Sunday, 20 Sep 2020

Paul Merson reveals he bet on 'Lithuanian Under-20 basketball' at height of gambling addiction

PAUL Merson revealed he would bet on Lithuanian Under-20s basketball games in the middle of the night at the height of his gambling addiction.

The ex-England star, 50, notoriously lost £7 million on his booze, drugs and betting problems in the 1990s.

The dad-of-seven revealed he had been gripped by gambling again in a new ITV documentary Harry's Heroes – The Full English.

And today Merson opened up further about his addiction – telling Good Morning Britain the depths he had sunk to as he battled the compulsion to place bets on anything he could.

Speaking with hosts Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid, the ex-footballer said his gambling addiction had "ripped" into him.

He said: "I was getting up in the morning, betting on Lithuanian under-20 basketball matches.

"How are you pricing up them?

"Who is that for?"

He blamed the accessibility of being able to place bets at anytime, adding: "You go insane.

"You search and search to get the bet on and to get all excited.

"As soon as you've done it, you can't believe what I've just done. And then the self-worth comes in."

Merson, who had a distinguished career as a player, winning the First Division – now Premier League – twice with Arsenal, said he now felt "100 times better" after the documentary was filmed six months ago.

But he said he would keep attending support meetings as he believed he would always battle his addiction.

'IT'S THE WORST ADDICTION IN THE WORLD'

Merson had brought viewers to tears in the new ITV documentary as he told producers he was "struggling with life".

The tearful former athlete said: "Life's fallen apart – gambling… I've just completely lost control again.

"I'm digging a hole – I can't get out of it.

"It's the worst addiction in the world."

Merson, who placed his first bet aged 16 with his first Arsenal pay packet, told the programme he was still being given credit and bets by bookies DESPITE his well-known addiction problems.

He said he had wagered money on football, basketball, snooker, cricket – but never horse racing – and described his urge to bet as "relentless".

He added: "It's so tiring it's unbelievable.

"Mentally draining, just sitting there, thinking where am I going to get more money to do this?

"It's like…it's literally like a crack addict. It is like a crack addict.

"Exactly like that.

"But, with crack, you couldn't spend that kind of money on crack, it's impossible. Impossible."

The attacking midfielder also played for Middlesbrough, Aston Villa, Portsmouth and Walsall – becoming player-manager at the latter.

The former England midfielder has also admitted he has gone back to Alcoholics Anonymous, as he battled his booze demons.

In the ITV show, called Harry's Heroes, he is one of 13 ex-England heroes trying to get fit again under ex-Spurs boss Harry Redknapp.





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