Paul Merson reveals depths of his alcoholism and gambling addictions

‘I’m powerless over alcohol, I’m an alcoholic… it’s quite sad really, the waste of life’: Paul Merson reveals the depths of his alcoholism and gambling addictions including 35 pints a WEEK that saw him hit rock bottom

  • Paul Merson revealed the depths of his alcohol and gambling addiction last year 
  • He’s credited appearing on Harry’s Heroes with helping him turn his life around 
  • The 52-year-old has opened up on significance of taking part in the documentary

Former Arsenal and England star Paul Merson has revealed the depths of his alcohol and gambling addiction last year as he’s credited appearing on Harry’s Heroes with helping him turn his life around.

Merson features in the second series of the ITV programme, which airs next week.

The 52-year-old, who left viewers in tears during the first series, has opened up on the significance of taking part in the documentary.

Paul Merson has revealed the depths of his alcohol and gambling addiction last year

Former Arsenal star credited appearing on Harry’s Heroes with helping him turn his life around

‘This show saved my life no question, 100 per cent,’ he said. 

‘I went into treatment twice and it never helped because people made me go in, the club made me go in or the FA made me go in. This is the time I done it for me, you know what, I’m fed up…I wanted to do it.’

In the last series Merson, who notoriously lost £7million on alcohol, drugs and gambling in the 1990s, revealed he was ‘struggling badly’ with a relapse of his gambling addiction.

Ahead of the second series, which runs on three consecutive nights from Monday, Merson has revealed the positive impact the show has had on his health.

‘From last time, I’m 100 times better, my life’s changed around. Where I was last year compared to now I can’t explain. 

‘The impact of being in the team, it saved my life. I was drinking at least 35 pints a week and gambling. But I’m sober and bet free now. As soon as I addressed the drinking I didn’t gamble. 

Merson features in the second series of the ITV programme, which airs next week

Merson at a 1995 press conference at London’s Park Court Hotel where he confessed to his addictions. On the right is FA spokesman David Davies

‘I’ve come to realise I’m powerless over alcohol- I’m an alcoholic.

‘I have a disease and it is a disease. My drinking and gambling left a lot of wreckage.

‘As an alcoholic, recovering now those things are hard for me. It’s quite sad really because you look now and think what a waste of a life, some of it.’

Merson, who is most famous for his time with Arsenal where he scored 78 goals in 327 league games, placed his first bet at the age of 16 with his Gunners pay packet.

The ITV show tracks a team of former England internationals managed by Harry Redknapp – (left to right) Rob Lee, Lee Sharpe, Ray Parlour, Lee Hendrie, Redknapp, Mark Wright, Matt Le Tissier Paul Merson and Mark Chamberlain

Harry’s Heroes: Euro Having A Laugh tracks a team of former England internationals, including David Seaman, Merson, Matt Le Tissier, Rob Lee, Ray Parlour, Lee Sharpe, Mark Chamberlain, Mark Wright, Razor Ruddock and Lee Hendrie, managed by former Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp and his assistant John Barnes.

Last year the side overcame a Germany Legends team after building up their fitness by increasing their exercise regimes and improving their diets.

This time around Redknapp’s outfit, who lost almost eight stone between them in 2019, embark on a tour of Europe, taking on sides in France and Italy before the rematch against Germany.

The former Arsenal player has had a host of addictions. He is pictured doing a drinking celebration after an FA Cup win against Tottenham on April 4, 1993

How Paul Merson has fought addictions for three decades

Paul Merson enjoyed a glittering football career and is still admired by Arsenal fans after scoring 78 goals in 327 games for the club.

But he has faced a troubled personal life, fighting a well-documented addiction to gambling, alcohol and drugs for three decades which drove him to brink of suicide.

Merson, who has been married three times and has six children, had claimed in 2003 to have won his battles with alcohol and cocaine.

But he admitted he was still plagued by his gambling problem, and narrowly avoided losing his home five years later after falling behind with his mortgage payments.

In his 2012 memoir, How Not To Be A Professional Footballer, revealed he had lost some £7million to bookmakers over the years.

In the 1989-90 season at Arsenal, he was banned from Highbury for two weeks amid reports of drinking and gambling debts.

In November 1994, he confessed he had a cocaine habit. He entered an addiction unit and was released six weeks later on the condition he attended outpatient therapy and support groups.

The Football Association later said cocaine was not his main problem – it was drinking and gambling.

In February 2012, he was given a 14-month-driving ban after pleading guilty to drink-driving following a motorway crash.

Merson crashed his Mercedes ML350 into a 38-tonne lorry after falling asleep at the wheel on the M40 near Warwick in October 2011.

The attacking midfielder made 21 appearances for England and represented his country at Euro 1992 and World Cup 1998.

He also played domestically for Brentford, Middlesbrough, Aston Villa, Portsmouth and Walsall.

Harry’s Heroes: Euro Having A Laugh airs on ITV on 18-20 May at 9pm. 




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