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Alcohol A Poison Crutch In Stressful Football Life

I wrote a column over the weekend on Wayne Rooney which shed a light onto alcohol and football and what a terrible mix it is under any circumstances.

I wanted to revisit it today, only because it sheds a light on how different “normal life” is to being a pro-sportsman or woman.

“Collymore, you’re an idiot, the lad was having a few beers late after winning against Scotland, like we all do.”

Rooney isn’t you though, Rooney is so different to us as media people, bin men, bankers and shopworkers that comparing what he does to us is absurd.

Paul Merson, Tony Adams, Gazza? Ring any bells? They should do, and loudly.

Alcohol use and misuse in football has been a taboo for so long in the game, and seemingly is no longer an issue because “foreign players don’t drink”.

Well that’s not strictly true, but we always must look out for players, whoever they are, whatever club they play for because the cycle of a player’s life and week means that alcohol can be and often is used a crutch, rather than the jolly weekend beans that many of us enjoy.

You train all week with one aim, to win a game in front of 75,000 people. You’re expected to carry the hopes of a nation or one of the world’s biggest clubs on your shoulder, and trust me, it’s tempting after the game has finished to wind down (an incredibly difficult thing to do, often players never sleep post-match), have a few beers or a few shorts not to celebrate, not to toast a win, but to alleviate the pressure and burden of carrying England or Manchester United on your back.

I don’t care if you don’t believe me, but I do care that you take what I say seriously as I’ve been there, and I’ve seen it with some very unlikely characters.

Gary Charles was a teammate of mine at Villa. A great guy, quiet, almost shy, with a great family and children (for those of you suggesting this should lend weight to a high profile player not using alcohol as they have loving, warm support).

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Never in a MILLION years did I see, notice or guess that away from the game he used alcohol which almost cost him everything. Everything, including his life.

Every player is different and so is every player’s ability to soak up pressure and deal with it in different ways, but if you think comparing your life with Wayne Rooney’s equals “a lad having a few beers” as opposed to; could this be entwined with a lack of form? The pressure of being at the top for over a decade? Then I’m afraid you’re really mistaken.

I don’t know Wayne, but I know his agent, and I know whatever the reality, that Paul Stretford having had many high profile clients over the years, would have looked at the paper pictures of him blind drunk and say to himself, I need to make sure this person, not client, is ok.

Everyman Jack thinks that playing football is a doss, a laugh, that players are pampered and have no stresses, nothing to worry about, especially if there’s a nice £300k cheque at the end of the week, but as I always say with mental health issues, the notion of someone not being able to have cancer or depression because of what they earn deserves to be put in the same box as “I believe the earth is flat”.

Lots of ex-pros made excuses for the England Captain having a beer at 5am, and laugh it off. We made that mistake with Gazza, when the nation, journos, team mates et al were egging him on, joining in on the reflected glory that came with that particular genius but most fled as soon as the rot set in and Gazza was alone.

Wayne Rooney may have had a beer or two, got caught on camera, and it’s his first sesh in years, but that’s not the point. The point is alcohol and footballers are never a good mix, ever, and trust me I should know.

That’s why it should be socially unacceptable in the game, it’s a poison, a toxin if nothing else, and has no place in the weekly habits of a player.




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