nah, I don’t want to be a manager. I just want to be a footballer again – a 54-year-old footballer!

What’s been your biggest achievement?

Becoming a professional footballer. I was only 17. That was my dream since I was a lad.

You were Sports Personality Of The Year in 1990…

It was good to get the award. I went back to watch it a few years ago and wore the same suit! It’s incredible I could still fit into it.

Gazza's famous dentist chair celebration at Euro '96
(Image: Popperfoto/Getty Images)

Tell us about the famous dentist’s chair celebration during Euro 96 – whose idea was that?

Mine! I said whoever scores a goal, we are doing the dentist’s chair and it ended up being me. A couple of nights before the match, a newspaper ran pictures of us saying we were ‘disgracefool’ for having a few drinks. [The celebration] was a bit of a two fingers up to that, really.

Looking back over your career, do you have any regrets?

No, not one. I’m a positive person and I’m staying positive.

Who’s been your biggest support during your toughest times?

[Pauses] My legs! I’m teasing ya. My family has always been there. I’ve got two sisters and a brother and they are all still up in Gateshead with my mam.

How about your kids – do you see Bianca, Mason and Regan?

Not much because of Covid, but I hope we can meet up soon.

Gazza is hoping to see his family once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted
(Image: GJMultimedia)

What do you think of England manager Gareth Southgate?

I think he’s doing a fantastic job. He’s a nice man. His style is alright too – quite suave.

How do you think he would have fared managing you?

Alright – I’d just make him laugh!

You do have the reputation as being the dressing-room joker…

I was, but when I came to playing the game I was serious. I would joke and jest to keep myself calm.

Family and football aside, what are your other passions?

Tennis and cycling. I like to go out on my bike down to the beach. And I absolutely love fishing.

You’re based in Dorset now – what brought you here?

A judge! I was done for drink driving about 16 years ago and I came to rehab down here to get myself well. I thought Dorset was nice and so I stayed.

Do you prefer the quieter life now, Paul?

I do. I go fishing about an hour away. I’ve just come back from three days of fishing.

You’ve had your ups and downs over the years, is life calmer for you now?

I don’t think I’ve had ups and downs. I’ve had a good life. I’ve had lots of fun!

Are you feeling strong mentally and physically now?

Yeah. I like to make sure I’m feeling fit.

You need to ask him for some I’m A Celeb… tips, Paul…

I don’t need that, darling. I’ve been in a jungle for 12 weeks and eating eff all! I lost a stone and a half. I’m trying to put it back on. I’ve been eating like a pig!

Do you get bombarded by fans when you’re out and about?

Nah, I’m usually on me bike so they can’t catch us! [Laughs] I have people shouting out Gazza all the time.

What’s the craziest thing a fan’s asked for?

I’ve signed a few arms and legs and they’ve gone and got it tattooed.

What’s your most prized possession?

The pictures of me and me dad. We were really close. He was young-looking with good hair – I’ve got good genes!

Do you have any special mementos?

My World Cup 90 shirt.

We heard your unwashed Euro 96 kit has gone up for auction…

Nah, that’s not true. I’ve told you, don’t read the papers!

We’re impressed by your tidy house, Paul…

I keep my house very clean. I’ve got OCD so I like to keep things straight and in certain spaces, and if it’s been moved I will know!

When did you get diagnosed?

Later in life. Nothing to do with football or nowt, I just got it.

Are you looking for love?

No! Not for me.

What’s next for you, Paul?

I’m an ambassador for UEFA so I have a few things coming up there. I’m happy to get back to work [after Covid].

Finally, you’ve had an incredible career, who would play you in your biopic?

He’d have to be good-looking whoever it is! [Grins]

Who are England’s biggest opponents?

France, Portugal, Italy – they are all strong teams. But I’d hope on the day we could beat any of those teams. We just need the confidence. When you play for England [in a friendly] you’re in a dream world, but when it’s a tournament, it’s a different thing. It’s so big.

What advice would you give to the England squad?

Don’t read the papers! [Laughs]

Are you happy to see Spurs striker, Harry Kane, captain England?

He’s a good striker. But as far as I’m concerned you need 11 captains out there, it’s not just one, it’s all of them.

You spent some of your career in Italy. Will you secretly be supporting them, too?

They are strong – but England are strong, too!

And what about Scotland? You have a great goal record at Rangers…

It’s down to how they play on the day, but that is the same with everybody. I hope Scotland do well – it would be nice if they made it out of the group with England.