Paul Merson: Ex-England midfielder talks about his mental health struggles


Paul Merson: Ex-England midfielder talks about his mental health struggles

Paul Merson

Paul Merson played for Arsenal, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and was player-manager at Walsall

Former England midfielder Paul Merson says he hopes to help people struggling with their mental health by revealing that his own battle left him wanting to take his own life.

Kick-offs at this weekend’s FA Cup third-round matches will be delayed for 60 seconds to prompt fans to consider their wellbeing.

Merson, 51, says he has been sober for a year after dealing with alcoholism.

“Now I know I have an illness. Before, I used to beat myself up,” he said.

Merson was capped 21 times by England between 1991 and 1998 and scored 78 goals in 327 games for Arsenal.

He previously spoke about his gambling addiction in March 2019.

Writing in his Daily Star column, Merson added: “When I see this weekend’s FA Cup games kicking off a minute later I will remember that time when things got dark and think: ‘Thank god that’s not how I feel any more.’

“This time last year, I wanted to kill myself.

“I don’t want to kill myself any more. I don’t have those thoughts.

“I’m telling you this because I hope it helps someone.”

In 2003, Merson received help from the Sporting Chance clinic, set up by former Arsenal and England team-mate Tony Adams, after saying he was unable to stop betting and had run up huge losses, including £30,000 on the outcome of one football match.

In 2012, he was given a 14-month-driving ban after pleading guilty to drink-driving following a motorway crash.

“I was on my own, which is not the best place when you’re down. Isolating yourself, that’s where the illness wants you,” Merson said.

“On Monday, I’ll have been a year sober. I keep my life to one day at a time.”

If you, or someone you know, have been affected by any issues raised in this story, help and support is available at BBC Action Line.


Australia fires: Firefighter’s UK family send ‘stay safe’ message

Australians are bracing themselves for another difficult and dangerous weekend as soaring temperatures and high winds cause bush fires to burn out of control.

One of the worst affected areas is New South Wales, where a week-long state of emergency has been declared.

Former British Army officer Jules Vitoria, who moved there 11 years ago, is serving as a volunteer firefighter.

He was delivered a special message while out on duty, after his family contacted BBC Breakfast.


‘I wanted to kill myself but I don’t have those thoughts any more’

Ex-England player Paul Merson says he hopes to help people struggling with their mental health by revealing how low his own battle left him.


Woman dies and daughter, 8, critically injured in Poole crash

Police said their car left the road and landed in a ditch.


Australia v New Zealand: Marnus Labuschagne makes 215 for hosts

Marnus Labuschagne

Marnus Labuschagne averages 63.63 from 14 Tests for Australia
Third Test, Sydney Cricket Ground (day two of five):
Australia 454: Labuschagne 215, Wagner 3-66
New Zealand 63-0: Blundell 34*
New Zealand trail by 391

Marnus Labuschagne made a double century as Australia posted 454 against New Zealand on the second day of the third Test in Sydney.

Labuschagne batted for more than eight hours to make his highest Test score of 215 from 363 balls.

Australia lost their final five wickets for 44 runs, with Labuschagne caught and bowled by leg-spinner Todd Astle, as they were dismissed just before tea.

In response, the Black Caps reached 63-0 by the close, trailing by 391 runs.

Australia, who lead the three-Test series 2-0, had resumed on 283-3 but lost Matthew Wade in the first over of the day to off-spinner Will Somerville.

Labuschagne, who had been 130 not out overnight, and captain Tim Paine shared a 79-run stand to push the Aussies past 400 before New Zealand wrapped the innings up.

Neil Wagner (3-66) and Colin de Grandhomme (3-78) captured three wickets apiece while fellow seamer Matt Henry, bowling with a fractured left thumb, took 1-94.

The tourists’ opening pair of Tom Latham and Tom Blundell saw off a brutal Pat Cummins spell to reach stumps without losing a wicket.

Australia’s bowling quartet of Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Pat Cummins and James Pattinson will donate A$1000 (£530) for each wicket taken to the bushfire appeal.

At least 18 people have died in blazes across the country.


Qasem Soleimani: Mourners gather in Baghdad for funeral procession

Mouners in Iraq’s capital take part in a funeral procession for the Iranian commander killed by a US airstrike.


Sam Kerr: Can Chelsea’s new signing take club to the next level?

Australia captain Sam Kerr could make her Chelsea debut on Sunday against Reading, but what level of impact will she have in England?


Sam Kerr: Can Chelsea’s new signing take club to the next level?

Sam Kerr in Chelsea training

Sam Kerr took part in Chelsea training for the first time on Friday and could make her debut against Reading
Women’s Super League: Chelsea v Reading
Venue: Kingsmeadow Date: Sunday 5 January Kick-off: 12:30 GMT
Coverage: Watch live on BBC Red Button, BBC Sport website & app, with live text commentary

New Chelsea signing Sam Kerr is regarded as one of the biggest signings in Women’s Super League history, but can she take the club to the next level?

Chelsea go into Sunday’s game against Reading – when Kerr could make her debut – in third place in the WSL table, four points behind defending champions Arsenal at the top.

How will the Australia captain fit in at Chelsea? Can she propel them to the league title? And what is the impact of her signing off the pitch?

Why there is such hype

Kerr, 26, is the all-time top scorer in the American National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and Australian W-League and has picked up the Golden Boot in each of the past three seasons in both divisions.

The Australian, who made her international debut aged 15 and scored her first goal at 16, has gone on to net 38 goals in 83 appearances for her country.

Last summer, Kerr captained Australia in her third World Cup and scored five goals in four games, guiding them to the last 16.

Sam Kerr’s stats in the NWSL while playing for Sky Blue and Chicago Red Stars
Year Games Goals Assists
2019 21 18 5
2018 20 16 4
2017 22 17 4
2016 9 5 0

But former Chelsea full-back Claire Rafferty told BBC Sport “she needs time to develop” in the WSL.

“There’s a weight on your shoulders, especially when you have the calibre of records that Sam Kerr does,” said Rafferty. “We can’t judge her after one, two or three games. It’s not easy coming to a different country.”

How will she fit in at Chelsea?

There is an abundance of attacking talent at Chelsea, including England international Beth England, who has scored six goals in nine games so far this season.

Former Chelsea midfielder Karen Carney told BBC Sport “it will be a fight for places” and the competition in manager Emma Hayes’ squad “has gone up another level”.

Carney explained: “It will be interesting to see what she does with the players she has got. They are not in the Champions League, so is there a need for squad rotation?

“It depends how well Kerr is training. England could form a partnership with Kerr up front. You would lose a potential midfield player but I can see that working. Hayes could play a narrow 4-4-2 as opposed to having outright wingers. That would be really, really good.”

Rafferty added that Hayes was “not afraid to leave big players out of the team” and the Chelsea boss “probably has three or four formations up her sleeve”.

“We are all very excited by Kerr. We want her to play every game and people will be coming to watch her but it has to be about winning first,” said Rafferty. “If she is not ready, she won’t be put in that place.”

Beth England is the second highest scorer in the WSL this season with six goals in nine games

‘Kerr can take Chelsea to the next level’

Chelsea finished third in the WSL last season, 12 points behind Arsenal, but reached the semi-finals of the Champions League before being knocked out by eventual winners Lyon.

Arsenal and Manchester City currently occupy the top two spots in the league, which would ensure qualification to next year’s European competition.

But Carney says Kerr “can take Chelsea to the next level” this season, while Rafferty feels the title race “will probably go right to the wire”.

Rafferty added: “Will she be the difference? You don’t want to say it out loud. All the fans will be saying: ‘We have Sam Kerr, so why can’t we be winning everything?’ But it’s not just about one player.”

And what about Chelsea’s hopes of winning the Champions League in the future with Kerr in their side?

Carney said: “If you go back to last season’s campaign, which I was a part of, if we had added someone to take the weight off Beth England or Fran Kirby’s shoulders in attack, it really could have helped us going forward in the Champions League.

“When top players come in, they elevate everybody else and I think she has the capability to do that. I wouldn’t be surprised if she is the missing piece of the jigsaw to winning in Europe.”

‘Chelsea were willing to invest in a superstar’

Chelsea fought off interest from a number of top European clubs – including six-time Champions League winners Lyon, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid – when they signed Kerr on 13 November

Rafferty says Kerr is “the biggest signing in WSL history”.

She added: “It’s a testament to the standard of the league. I can’t wait to watch her first game. I think that’s how everyone should be.

“The excitement for the squad is that Chelsea are willing to invest in a superstar. Hayes is obviously trying to make a statement but she wants to win things so you have to get the best players to do that.”

Scotland international Erin Cuthbert said she was “really relishing the opportunity” to play alongside the new arrival at club level, while ex-Chelsea forward Eniola Aluko added that the potential rivalry between Kerr and Arsenal forward Vivianne Miedema – last season’s PFA Player of the Year – is a “cause for excitement”.

Carney believes Kerr’s signing is “big for the league” – second, in terms of stature, only to two-time world champion Carli Lloyd’s loan move to Manchester City in 2017.

Carli Lloyd came in and was the best player in the world at the time,” she added. “That was a huge coup and I think people can’t ignore that. But Kerr is up there.”

BBC Sport has launched #ChangeTheGame to showcase female athletes in a way they never have been before. Through more live women’s sport available to watch across the BBC, complemented by our journalism, we are aiming to turn up the volume on women’s sport and alter perceptions. Find out more here.


ATP Cup: France earn opening win, victories for Japan and Argentina

Gael Monfils

Gael Monfils, ranked 10th in the world, is France’s leading player

Top-30 ranked pair Benoit Paire and Gael Monfils won their singles matches to ensure France opened their ATP Cup campaign with victory over Chile.

On day two of the inaugural tournament in Brisbane, Paire opened with a 6-7 (3-7) 6-3 6-3 win over Nicolas Jarry.

Monfils sealed the Group A win by beating Cristian Garin 6-3 7-5.

Japan, without Kei Nishikori, won all three matches against Uruguay in Group B in Perth, while Argentina beat Poland 2-1 in Group E in Sydney.

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem all play later on Saturday as Serbia, Spain and Austria start their campaigns against South Africa, Georgia and Croatia respectively.

The 24-nation event is spread across three Australian cities – Brisbane, Perth and Sydney – and features six groups of four teams, who each play three round-robin ties.

The six group winners, plus the best two runners-up, will progress to the quarter-finals.

Great Britain, who are without Andy Murray after he pulled out through injury, lost their opening tie against Bulgaria on Friday.

Jamie Murray and Joe Salisbury were beaten in a thrilling deciding doubles match which ended at 02:47 local time in Sydney.


Derek Acorah, TV medium, dies aged 69

Derek AcorahImage copyright
PA Media

Television medium and psychic Derek Acorah has died aged 69, his wife has announced.

Gwen Acorah Johnson said her “beloved” husband had passed away “after a very brief illness”.

She announced his death on his official Facebook page, adding: “Farewell my love! I will miss you forever!”

Acorah was best known for Living TV’s Most Haunted, a reality TV series that followed a team of paranormal experts as they investigated haunted locations.

Acorah, who was born in Bootle, Merseyside, previously made a cameo appearance in the 2006 Doctor Who episode Army of Ghosts and entered the Celebrity Big Brother house in 2017, finishing in fourth place.

He had performed regular live shows across the UK, with further tour dates planned for February and May, according to his website. He lived in Scarisbrick, near Southport, with his wife.

Mrs Acorah Johnson said she was “devastated”, and thanked everybody who had supported her.