Men on the ropes

Warren Aspinall case study

Former Premier League footballer Warren Aspinall, 43, of Southampton, said:

“Born in Wigan in the late 60s, my dad was a miner and mum worked in a sewing factory. I started playing football as a kid. Finally, aged 13, I got a guaranteed apprenticeship with Wigan FC, my full contract came by the time I was 17 and at 20 I was playing for Portsmouth FC.

At 17, I had landed a great job. I was young and in those days we all enjoyed a bet. It started out small-time but as I earned more the bets got bigger. It was more down to boredom than anything and I was drinking a fair amount too. The problems got bigger later on – everything I earned I gambled, I was lying and trying to hide it from my wife at the time.

I had to retire early from football at 33 after I caught an MRSA infection from a routine operation on my ankle. The pattern of drinking and gambling continued, and although I was retired I tried to keep up the lifestyle I’d had as a footballer.

In December 2007 when I was 40, between Christmas and New Year, I tried to take my own life. I’d met a beautiful young lady called Karen and I’d been with her for two years, I was very much in love. But after leaving work one day I gambled away an entire month’s wages all at once. I thought: ‘Why would Karen want me? I’ve got nothing to show for my football career, I’ve lost a million, she’s too good for me and I won’t be able to keep her’.

Drunk and feeling that no one loved me, I went to a railway line and waited on the track for a train to come. The train sounded its horn and at the last second I jumped out the way. What was I doing? All I could think of was my fiancée Karen, my two kids and my three step children. When I told Karen about it she told me to get help. I called the Player Football Association and I went to Tony Adams’ Sporting Chance clinic.

I’ve gambled away £1 million and now I work in a Sainsbury’s distribution centre in Basingstoke. It’s because of Karen that I keep strong. Previously I’d forget about my troubles by gambling and drinking. I thought everything would be OK. Now Karen is always there for me, she can tell when something is wrong and will ask me what’s going on.

There is a macho culture amongst men and no one wants to be seen to be weak, but you need to talk about your problems by picking up the phone. In hindsight I could have talked to someone, I could have talked to anyone really.

Nowadays I just see every day as a different day, and I live day to day. My wedding is next year; I’ve been engaged for three years.”

More information

This information forms part of Samaritans' latest advertising campaign targeting men to get all men talking about their feelings. The aim is to get them to consider that calling Samaritans’ 24/7 confidential helpline could be an option for them.

Equally, though, we believe that talking to anyone – family, friends, colleagues, health professionals – is better than bottling things up.