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Why Kenny Sansom’s battle with Alcoholism is so important for football

Monday 23rd January 2017
Former England and Arsenal defender Kenny Sansom has lived a life that would not be familiar with too many other professionals within the game.
Aged 21, Sansom was playing for England in an away fixture against Switzerland. He made a mistake and got back to his hotel afterwards where his Dad was waiting for him. His Dad was someone who let Kenny down at a young age, leaving his mother to raise him. That night he started drinking champagne and orange. From that moment on, alcohol would control his life.

After retiring in 1994, Sansom, who won 86 caps for his country, began to work as a television pundit as well as earning money in hospitality at Crystal Palace and Arsenal, but his alcohol addiction kicked in, he was sacked from those roles and was soon homeless.

In an interview with the Daily Mail in 2008, Sansom revealed how his daughters, Natalie and Katie, found him: “lying naked in a room, with wine bottles strewn all around the bed” after he had been missing for four days.

Fast forward to 2015, Sansom was seen alone with a bottle of wine in his hand, fast asleep in a park in daylight. These images made the front pages of the Daily Mirror. In a video interview with the paper, Sansom struggled to speak with any notion of what he was saying, with his life hanging by a thread.

“I've got nowhere to live. I don't own a car, I've got no money, I've got no partner; I just don't want to be around. I don't want to be living the horrible life that I'm living,” he told the paper.

After seeing the images, Sansom's friend Tom - a former alcoholic himself - rang ITV's ‘Jeremy Kyle Show' about helping him get back on his feet. The programme, saw a member of Kyle's team get in contact with ‘The Perry Clayman Project', a rehab centre in Luton, where he attended for six weeks.
A day after the show was aired, I was very fortunate to interview Sansom at Selhurst Park – a ground where the former left-back applied his trade – last January, for a University piece on mental health, shortly after he had left Rehab.

At the time, Sansom was sober for those six weeks. He called himself “Kenny Sober Sansom” on texts as a way of reminding himself of the bravery he had shown in his battles.

Two months after I met him, Sansom was seen drunk in the public eye again.

As of this month, Sansom is still trying to kick his addiction. He tweeted this last week:
Whilst he is currently sober, the story of Sansom is a reminder of how footballers struggle to adapt to life after playing the game. With that in mind, Sansom's battle is not only important for him and those who love and idolise him, but also footballers.

Sansom is a lovely, genuine guy, with a huge passion for football. He had a fantastic career, was an excellent player and deserves respect. He is not the only one struggling, Paul Gascoigne is another famous example of someone who has struggled with alcoholism.

Therefore, the footballing world must rally round Sansom and help him stay alcohol-free, so he can always remain, Kenny Sober Sansom.
Greg Stubley
Greg graduated with a first in Sports Journalism from the University of Brighton in Summer 2016 and has already managed to gain experience in the industry, working for companies such as Charlton Athletic and talkSPORT. Greg is currently the regular commentator on Charlton's "CAFCPlayerHD" service, bringing full-match live commentary along with Terry Smith of Addicks' games up and down the country for subscribers to listen.

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