Even if he bares his soul, Paul Merson speaks the language of football fluently in an entertaining way.
The new book of the Merse, addicted, is open, sometimes funny, often terrifying.
As an expert, he shares the view, but one of Merson’s endearing appeals is his apparent love of the game. That he is not far from the boy who “comes home from school, writes down all the games, rolls the dice and works out all the tables from the first to the fourth league”.
He is often ridiculed for the way his tongue deals with the globalization of Premier League team sheets on Football Saturday. But he’s been diagnosed as dyslexic and says the names sometimes get mixed up between his eyes and his brain. He preferred when Thommo and Tiss and Charlie just laughed at him and the new crew hadn’t quite adapted yet. “I’m screwing up the names now and everyone’s going to be quiet and I feel fat.”
The other big advantage of Merse is the colorful simplicity of its images. “You’re a bag of nails, Jeff, everywhere.”
Under the curse of gambling addiction, he compares himself to someone with a nut allergy who goes out and buys a pack of peanuts.
He describes this first trip to William Hill at the age of 16 as “entering a spaceship”. People roared and roared … completely absorbed in the journey. “
He lost his first Arsenal wage package in 10 minutes, scratched his face on the way home and told his mother that he had been mugged. And the lying started.
Without the heavy baggage he could undoubtedly have achieved more, but Merson was one of the most elegant English footballers of his generation. He always had time to raise his head often and spot the goalkeeper off his line.
Time, even the seven million he has lost, is the greatest thing that gambling addiction has stolen from him, he feels.
“I didn’t want to waste time spending it in the real world, time that I could spend on the spaceship, drink and play. Now I do things that I’ve never done in my life and I love it because real life doesn’t scare me anymore. “
This week, Tyrone All-Ireland winner Conn Kilpatrick discussed at the Claire Byrne Live Show, the gambling addiction that made him owe over 10,000 euros.
Oisín McConville, who openly addresses his own gambling addiction and works as an addiction counselor, clearly understands the extent of the problem: “Society is in real need.”
In contrast to other addictions, Oisín emphasizes, this one does not have an effective warning system. “You don’t see people playing until they reach the crisis point.”
Merson has also fought alcohol and drug addiction, but this is the giant who never sleeps soundly. In the early panic of the lockdown, he relapsed again and lost bail on a house.
“For my family, gambling is so abhorrent because they cannot see it, the signs of relapse are not visible until the end. I meant to say ‘until it’s too late’ but it’s always too late for the compulsive gambler – a £ 5 Yankee is the beginning of the road that ends in a £ 10,000 hole. “
In the book he lists the stupidity. Ten grand at the Eurovision Song Contest, five grand at the World Bowls, five grand at a Lithuanian basketball game on a Monday morning. A grand piano with his buddy, what’s in the boxes while watching Deal or no deal.
But it’s most interesting for psychology, for a strange kind of realism in the heart of madness.
Sitting at the foot of the bed in a panic on his wedding night because Scotland lost to Costa Rica.
“That may sound ridiculous, but I’ve always been a ‘realistic’ player. I’ve never been one of those players who would pop anything in a 20/1 shot. I’ve always been on the hunt for easy money and supported the favorite, the odds that bookies hate.
“If Scotland had won, my wedding would have been free, that was always my thought.”
But even this hint of logic is fatally undermined by a circular senselessness of the condition. Merson envies the pals who win a small bet and reward themselves with a pair of golf shoes or maybe a new driver.
“Winning a bet for me made another, bigger bet possible. There was no end goal as such. . . just to keep betting. The way the bet expires is the main attraction, not the bottom line. If I won, I thought I had a bigger pot to win more. If I lost, I wanted it back, so I chased it. In those times when I won, the bookmakers had it all back and more in two days.
The dream was a never ending betting frenzy, not the jackpot.
He’s grateful that the internet didn’t catch up with him early in his gambling life. “Reach the last dog race and that was it. It was done. I couldn’t place a bet on a tennis match in Australia at the time. Now it would take 10 seconds with a phone app. “
And he believes the signs of relapse should be a little more visible to those who place the bets.
“When you call to bet on a Lithuanian basketball game, the bookmakers don’t worry that you’ve gone crazy, they don’t worry about your welfare. They treat you as a rational person if you do irrational things as long as it suits them. “
At one point he considered crushing himself finger after finger with a hammer to keep himself from picking up the phone.
But the treatment gave him some understanding and peace and hope.
“Today I’m a million miles away from a bet, closer than ever, but that’s because I can see clearly.”
He will only speak for today. The giant always has one eye open, constantly shaken awake by the insidious flood of advertising and chats about odds. Chats that dangerously address this rational side.
Did you say United are even?
That sounds reasonable. That sounds reasonable. That sounds like easy money.
“And within two days I would bet on Lithuanian basketball again …”