George Parris: 'There Were Thoughts Of Taking My Own Life'
In the latest episode of The Invisible Addiction Podcast, I spoke to former Premier League footballer George Parris about his struggles with compulsive gambling.
George has made over 300 appearances for West Ham and captained both Birmingham City and Brighton & Hove Albion football clubs. He’s also represented England Schoolboys, and has since carved out a successful coaching career, most notably with Brighton & Hove Albion Ladies.
It was an honour and privilege to speak with him. (Although I was a bag of nerves. Talk about star struck!).
On that note…
Before the interview, George and I spoke on the phone a couple of times. Just to touch base, and to run by a few things.
I thought this would calm my nerves, but I don’t think it did at all! (I don’t know if you can tell, but throughout the podcast I’m a little bit nervous, jumping from question to question).
Being a big football fan - AFC Bournemouth for my sins - we have strong ties with West Ham, because of the Harry Redknapp connection. Whether it was this, or the fact my brother said to me before hand – not to speak so much, let the interviewee do the talking – I was a tad tense.
After the interview, I toyed for ages whether it was any good. After all, I’m no professional podcaster nor interviewer, and had a lot of doubts. (Whether this is a lack of self-confidence post-gambling addiction, or just general self-doubt, I’ll never know!).
Needless to say, George and I both agreed if by listening to the podcast, it helps one person overcome their problem gambling, i.e. to reach out for help, to know they’re not the only one in the world suffering, then the podcast would be a success.
Onto the interview itself.
The interview starts with a really nice conversation around George’s upbringing and background, following his early football career. In truth, I could’ve spoken to him all day about football. But we were there to talk about the gambling. My somewhat unfiltered interrogation starts around 10 mins into the podcast.
The following is an overview from the interview…
George spoke about being into cards, betting with his mates for pennies, and then later on in his career, betting on the bus to away games in the card schools.
He also spoke about getting into the horses. It sounded like this was his main vice. He said how the West Ham players would often get tips, and he’d frequent the bookies after training to place bets.
It wasn’t until his move to Birmingham that his betting was becoming a serious problem. He admitted the signing-on fee was used for his gambling.
After Birmingham, he moved to Sweden for a short stint and was gambling heavily.
It wasn’t until a a dark night in December, when he exhausted his funds, maxed out his credit cards, that shit really hit the fan.
He spoke candidly about thoughts of taking his own life. He nearly ended it all.
He owned up to his wife, and with her and her family’s support, helped him get through it.
However, he was later thrown out of the family house, and when he couldn’t see his kids, he knew it was time to do something about the gambling problem.
Fortunately, he received help through Sporting Chance, the clinic set up by Tony Adams, through the PFA (Players Football Association). It was around 3 weeks long, with physical exercise and therapy, with sessions laid on by Gambler’s Anonymous.
He said this helped him massively.
But after all the hard work and effort, a few years later, he had a massive relapse. This really set him back.
He spoke about getting help again, and has since been gambling free.
He’s gone onto work for Breakeven, a free counselling service for those struggling with problem gambling.
Check them out.
I want to go on record to thank George once again for being so open and honest. He was a pleasure to speak to.
In the next episode of The Invisible Addiction Podcast, I speak to a woman whose partner suffered from gambling problems. I wanted to know what effects this had. What strain did this put on the relationship? How did she feel when he admitted his gambling problems?
Look out for it this Sunday at 7pm.