Ex-England footballer Paul Gascoigne says he suffered a “year of hell” before being cleared of a charge of sexually assaulting a woman on a train.
He was accused of “forcefully and sloppily” kissing a passenger on a York to Newcastle service in August 2018.
The 52-year-old told the court he gave the woman a “peck on the lips” to “boost her confidence” after he heard a male passenger call her overweight.
“The last year has been a nightmare,” he told the Sunday Mirror.
“I’ve been in trouble but nothing like this,” he said. “I worried people would stop me going down the high street and shout abuse at me, or stop me from being around their kids.
“Being on the sex offenders list – that’s not me. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever been through.”
In an in-depth interview, the former Newcastle and Tottenham Hotspur star – who has a history of alcohol problems – revealed he had not drunk for six months as he prepared for and went through the trial process.
Instead, he turned to exercise.
“I would be up all night doing sit-ups and squats or on the bike,” he said. “Anything to keep my mind busy.
“Those weeks before the trial were hard but I had to stay strong.”
Gascoigne had been in a “drunken state” when he was arrested on 20 August last year, his trial at Teesside Crown Court was told.
He denied this, saying he had had pellets implanted in his stomach that made him sick if he drank spirits.
He told officers he had “kissed a fat lass” to give her a “confidence boost”.
In court, Gascoigne said he had gone to reassure her after overhearing a man say: “What do you want a photo of her for? She’s fat and ugly.”
The former midfielder, who won 57 England caps, was cleared of both sexual assault by touching and the lesser charge of assault by beating.
He told the Mirror he “didn’t mean anything sexual” and suggested his fame contributed to the decision to prosecute.
“If it was anyone else this would never have gone to court. I accept I’m not liked by everyone,” he said.
“I shouldn’t have to change the way I behave. I’ve been kissed six times this morning – does that mean I have been sexually assaulted?”