HE LOST Pounds 70k IN SINGLE DAY; OMerson Earns Pounds 10,000 a Month. but Can Blow 20 TIMES That Betting OHe's a Useless Punter. So Bad His Wife's Had to Cancel Satellite Television OBets on Anything ..Greyhounds, Tennis, Basketball, Rugby, Baseball & Football He Won Pounds 40k on Baseball One Day. Then Lost DOUBLE That the Next Day TRAGEDY OF ENGLAND AND ARSENAL ACE PAUL MERSON AS GAMBLING RULES HIM

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID BROWN and PHIL NETTLETON

SOCCER star Paul Merson is losing up to pounds 70,000 a DAY in crazy bets, his worried friends have revealed.

The former England and Arsenal star's gambling addiction has returned with a vengeance.

Shocked pals have told The People that Merson, 36, is...

LOSING up to pounds 200,000 a month betting on virtually any sports event.

PLUNGING thousands every day on bizarre punts such as who will take first corner or free kick in a soccer match.

FACING financial ruin as he racks up debts that will total over pounds 2 million in one year if he continues like this.

TESTING the devotion of his second wife Louise who has cancelled their satellite TV subscription in a futile bid to stop him gambling.

A pal said: "We are really worried for Paul. His gambling seems to be getting completely out of control again.

"When he gets like this, anything can happen. He is not just having the odd bet on football results.

"He is also throwing his money away on how many goals are going to be scored in a particular game.

"He's like a robot. This is the worst it has been in ages. He's heading for massive debts if continues at the rate he has."

Merson, player-manager with newly-relegated Second Division Walsall, fell off the wagon when the soccer season ended. Although he has conquered a 20-year addiction to booze and drugs, pals say boredom has driven him back into the arms of the bookies.

He is staking vast sums on baseball, basketball, cricket, Euro 2004, snooker, rugby, golf and Wimbledon.

Friends say "Merse", who earns about pounds 10,000 a month, lost up to TWENTY times that in June.

He is understood to have lost tens of thousands on Euro 2004 and Wimbledon alone.

The star has an account with leading bookies Stan James and conducts most of his business on the phone.

Wife Louise, 33, cancelled the satellite TV at their pounds 750,000 home in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, to stop him getting ideas for his next sports punt.

But the desperate move has had no effect. One friend said: "He's been betting on all sorts of mad stuff. There's absolutely no rhyme nor reason and his thought process has gone out of the window.

"There is no way he has enough knowledge about so many sports to be betting the way he has been doing.

"He thinks he knows what he's doing and they are good wagers but he's terrible and can't stop.

"One day last month he won pounds 40,000 on baseball and then threw more than double that away the next day."

Friends say he is now about to cash in some investments in a bid to stay afloat.

He is currently having a house built in posh Lichfield, Staffs, but has now postponed the work.

The friend added: "There is only a finite amount of money and he's not pulling in anything like the amount of money he was when he was a Premiership player. It's got to end sometime and that could be soon. He just can't carry on the way he has been.

"Even if he wins something, he'll fritter it away again on another hopeless punt."

Last season the likeable but deeply flawed footballer admitted feeling suicidal - and his latest gambling frenzy has prompted fears about his state of mind.

Friends were hopeful he was beating his addiction after he jetted to a clinic in Arizona, America, for four weeks in February - in the middle of the football season.

He flew to the Sierra Tucson Clinic - where troubled soccer star Paul Gascoigne has also been a patient - for a one-month programme of intensive treatment.

With brutal honesty, he credited the trip with saving his life, telling The People: "It's been the worst time, the lowest, absolutely rock-bottom. It was worse than when I first admitted my addictions, worse than at any other time in my life. It was so bad that there were days when I did seriously think of giving up."

Merson fell under enormous pressure after taking on the player-manager's job at Walsall in April.

Friends feared he cracked under the strain after the Black Country club was relegated from Division One.

The pal said: "We don't know where it is all going to stop.

"Unless he gets a grip on it hecould lose his wife, his house, everything.

"Louise thought that the four-week stint in the Arizona clinic would help, but he's just back to his old ways.

"It's an illness with him. He is totally obsessed with who is going to win the next match. It's not so much winning the money - because he often doesn't. It's just the buzz he gets out of it.

"When he is on a spree the only thing he wants to do is gamble.

"Louise will be at her wit's end with him, putting an enormous strain on their marriage

"She will always want to help him but it's like he's a different person from the man she married when he starts gambling."

Midfielder Merson, who won 21 caps for England scoring three goals, first admitted the extent of his addictions 10 years ago.

He has confessed to losing pounds 70,000 in one day and pounds 30,000 on a single football match. His first wife Lorraine, 35, ended their 15-year marriage in 2000 when his troubles became too much .

She walked out of his life with their three sons, Charlie, 13, Ben, 11, and nine-year-old Sam. He once threw her downstairs in a rage and smashed up the house when he lost pounds 10,000 on a horse.

Merson, who has also played for Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and Portsmouth, has since married Louise but she has also had to suffer.

Last November, Merson was locked in a police cell and cautioned for assaulting his wife, with whom he has two-year-old twins Mollie and Maisie.

The bust-up flared when they rowed about his gambling. He is believed to have frittered away almost pounds 1 million in signing-on fees and settlements of his last two contracts with Villa and Portsmouth.

In May last year, he confessed with searing honesty to the scale of problems saying: "People talk about getting alcoholic blackouts, well, I get gambling blackouts.

"The war in Iraq had been going on for a week before I noticed. I live in my own secret world where I bet on anything.

"I have sat in a hotel room and contemplated smashing my fingers just so I wouldn't be able to pick up the telephone to ring my bookmaker."

Now, as the Walsall players return for pre-season training this week, they will know their manager is going through fresh torment.

Merson's pal added: "He is in the middle of a serious problem and if he continues it will only get worse."

Last night Merson's agent Steve Kutner said:"Paul had a period when he was gambling again but he has come to terms with it and at present he is not gambling at all."

HERE are some of the huge losing bets that Merson has placed recently with bookies Stan James.

Friends say he particularly likes wagers on results which are tricky to forecast - such as whether Portugal would have the first corner in a Euro 2004 match or even the first free kick. He also likes trying to predict the number of goals that will be scored in matches.

Merson showed his British spirit by tipping Greg Rusedski to be a winner at Wimbledon.

But the footballer's bad luck continued as he gambled AND LOST on dozens of sports events including:pounds 10,000 New York Yankees baseball match

pounds 20,000 Los Angeles Lakers to beat Detroit Pistons at basketball.

pounds 12,000 on baseball game between Anaheim and Oakland.

pounds 5,000 on St Louis Cardinals baseball.

pounds 6,000 on Pittsburgh Pirates baseball.

pounds 5,000 on bet that Spain would beat Portugal.

pounds 4,000 on England drawing 1-1 with France.

pounds 8,000 on Holland beating Germany.

pounds 4,000 on France beating Croatia.

pounds 2,000 on England beating Switzerland 5-0.

pounds 3,500 on Michael Owen being top scorer at Euro 2004.

pounds 5,000 on Germany beating Czech Republic.

pounds 3,500 on Denmark in Euro 2004.

pounds 4,000 on St Helens rugby league match.

pounds 9,000 on a Castleford rugby league match.

pounds 10,000 on Yorkshire cricket match.

pounds 5,000 on Essex cricket match

pounds 4,500 on Wimbledon final being Henman v Federer.

pounds 4,000 on Venus Williams tennis.

pounds 6,000 on New Zealand versus England rugby match.

CAPTION(S):

TALENTED: Ex-England ace Merson; DIVORCED: Merson and Lorraine; STRAINED: The player and Louise; TORMENTED: Merson is back in grip of gambling