I played against Paul when I was a youngster at Everton and he was at Newcastle, and we were in the England squad together on one occasion. But I got to know him better when he moved to Everton as a player and you couldn’t ask to meet a more generous-spirited, lovely fella.
I get the feeling though that this is his last chance to recover from the debilitating addiction which has ruined his life. Over the weekend I spoke to former Manchester City player Jeff Whitley, who is a recovering alcoholic and cocaine addict and he gave me a stark insight into the continuing battle Gazza faces.
As Jeff put it, he can’t afford to make a temporary recovery in the States, stay clean for six months and then decide he’s well enough to have a little drink. He’s in the right place for now, away from his friends and family, but Paul will be an alcoholic for the rest of his life and every single day will be another challenge to his sobriety.
It’s a very difficult prospect, but I know everyone in football, and the British public in general will be willing him to succeed.