In a documentary to be shown on BBC One this evening, the former Arsenal, Aston Villa and England midfielder delves into his past – and explores the roots of gambling and its impact on footballers.
Titled Paul Merson: Football, Gambling & Me, the 53-year-old candidly looks at a career which brought him two league titles, the FA Cup, League Cup, European Cup Winners’ Cup and, of course, the Division One title with Pompey.
As Blues skipper, Merson was an inspirational presence in that 2002-03 campaign under Harry Redknapp, scoring 12 goals in 48 appearances.
It was his sole season at Fratton Park and he remains one of the finest – and most popular – players to represent Pompey in the modern era.
Merson told Paul Merson: Football, Gambling & Me: ‘I've been addicted to alcohol and cocaine, but by far the most destructive and the only one I'm still struggling with today is gambling.
‘If I want to get drunk or high, I have to put something up my nose or down me. Gambling's already in you, just waiting constantly, talking to you.
‘I'd be sitting on the sofa and I'd look over at the kids. The hate I had for myself, thinking about how I'd let them down.
‘The scary thing is you know there's only one outcome, but you can't stop.
‘It's been important for me to be able to see myself (in the film) as a sick person trying to get well, rather than a terrible person trying to get good.
‘Of course, some people are going to watch the show and think: “Forget him, he lost £7m, good job”.
‘If one person watches it and says “I need help” that would be a major success story for me. I wouldn't wish this on anybody.’
Paul Merson: Football, Gambling & Me is on BBC One tonight at 9pm.
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