Paul Merson looks at me closely a few minutes before he relates the weird story that makes him cry, in a beautiful but damaged memory. “It’s been 36 years of sheer madness,” Merson recalls, reflecting on the gambling disorder that has ruined his life, along with drinking and a brief but disastrous addiction to cocaine.
Merson won two league titles and three cups with Arsenal, and he was known for his visionary football, which he repeated at Aston Villa. He played in the 1998 World Cup for England and is now, at the age of 53, a much-loved (or frequently brutally derided) member of Sky Sports’ Saturday Soccer panel alongside his close friend Jeff Stelling.
But, as Merson makes clear in his endearingly open manner, he suffers from a serious illness. He has lost more than £7 million to betting businesses, but as he emphasizes, the true cost is not monetary.“If someone lived in my head they would think: ‘How did you even get through those 36 years?’ People go: ‘Oh, you lost all that money.’ But the money is irrelevant.’ You lose time. Time just goes and that breaks my heart more than anything.
Merson emphasizes that his gambling problem is by far the worst of the three addictions he has battled over nearly four decades. In 1984, he had his first bet as a Youth Training Scheme [YTS] apprentice with Arsenal, when he was only 16 years old.
source : Guardian sport