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Former Everton defender Pat Van den Hauwe reveals he held a gun to a man's head

  /  autty

'If I had pulled that trigger I wouldn't be sitting here now,' says Pat Van den Hauwe. 'He wouldn't be around either.'

'He' is the South African acquaintance who had dodged a debt and came within a split-second of paying with his life at the hands of a two-time English First Division champion and four-time FA Cup finalist.

To tell the story of the Belgian-born, London-raised Van den Hauwe, a classy yet tenacious defender nicknamed 'Psycho Pat', you must start on that balmy evening in Cape Town, to ask the question: How did he ever come so close to committing murder?

There are, you discover, many aggravating factors during a riotous journey of girls, goals and glory, drink, drugs and despair. And now, as we meet on Merseyside, redemption. A new life.

First, though, to the beachfront bar in Camps Bay more than 20 years ago. Van den Hauwe was playing in South Africa after escaping an existence in England he had come to loathe.

But whereas once he would tuck the blue shirt of Birmingham, Everton and Millwall or the white of Tottenham into his shorts, now he was carrying a gun, so paranoid had he become amid cocaine indulgence and underworld figures. So what happened?

'I nearly shot someone,' says the 58-year-old, his delivery deadpan.

Silence. Why?

'His arrogance, and because he kept swerving me for the money I'd lent him. I was with friends having a drink and he walked past. I shouted, "When you gonna pay me? It's been months".

'He said, "What you gonna do about it?" I knew he was a black belt in karate. Do you think I'm gonna swing my arms and legs with him?

'No chance. So I walked over and put the gun to his head and said, "Where's my money?"

'I had a hair trigger. It doesn't need much pressure. I had hollow-point bullets as well. They blow your f****** head off. If I'd done that, I'd still be in jail now.

'Them split seconds… if some noise had gone off, or he'd gone for me, I would have pulled that trigger. It was a millisecond decision. It was life-changing.

'The next day I thought, "What the f*** did I do there?" It was only a hundred quid, and I never did get it.

'But what I very nearly did that night, it's haunted me ever since.'

Van den Hauwe had won the First Division and European Cup Winners' Cup with Everton in 1985 and two years later his goal in a 1-0 win at Norwich in May 1987 helped regain the title.

He lifted the FA Cup with Spurs in 1991 and starred for Wales, a handsome poster boy with a cockney charm.

But during his time at White Hart Lane he met two people who would send his life off-course — Ossie Ardiles and the model Mandy Smith. As he says himself, 'It all went f****** haywire'.

Van den Hauwe deals with Ardiles first, the Argentinian installed as Spurs manager in 1993.

'Straight away, I knew something wasn't right. He told me, "You're not in my plans". Why? 'Remember that game at Birmingham?'

Van den Hauwe imitates his jaw dropping. 'I'd done him in a tackle when he was playing for Spurs 10 years earlier.

'At the time there was that little conflict between England and Argentina. I'd stood over him and said a few words. But I was a kid, I didn't know what I was saying.

'He'd remembered it. So that was that, from playing every week to sitting around doing nothing. He then blocked me joining another First Division club.

'I felt like throwing him through his f****** office window. I had a few years left in me at the top. Instead, I had to drop down to Millwall.'

We come back to Smith, the former wife of a Rolling Stone whom he met in a wine bar after an introduction by Spurs team-mate Paul Walsh.

They married in 1993 with the pictures splashed across Hello! magazine. But the relationship, he says, was dysfunctional and was controlled by Smith's mother, who lived with them. They separated within two years.

'If I could do it all again, I would go nowhere near. The biggest mistake I've ever made. It was a different life and I hated it.

'Even if we walked down the street with a bag of shopping the bleeding paparazzi would be…'

Sportsmail's photographer starts clicking away as Van den Hauwe becomes animated.

'Like f****** that! I can't stand it! Years ago I would have chased you down the f****** road!'

Our man lowers his lens.

'It became too much, I couldn't cope. Three times we were on the cover of Hello! — it was a joke. With her mother it was all about the money.

'Some people thrive on celebrity, I didn't. I even had one of the Krays asking me to visit him in prison! I declined.'

Another offer he turned down was a training-ground scrap with Millwall manager Mick McCarthy.

'Mick's a lovely fella, but if you cross him … he was like, "Come on then, if you want some?". But I'd given up, to be honest.

'I knew it was the end, and it was the end too soon. I was playing in the Second Division and living at home with my parents.

'I'd grown up in Bermondsey, where Millwall played. My life had gone full circle and all I could think was, "What the f*** is going on here?"

'I phoned Mick and said, "I'm done". He was a gentleman and they paid up my contract.'

If that marked a sad end — he moved to South Africa soon after — then the start and middle were much more fun. He had made his debut at Birmingham City in 1978 where a certain Mick Harford was a team-mate. He smiles before remembering one tale.

'We were out with our partners one night driving through town when a car cut us up. It really set Mick off, and once that happened there was no stopping him.

'We chased them for about 20 minutes. Eventually they stopped — three of them. "Ah s***!"

'But Mick jumped out, opened his boot, got this big golf club and smashed up their motor. They soon legged it.'

If Van den Hauwe had tried to play the peacemaker on that occasion, he was soon the troublemaker. Not long after joining Everton in 1984 he was christened 'Psycho' by supporters, albeit affectionately.

'That came at QPR when I punched one of their players to the floor and it started a mass brawl. Howard Kendall (Everton boss) said 'That was the best I'd seen you play before you hit him but I'm still fining you two weeks' wages'.

'I was furious until I found out it went towards an end-of-season p*** up in Magaluf!'

It was during another such trip to Hawaii with Everton that Van den Hauwe considered quitting football.

'I met a girl on the first day, she was gorgeous. I didn't see the lads for the week. She asked me to move to Alaska and work on her dad's ranch.

'I was going to give it all up. It was only Howard who stopped me.'

Another foreign expedition and female dalliance also threatened Van den Hauwe's career.

'I got caught out, didn't I? I ended up in hospital with a blood disorder. My ankle had swelled up and it turned out the virus was pretty serious. That was hard, missing games.'

But Van Den Hauwe did not miss the big ones, such as Everton's 3-1 win over Rapid Vienna in the Cup Winners' Cup final or the semi-final victory over Bayern Munich that he rates as the best night of his career.

He was on the losing side three times for Everton in FA Cup finals but got his winner's medal with Spurs against Nottingham Forest, the final infamous for Paul Gascoigne's injury.

'I'm often asked if us senior pros could have calmed him down. No chance. He was round the bend before we'd left the tunnel. '

'But we wanted to win it for him after he went off. I loved Gazza, the best I played with.'

Van den Hauwe could have been his England team-mate after a conversation with Bobby Robson in 1985. There was also an offer from Belgium but, deciding to maximise game time, he chose Wales. But how did he qualify?

'I haven't got a clue! There was no Welsh blood. I suppose I lived close enough to the border in Liverpool!'

It was to Liverpool that Van den Hauwe returned from South Africa three years ago.

We meet at the Blue Base, an Everton community centre where he works, spending time with dementia sufferers. He is also a matchday host at Goodison Park.

'I'm happy, I feel alive,' he says.

That last comment, we learn, is a reference to how low he felt towards the end of his time in South Africa.

'I'd just been divorced (for the third time). One day you're up, the next you're down.

'I'd spent 20 years there and had to sell all my medals, a lifetime of work. I'd had houses taken, I got conned and lost money. I was drained.

'The thought of starting all over was too much. But then you think, 'I do have something more to give'.

'It wasn't easy. When I came back I didn't think anyone would remember me. I was petrified speaking in front of fans again.

'Now, my confidence is coming back. I've got a lot to be thankful for, I just had to realise that.'