Sporting Chapters

Paul Merson tells Sporting Chapters about his battles with addiction and the book charting his career.

Last Updated: 07/02/13 at 11:23

Paul Merson was a talented, crowd-pleasing player for Arsenal, helping the Gunners to two league titles as well as an FA Cup and League Cup success. However, behind his chirpy exterior the midfielder battled addictions to drugs, alcohol and gambling.

The former England international conquered those demons and is now a pundit for Sky Sports' Soccer Saturday.

In his new book 'How Not to Be a Professional Footballer' Merson describes the highs, lows and challenges of his life as a professional player. And here, in an interview with Sporting Chapters he discusses:

Early days: Merson talks about his father encouraging him to take up the game, his time as a youth team player with Watford and his initial reservations about switching to Arsenal aged 14

Gambling: The former Arsenal ace tells how he became hooked on betting, despite a distressing first experience of gambling; blowing his month's wages in 15 minutes at the age of 16...

Addiction: Merson discusses the impact drink and drugs had on his playing career and why 1993 was such a hard time for him

Fall-outs: The former midfield recounts a trip to Bermuda with Arsenal, which culminated in him and Steve Bould being shunned by the rest of the squad

Rehab: Merson describes the moment he knew he needed to change his lifestyle - and how the Gunners supported him

After football: And the Soccer Saturday pundit talks about his current role with Sky Sports - which he describes as 'the second best job in the world'

Coming up... Sam Torrance

Next on Sporting Chapters we catch up with former European Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance.

A 21-time winner on the European Tour, Sam talks about his life in golf and how the sport has evolved since he turned pro in 1970.

He played in eight Ryder Cups and will best be remembered for sinking the winning putt in 1985, a victory which marked a step-change in Europe's fortunes.

He went on to successfully skipper Europe after receiving advice from Sir Alex Ferguson, who stressed the importance of treating the team as equals - with no preferential status for any player.

Sam also talks about Seve and discusses just how big an influence his Dad, coach Bob Torrance, had on his career. For this, and more, watch Sporting Chapters on Tuesday.


Leon McKenzie

Former Norwich striker Leon McKenzie discusses his book 'My Fight for Life', which takles his battles with depression, how he tried to take his own life during his time at Charlton and why he feels the PFA is not doing enough to support young players suffering from mental health problems.

James Willstrop

English squash sensation James Willstrop discusses his book 'Shot and a Ghost' in which he documents a year in the brutal world of professional squash. He talks candidly about his relationship on and off the court with his father, the fierce rivalry with fellow British squash player Nick Matthew and his disappointment at the lack of acknowledgement for squash within the sporting world.

Chrissie Wellington

In 'Life Without Limits' Chrissie Wellington charts her transformation from civil servant to Ironman world champion and world record holder. On the same day she announced her retirement from the sport, Wellington told Sporting Chapters about the highs and lows of her time at the top - and why she's giving it all up.

Graham Henry

'The Final Word' tells the highs and lows of Graham Henry's illustrious coaching career.

It details the lows of the 2007 Rugby World Cup to the highs of the victory at Eden Park in October 2011 when the All Blacks restored the glory days of New Zealand Rugby and invigorated the spirit of an entire nation.

Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola: Another Way of Winning: The Biography, featuring Guillem Balague and Albert Ferrer. Guillem and Albert talk about his influence at Barcelona and how his rivalry with Jose Mourinho which was to eventually sour his enjoyement of management

Tyler Hamilton

The Secret Race is a definitive look at the world of professional cycling - and the doping issue surrounding this sport and its most iconic rider, Lance Armstrong - by former Olympic gold medalist Tyler Hamilton and New York Times bestselling author Daniel Coyle.

Disgraced cyclist Hamilton joins Sporting Chapters to discuss the murky world of performance enhancing drugs in the sport.

Dave Brailsford

Dave Brailsford, Team Sky's general manager and performance director of British Cycling, has collaborated on '21 Days to Glory' - an official Team Sky book written by Sarah Edworthy, which goes behind-the-scenes to give you the inside track on how the 2012 Tour de France was won. In an interview for Sporting Chapters, Dave talks to us about how he initially became fascinated with cycling and what the future holds for British Cycling, Team Sky and Dave himself.

Neville Southall

Everton legend Neville Southall joined us to talk about his new book, The Binman Chronicles, which details his extraordinary life story. Find out how Southall got into the sport and how he found out the goalkeeper was his position.

He went on to tell us about the glory days of his career - a career in which he won virtually every major honour, plus he reveals what life was like playing for Everton and with Wales.

Southall also talks about the rapidly changing landscape of British football and also the latest chapter of his life - working with disadvantaged youths.

William Hill Sports Book of the Year award

It's the most valuable literary sports-writing prize around - so Sporting Chapters was first in the queue to speak to nominees of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award.

'The Secret Race' by ex-cyclist Tyler Hamilton and writer Daniel Coyle got the judges' nod for their book, which takes us inside the hidden world of the Tour de France. We'll catch up with Hamilton on Sporting Chapters in the near future.

Ex-Crystal Palace chairman Simon Jordan, four-time Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington and professional squash player James Willstrop were also nominated and we'll hear from the latter two soon.

Check out our video interviews to find out about the story behind the story - and for more details about each nomination.

Ian Thorpe

He's a five-time Olympic gold medallist and in the latest Sporting Chapters, Ian Thorpe talks about the story behind his glittering career.

After winning his first World title aged just 15 and went on to dominate the pool to such an extent that Australian Olympic Committee President John Coates stated that "In 50 years from now Australians will still marvel at the feats of Ian Thorpe".

But the success came at a cost - with questions raised about the legality of his performances, a personal battle with depression and doubts raised about his sexuality.

In his autobiography 'This is Me', Ian opens up and speaks about his life and career.

Seb Coe

Olympic legend Seb Coe told Sporting Chapters about his career on and off the track as detailed in his autobiography 'Running My Life'.

He told us what it was like to make his name as a superstar middle distance runner by winning Olympic gold in both 1980 and 1984 and the challenge of delivering the 2012 Games as the chairman of the London Organising Committee.

From his early beginnings through to his thoughts on England's failed 2018 World Cup bid, this is a rare insight into what makes once of Great Britain's most celebrated sportsmen tick.

Ben Ainslie

Olympic sailing legend Ben Ainslie told Sporting Chapters about the success stories contained in his book Close to the Wind

We sat down with one of British sport's most decorated Olympians to discuss the many highs and occasional lows of a career that has seen him pick up four gold medals amongst countless other titles.

He explains how he got into sailing as a young man, his early disappointments, his Olympic glory and some of the controversial moments in his career.

Enzo Calzaghe

Enzo Calzaghe guided his son Joe through a boxing career that yielded 46 wins, no losses and a spell as undisputed super-middleweight world champion.

The charismatic trainer reveals the secrets of his success in his new book Enzo Calzaghe: A Fighting Life, as he explains how he was able defy the critics and devise winning methods in the ring, despite never lacing up the gloves himself.

Calzaghe also discusses the time he forced Joe to fight with a broken wrist, what went on behind the scenes when his son battled greats like Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones, Jr - and why his desire to break into the music business almost cost him his marriage.

James Cracknell

James Cracknell spoke to Kait Borsay about his inspirational book Touching Distance.

With two Olympic rowing medals alongside Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent; Cracknell was fast becoming an endurance athlete of note once he had retried from rowing in 2006. He ran across deserts, rowed across oceans and trekked to the South Pole before a horrific injury in 2010 changed his life. Touching Distance follows the journey of Cracknell and his family as they piece their lives back together.

Sam Warburton

In Warburton's book titled Refuse to be Denied, the Wales captain reveals the deep lows he suffered after their World Cup exit following his sending off for a dangerous tackle in the semi-final with France and how he fought back against those and injuries to lead Wales to a magnificent Grand Slam in 2012.

Stuart Broad

England Twenty20 captain Stuart Broad has enjoyed a meteoric rise to success as a cricketer. In his new book titled My World in Cricket he aims is to pass on the tips and secrets he's picked up during his international career.

Broad explains how he has controlled and channelled his aggression. Enabling the 'warrior mode' on the field of play.

Paul Lake

Former Manchester City captain Paul Lake was once touted as a future England skipper but a knee injury ended his promising career at just 23. In his new book I'm Not Really Here - Lake tells his tale and spoke to Kait Borsay about his pride at leading his boyhood club.

He also rejects suggestions he was injury prone - but says his cruciate injury was poorly treated. He describes the impact his injury had on him mentally and the frustration at seeing the chance to realise his dreams snatched away.

Rafa Benitez

Former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez spoke to Kait Borsay to discuss the Reds' 2005 Champions League win and asked the Spaniard what he said to inspire his downbeat troops when they were 3-0 behind at the break against Milan. Were Liverpool lucky or did their half-time change in tactics make the difference?

Benitez also discusses his managerial skills and what he brings to the job while admitting he likes to have a hands-on approach when it comes to coaching his players.

James Anderson

England fast bowler James Anderson sat down with Lynsey Hooper to talk about his highs, lows and some of the characters he has played with. He talks about his early days in the game and why he initially wanted to be a batsman.

He also discusses the rigours of touring and the difficulties he has faced while on the road as well as his relationship with captains Michael Vaughan and Andrew Flintoff - as well as Kevin Pietersen's tenure as England skipper.

If you missed Sporting Chapters with Andy Fordham, then click here

If you missed Sporting Chapters with Lewis Moody, then click here

If you missed Sporting Chapters with Steve Backley, then click here

If you missed Sporting Chapters with former Crystal Palace owner Simon Jordan, then click here

If you missed Sporting Chapters with boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard, then click here

If you missed Sporting Chapters with cricket star Phil Tufnell then click here

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t's wrong to be making a joke out of Bender's name at the expense of gay people. It's the kind of childish, uncivilised thing that Football365 would deride and ridicule if it was another media outlet saying. Why is there a need for jokes like this? Does it make your writers feel like men? F365 might suggest that I 'lighten up', but it is genuinely traumatic for people who have been oppressed all their lives to be the butt of jokes, and to be told...

The Beeriod Gossip


ou can't blame De Gea for wanting to leave, he has enough to do in front of goal as it is as well as taking on the role of Man Utd's version of Derek Acorah in trying to contact and organise a defence that isn't there.

rodger's gusset
Van Gaal downbeat on De Gea


f you want to take six points off Arsenal, then that's a great strike force. Can't imagine either of them showing much for the rest of the season though...

foot in mouth
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