Vinnie Jones tells Paul Gascoigne he should have joined Manchester United and not Tottenham all those years ago

Gazza is, as usual, fooling around for the cameras.

But there is no disguising the genuine affection between two men inextricably linked by an iconic photograph and a shared battle against alcoholism.

It is more than 30 years since Jones brought tears to Gazza’s eyes when he infamously squeezed the life out of his young opponent’s wedding tackle.

Yet Gascoigne still wells up as he recalls the time Vinnie burst unannounced into his hotel room to rescue him from the dark depths of loneliness.

“It was just after I’d left Newcastle for Tottenham,” he remembers as the pair are reunited for a talkSPORT, SunSport special.

“I was staying at the Swallow Hotel International feeling sad and lonely and wondering if I’d done the right thing moving away from my family.

“The first person that came to visit me was Vinnie. He walks through the door and I’m thinking, ‘Oh God, what have I done now?’.

“He’d driven all the way over from Watford just to see me and give me a hug. He told me, ‘I’m here for you any time you want’. Imagine that.”

Yet Jones instinctively knew how Gascoigne was struggling and insists he still has an unexplained sixth sense whenever his pal is suffering.

He explains: “I experienced the same thing when I left the comfort zone of the Wimbledon Crazy Gang and moved to Leeds. I should have been on top of the world but I was sitting on the edge of my hotel bed 250 miles away from my family. It was one of the loneliest times of my life.

“So when Gazza came down to Tottenham, I went to see him and brought him back to meet the boys in Watford.

“He was a massive superstar so I took him to my local where I knew it was a safe haven and he wasn’t going to get driven too mad.

“I just wanted to make him feel at ease and put him in the kind of working-class environment he was used to back home in Newcastle.”

Sadly, Jones was not able to chaperone the fragile Gascoigne throughout his turbulent life and the former England idol is still fighting his demons.

Jones has been more successful in his battle with alcohol and has now been sober for more than five years.

Yet even from the other side of the Atlantic, where he has become one of Hollywood’s most improbable players, he can still feel Gazza’s pain.

He says: “I carry this twin brother thing around with me, for sure. Whenever people are cheap about his problems, I’m very defensive on his behalf.

“It’s like a sixth sense, a gut feeling. I get an awareness when he isn’t well, when he’s battling the disease. And it affects me. I’ll say to my missus, ‘We’d better check on Gazza’.

“He doesn’t know this, but I once phoned his agent when things weren’t going right and had a right go at him. I told him that he’d better look after him.”

Gascoigne confirms: “Aye, I always get people telling me, ‘Vinnie’s asking how you’re getting on’. It’s nice to hear.”

Like many others, Jones believes that Gazza made the wrong career choice when he opted for Spurs over Manchester United back in 1988.

Vinnie tells his pal: “Because of your ability, you’ve had your arse kissed all your life.

“I know Terry Venables loved you like a son and all that, but I think it would have been better for you to have signed for a different manager.

“Looking at Tottenham as an outsider, Terry kissed your arse and didn’t give you the discipline you might have got from Alex Ferguson at United.

“Terry loved the gold bracelets, the blonde on one arm and Gazza on the other. That’s what he was about. Maybe you didn’t need that at the time.”

Gascoigne reluctantly agrees, admitting: “I could definitely get away with a few things.

“I remember once I’d had a good session on the Sunday night and I could hardly walk at training the next morning.

“I knew I was in trouble so when the ball went over the fence, I said, ‘I’ll get it’ — and I jumped over the fence and went home.

“I came back to training the next day, jumped back over the fence with the ball and went, ‘Found it, gaffer’. And he let us off with it!

“When I first met Terry Venables, he told me, ‘If you sign for Tottenham, I guarantee you’ll be playing for England within ten games’. And that was my dream. That was all I wanted.

“But I do wonder what might have happened if I’d gone to Manchester United.

“Rio Ferdinand ran away from a drugs test, Eric Cantona two-footed some guy in the crowd, all the stuff that Wayne Rooney and Giggsy did . . . I reckon I might have fitted in there.”

Jones, too, likes to make light of his problems and claims: “I gave up the booze because my lawyer was retiring.

“Drinking, like football, is a young man’s sport. We had a brilliant time on it when we were young but then you’ve got to grow up and take responsibility.

“The trouble is that people are always quick to give you lectures but no one gave us lessons on how to cope with being famous.”

As well as booze and football, the two men also share a passion for the country lifestyle of hunting, shooting and fishing.

Vinnie recalls: “He nearly got his own back on me once.

“We went shooting together and he swung round with this loaded gun and everyone just hit the floor.”

Gazza adds: “Aye, we had some great times, apart from me nearly shooting you.

“Mind you, if I was going to get my own back, I’d have gone for your nuts!”

The two men are never happier than when they are off fly-fishing together.

Jones reveals: “A few years ago I got hold of Gazza’s reps and said, ‘Why don’t you drop me and him off in Alaska or Norway?’.

“No one else, just me, him and a camcorder. Let’s see what happens. It would have been the biggest show on TV. The whole nation would have watched. But for whatever reason it didn’t happen.”

Gazza admits he still hankers after a career in TV and says: “I did get offered a job with Sky and the money was good.

“But have you ever tried putting those dishes up in the winter?”

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