'My wife gives me spending money, I’m like a baby': Ex-Portsmouth, Aston Villa, Everton and Brighton man Warren Aspinall on beating alcoholism and gambling

Warren Aspinall enjoys a glass of wine with his wife when dining out on holiday, while still attends horse-racing meetings.

Friday, 1st April 2022, 9:00 am

Addiction to alcohol and gambling does not define him – and neither do such ‘diseases’ dictate his life.

It has been 14 years since the former Pompey midfielder was booked into the Sporting Chance Clinic following a suicide attempt.

They were 26 days he credits with changing the life of a footballer forced to retire at the age of 33 after contracting an MRSA superbug in hospital during a routine operation.

Sign up to our Portsmouth FC newsletter

Aspinall estimates he lost more than £1m through betting on horses, while alcohol drove him to stand on railway tracks contemplating throwing himself in front of a London-bound train.

Aspinall told The News: ‘I gambled on horses, yet wasn’t always into it. I only started when I was a bit bored when you go to these hotels and you’re on your own in different parts of the country.

‘You win, win, win – and then you lose. Even if you’ve won £5,000, you’d then want £10,000. If you lost £5,000, you’re then chasing your £5,000.

Warren Aspinall has forged a new career for himself following the end of his playing days and, for the last nine years, has worked as a BBC Sussex co-commentator covering Brighton alongside Johnny Cantor (left).

‘If I won, I’d go to the pub and celebrate – and if I lost, I’d go to the pub and commiserate. I was on that roundabout and could never get off it.

‘It’s a bad disease, you lie through your back teeth, you are deceitful.

‘You can tell an alcoholic because he’s always drinking and always smells, while you can tell a druggie through their eyes and the way they act. But you can’t tell a gambler - and that’s the problem.

‘I don’t bet any more whatsoever, I can’t, I don’t want my life changing.

Warren Aspinall arrived at Pompey from Aston Villa in August 1988 for a club record fee and went on to appear 158 times and score 28 goals

‘My wife gives me spending money, I’m like a baby, but it works. She’ll ask what it’s for, I carry minimum cash with me, probably £5 or £10, enough for a paper or a coffee.

‘I don’t need any more money than that, I no longer go to the pub on my own, I only drink with my wife and our friends. You have to put obstacles in the way because it’s a slippery slope.

‘I can go to the races with my wife and friends and not have a bet, I go for the enjoyment and a bit of a laugh.

‘Some people say I’m feeding my thoughts. Maybe, but I am strong enough now to go and put a bet on.

Warren Aspinall's playing career ended in November 2000 while at Brighton, after catching an MRSA superbug in hospital. He was aged 33. Picture by Steve Bardens/Allsport UK

‘You have to change your friends. When I came out and spoke publicly about my problems, the reaction from many was “Sorry to hear that, you’ve been brave”. Then you get others who asked if I fancied coming to a casino.

‘Are you for real mate? They don’t care, that’s not your friend. I don’t need people like you.

‘Karen can trust me now, but I don’t want all the trust because I will fall back into my old ways. She is always one step ahead of me, she is a rock.’

The 58-year-old BBC Radio Sussex Brighton co-commentator added: ‘I tell people my story, some listen, while some of these youngsters think they know it all, you can see them on their phones when you’re talking to them.

‘You can't say “Excuse me mate” and get them to stop, that’s their choice. If he’s not interested, he’s not interested.

‘You can also get one or two who believe they have the same issues, or recognise them in their mum and dad and want to talk about it.

‘We’re not all the same.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

You can support our local team of expert Pompey writers by subscribing here for all the latest news from Fratton Park for 9p a day, thanks to our 30%-off transfer window deal.