DAVID HOLDSWORTH: Governing bodies must give players more mental support
Paul Gascoigne's plight has again been thrust into the spotlight. The demons he is struggling with appear to have got hold of him again and he is now in America in rehab.
I marked Paul in an FA Youth Cup final. I was 16 and he was 18. I was man-to-man with him through the game and his talent was obvious then.
He used to room with my friend Glen Roeder and everybody talked very highly of him.
He was an exceptional footballer, who was up there with the best. When you play for a big city club you become idolised, but a whole nation idolised Paul.
I'm afraid, though, that we are not going to remember the player anymore.
All we will think of is the thinning man with grey hair who looks the shadow of the person he once was.
The whole situation has left me upset and I feel frustrated at the lack of support that is out there for professional footballers.
While you could say players earn enough money in their time and that they should be okay, obviously I'm talking about bigger issues than cash here.
I'm talking about dealing with the loss and emptiness you feel when you are no longer in the game.
And I believe the footballing authorities are not doing enough to combat this.
Even though I'm fortunate to still be involved in the game, I still miss playing.
I was taking part in a charity football match the other weekend. I stepped into a dressing room with 12 other lads and the banter was flying again. I pulled on the shirt and walked out onto the pitch and felt a whole set of emotions that I had not felt for a long time.
I don't think people fully understand the bonds you make with fellow players, the expectations that are heaped on you and the admiration you receive. When all of that is suddenly gone it leaves a massive hole in your life. How you fill that hole is often the biggest problem.
I've kept involved in the game, for others, like Paul, it can be more destructive, especially if your career comes to a very abrupt end.
The PFA do help, but only if you seek it. They are a hardworking body, but I do not feel there is enough done to look out for players who face this big upheaval and I'm really concerned about the younger players.
These days there is a lot of pressure on youngsters. They are placed in youth set-ups and parents are expecting them to become big stars and earn loads of money.
Then they get rejected and the world around them comes crashing down.
What has happened to Gascoigne just brings into focus that, for all the talk, we haven't addressed the mental stresses footballers go through when their careers are over.
I just hope these problems do not get the better of Paul and he can finally find some sort of peace.