Merson tells it like it shouldn't be...

‘How to’ books regularly enjoy a New Year surge in popularity as resolutions focus on self-improvement.  Paul Merson, the former England and Arsenal footballer, is bucking the trend, however, with a ‘How NOT to’.
The 42-year-old, who also had four years at Aston Villa, is a self-confessed addict on three counts, having succumbed to the temptations of drink, drugs and gambling during his career as a high-earning player.
He admitted to being hooked on alcohol and cocaine in 1994, while supposedly at his peak at Arsenal, and spent time in a clinic in Arizona a decade later in his battle to control his gambling.  Although he once commanded wages of £35,000-a-week as a player, much of his wealth ended up in the bank accounts of bookmakers.
He is uniquely placed, therefore, to advise today’s generation of pampered young superstars wondering which indulgence they might try next to fill the hours of boredom between training sessions.  Merson has written about his problems before, his Rock Bottom and Hero and Villain delivering serious messages about the pitfalls facing young men with money and time on their hands.
Thankfully, How Not to Be a Professional Footballer, to be published on March 31 by HarperSport, takes a lighter approach, bringing together the deep fund of anecdotes that power Merson’s after-dinner speaking engagements under a range of ‘do’ and ‘do not’ headings in a tongue--in-cheek manual for the modern player.  Yet it promises to be poignant as well as funny.
The ‘do nots’ include

  • DO NOT adopt 'Champagne' Charlie Nicholas as your mentor (as he did after joining Arsenal as an apprentice in 1984, a year after Nicholas had moved from Celtic to Highbury as a 21-year-old intent on enjoying life in the capital to the full).
  • DO NOT share a house with Gazza (as he did when he and Paul Gascoigne played for Middlesbrough)
  • DO NOT regularly place £30,000 bets at the bookie's (as he did with a frequency that drove him to the brink of bankruptcy)
  • DO NOT get so drunk that you can't remember the 90 minutes of football you just played in (as he did more than once)
  • DO NOT manage Walsall (at any cost) (as he did at the end of his professional career until he was sacked in February 2006)

Merson retains his links with football through media work now as a popular member of the Gillette Soccer Saturday team on Sky Sports, where he engages in often hilarious banter with Matt le Tissier, Phil Thompson, Paul Walsh and a now authoritatively middle-aged Charlie Nicholas.
He also pops up on Asian, Arabic and US soccer shows.

To pre-order How Not to Be a Professional Footballer, click on the highlighted text to be transferred to the Amazon site.