PAUL MERSON revealed that being part of Harry’s Heroes saved his life and helped him overcome the “wrecks” left by his alcohol and gambling problems.
The 52-year-old Grand Arsenal has battled alcohol for decades – and even admitted that it made him want to kill himself earlier this year in a heartbreaking interview.
Now Merson has revealed that being part of Harry Redknapp’s team has helped him come to terms with his illness.
Last year, the first series saw the legendary football boss take on a team of ex-British ex-players, including David Seaman, Robbie Fowler and John Barnes, and prepare them to take on old enemies in Germany.
The second series of Harry’s Heroes – called Euro having a laugh – will start on Monday, as Redknapp takes his star team, including across Europe, culminating in another confrontation with the old enemy.
And Merson told The Mirror, “Since the last time, I’m 100 times better, my life has changed. Where I was last year compared to now, I can’t explain it.
“The impact of being on the team saved my life.
“I drank at least 35 pints a week and played. But I am sober and without bet now.
“As soon as I got into the drink, I didn’t play. I realize that I am helpless in the face of alcohol. I am an alcoholic.
“I have a disease – and it is a disease. “
I went to treatment twice and it never helped because people brought me in … that’s when I did it for me.
Merson continued, “My drinking and gambling has left a lot of debris. As an alcoholic, recovering now, these things are difficult for me.
“It’s really sad because you’re looking now and thinking about what a waste of life, in part.
“I got treatment twice and it never helped because people got me in, the club got me in or the FA got me in.
“This is the time when I did it for myself. “
And Harry’s Heroes boss Redknapp, 73, revealed that Merson did “brilliantly” on his last tour – because he refused to touch a drop of alcohol.
Redknapp said, “Not drinking must have been very difficult when you left with a group of boys who are all friends and who chat and share stories.
“And you sit there and never drink. He did it brilliantly. “
In January, opening in his column with the Daily Star, Merson wrote: “Monday, I’ll be sober for a year. But this time last year, I wanted to kill myself.
“I couldn’t continue. I just couldn’t see an exit. I had the tablets in my hand.
“I didn’t take enough to do anything but I had them there. With vodka. It was scary.
“It was only because of the children, my wife and a little conscience that I did not do it.
“Probably afraid too.” I was afraid to do it. When you are there, you do not see how it will happen.
“But I have the tools now. If I find myself in a real breakdown situation, I know it will pass.
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“I don’t want to kill myself anymore. I don’t have these thoughts. I don’t carry the world on my shoulders. Walking around with guilt.
“I’m not fighting over it, I’m drinking and playing all the time and I ask why I’m doing this to myself.”
“It is only now that I know. I have an illness. I have a mental illness. I have accepted this now. Before, I was fighting all the time. “
In the first series of Harry’s Heroes, Merson left fans in tears as he emotionally admitted that the game made him feel like a “crack addict”.