Paul Merson’s heartbreaking admission that cocaine changed him: I felt myself dying

Paul Merson discusses his drug addiction

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The second episode of BBC documentary Fever Pitch: The Rise of the Premier League details the 1994/1995 Premier League season. The year that saw Jack Walker’s Blackburn Rovers take their maiden Premier League title was also marred by scandal. Notably, the documentary looks in depth at Eric Cantona infamous kung-fu kick against verbally abusive supporter Matthew Simmons when Manchester United played Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park in January 1995. 

The mercurial French forward, who was hit with a nine-month ban for the incident admitted that his one regret was “not kicking [Simmons] more”

The former Arsenal playmaker Mr Merson also opened up about his devastating addictions in the Nineties which almost cost him his career.

In a tearful November 1994 press conference Mr Merson admitted an alcohol and cocaine addiction, which led to the FA arranging for the footballer to undergo a three-month rehabilitation programme.

Reflecting on the addictions Mr Merson said: “I was drinking heavily and I was gambling like a maniac, then I found cocaine and it just completely changed me ‒ it changed the way I was.

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“One of the last things [before being admitted to rehab] was [when] I didn’t play in a game and I went out that night, and went to a bar after. 

“I got a black cab from the bar to training in the morning and I was snorting in the back of the black cab.

“The [driver] was going to me ‘what are you doing son?’”

The much-loved Soccer Saturday pundit added: “I felt myself dying – I really did.

“The thoughts were in my head – I didn’t feel right in [myself].”

As Mr Merson was admitted to a treatment center, speculation stirred amongst the press as to whether the Arsenal player had a future in the game. 

Mr Merson recalled: “It was big news ‒ someone’s taken cocaine playing for Arsenal. 

“People were going ‘ban him for life’ ‒ i’ll never forget that.

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“I started to panic ‒ I didn’t know I was an addict at the time. 

“I just thought I was greedy and weak.

“I was thinking ‘if they take football from me what have I got?’”

Mr Merson returned to the Arsenal side in February 1995 and helped the team reach the Cup Winners’ Cup final for the second season in a row, where they lost to Real Zaragoza.

The footballer-turned-pundit. who has featured on a range of Sky Sports programmes, has battled addiction throughout his life.

He admitted in 2019 on ITV’s Harry’s Heroes he was “struggling badly” with a gambling problem and revealed he had lost more than £7million to the disease in the past three decades. 

In July the Mirror reported the BBC had commissioned a new documentary hosted by Mr Merson, which will explore how betting companies have a hold on the sport.

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