Once you start realising that, you become strong again," he told another paper in 1992. His strength, though, didn't last."I do not want to give any more embarrassment to my family and friends," he wrote in his suicide note, which also suggested that he was being blackmailed by the American youth at the centre of the recent allegations. "I hear you say, 'Well, why run if you're innocent?' Well justice isn't always fair. Silly thing really, but you know what happens when you panic."Unable to identify with, or gain acceptance from, the many contradictory cliques and special-interest groups which are now claiming him as their own fallen angel, Justin Fashanu hanged himself in the East End which had been his first home. And as with those other recent icons who have died young - Michael Hutchence, River Phoenix and even Diana, Princess of Wales - it has already begun to take on mythological importance. But the reality behind the headlines was that of a charming man who had simply ceased to live a charmed life.
As the Pink Paper wrote: "His life (like his football) became erratic: bravery alternated with stupidity, consistency was supplanted by transiency."Fashanu had spoken of suicide before, only to dismiss it with the conviction of the born-again: "I was close to suicide many times .. then I realised I had this responsibility. His charm (journalists speak of him remembering their names years after a short interview) was having to paper over ever-widening cracks. In his 37 years he was to veer between football maestro and football flop; between the machismo of the dressing- room and the campness of the club scene; between his Christianity and Conservative leanings and his tawdry boasts of sexual conquests.It was a life of so much fantasy, bursting with make-believe soap-opera storylines. "There were idiosyncracies: he used to bring his own lunch in Tupperware dishes It was his health food. Footballers don't like shirkers, and he certainly produced enough effort to make him one of the lads He was great company, he was funny, he was stylish. He used to go to team parties, and join in what we did."Ivan Golac, the former Southampton team-mate who was later to become Fashanu's mentor and manager at Torquay (10 goals in 21 appearances in the early Nineties), says: "Justin was very brave With his height and power, he was very special. You could talk to him, and see in him someone who wanted to learn."But there were always those manifest contradictions which it seems he could never quite reconcile in his own mind.
He had become like a leader for the other boys, he was very disciplined and the boys liked him. If someone had given him direction over a long period of time, he might have been happier He was a character, and very bright. I remember when we played Hearts when I was managing Dundee United, and Justin caused us so many problems He could hold the ball up so well. The only way he could play was if someone - a magistrate - could identify him as who he said he was. Luckily I had been a magistrate and could do it."It was while playing for Norwich, in the old-style First Division, that Fashanu produced one of those sublime pieces of football that - as his playing days soured - was to hang around his neck as a reminder of the arrogance and audacity he had once shown in front of goal. "John is much more aware of Nelson Mandela and all this kind of baloney.