I’M SURE many people, particularly the sport-minded, will have been watching the Paul Merson interviews this week, when he talked about his gambling addiction.

It was really sad, because I think most people in the game knew he had the addiction when he was playing for Arsenal, but as he said, I think it’s about a year now since he was putting bets on, but he can feel it still inside of him and is frightened when it comes out again. The sad point was that he thought if this carried on like this, it would end his life.

That’s how serious it was.

I can remember, as most managers will, how players, particularly at the top level who had a bit more money than most, when you were training it was all over most days by lunchtime. And what did they do then?

Sometimes I remember Southampton players would be off to somewhere like Newbury, to see the races. I would often realise this when some of them were working harder than usual, wanting to impress and possibly get the session finished earlier. Now and again if we were running, they would run by one of the trainers and say ‘what time is it, what time is it?’.

I can remember one day I was particularly naughty. When I stopped them and they were getting ready to run in to the dressing room, I said ‘well done, so good, we should carry on and keep the standard high like this’. And they were grumbling and mumbling and I did this a couple of times but then eventually I’d say ‘right, in you go’ and whoosh, they’d speed into the dressing room, get ready, in their cars and off they’d go to the races.

We had of course, in the dressing room, the master of racing, Mick Channon, who still to this day is one of the top racehorse trainers in the country. When I get my morning newspaper I always look through to see if his name is linked with any particular races, hoping that he is successful.

The problem, I suppose, with having so much time is that if, for instance, you were playing away, you’d travel on a Friday, check into the hotel, players would be off into their rooms and of course with nothing to do but switch on the TV. And if the racing was on, they would be on the phone to the bookmakers.

You may remember Peter Shilton, the most capped male England player with 125 caps in all, he came out recently to talk about his gambling addiction.

And Paul Merson referred to Peter in so far as I think they must have been together at times. To say how serious it was, Merson says he has lost close to £7million to gambling throughout his life.

He was determined to overcome it and he had the support of his wife. They were in rented accommodation and he was determined to buy a house for his wife and children, but blew the money backing the wrong horses.

This of course made him break down doing the interview and you could tell how much the addiction was hurting.

But I hope Merson can come through. He’s certainly got the help of his wife, family and friends and I think as well the PFA probably help.

But it’s so sad, as he was such a good player. And when I met up with him at times, good natured, but was trying to hide the addiction which of course has now come out. Good luck to him.

Takeover complete

Coming from the north east, I was obviously interested to hear of the takeover of Newcastle United by the Saudi Arabian family, which has now been completed.

There has been much criticism because of the way things are happening in Saudi Arabia. But I have to say the supporters, knowing them in Newcastle, will just be over the moon as it appears on paper they will now be given the chance to compete with the big boys as opposed to where they are at the minute, second-bottom of the league.

The thing that interested and surprised me was how reports added to the announcement, saying that the manager, Steve Bruce, would be expected to leave. I thought it was terrible to say that.

But then, I suppose, it has been a fact that the supporters have been shouting for him to be out as after seven games they haven’t won one.

But also there won’t be much sympathy because the other bit in the reports was that he would go with about £8million, which apparently is the figure left in the current contract he is on.

At the time of writing, he was still in his job. But I do feel sorry for Steve. I know him quite well, but if it’s true, money-wise, it’s a lot different to most managers at the lower level in particular being finished at the end of their contract with having to find another job quickly. At least Steve, if it’s true, will be able to put his feet up for a while and wait until the right situation comes along for him.

Newcastle are obviously now in the media being linked with lots of the sort of players who they would not have been able to afford. It will be I’m sure all of the talk of the dressing room, because it will also mean if the new owners bring in as many as has been predicted, the lads who are already there will be talking to their agents with a view of where they will go next.

This is how different the game is now.