Guns, Gambling, Girls, Drugs & Me; Mike Walters Meets

Article excerpt

Byline: MIKE WALTERS

GIVE or take his arrest for attempted murder, being kidnapped in Africa, dabbling with a gangster called Benny from the Bronx and his son's heroin addiction, Peter Marinello would do it all again.

Admittedly, the drinking binges, reckless gambling, being swindled out of pounds 110,000 by a shyster and bankruptcy didn't help.

But losing his virginity in Nigeria with Hibernian teammates as voyeurs, Fulham manager Bobby Campbell's team talk with a blow-up doll in the audience and Motherwell players who needed medical treatment - nudge, nudge - after visiting a floating brothel in Haiti... he wouldn't have missed them for all the world.

Marinello spent a career being chased by the quiet life and it only caught up with him when he settled in Britain's happiest town so skint he had to borrow the train fare.

Today, strolling along the promenade in Bournemouth, where more people claim to be content than anywhere else, he is now just another face among the joggers, geriatrics and treasure hunters with metal detectors.

The teenage sensation who signed for Arsenal in 1970 dubbed as the new George Best has a shock of silver hair, one replacement hip (paid for by the Professional Footballers' Association) and the other one is grinding like a peppermill.

Opposition fans used to mock his pretty-boy image but Marinello wouldn't get a wolf-whistle from a pack of hyenas now.

This shell bears no resemblance to the boy wonder who decorated his debut for the Gunners with a dazzling solo goal at Old Trafford, only to be "swept along" by a showbiz circus including appearances on Top of the Pops, modelling deals and late-night bravado.

Marinello's story of squandered talent should be compulsory reading for today's spit-roast and sleaze generation. He had Ryan Giggs' ability but Paul Gascoigne's selfdiscipline, David Beckham's flair for publicity but Paul Merson's thirst.

"I was built up to be something I couldn't deliver," says Marinello, 57, without a trace of bitterness.

"Maybe I enjoyed too much too soon and my career seemed to just slip away. Now I watch kids like Wayne Rooney on TV and think, 'I hope you enjoy a longer, more productive career than I managed'.

"I feel sorry for Rooney. For someone so young to have all that expectation on his head at the World Cup last summer was unbelievable. He did great just to get on the park after busting his foot. When I hear him being compared with George Best, I shudder because the same thing happened to me. I squandered my talent. P***ed most of it up against the wall. I'm the guy who wrote the manual How Not To Do It.

"There is so much money in the game now that footballers are cocooned in their own bubble and they have become detached from the real world.

"They are more or less gods now and you need to be a terrific manager like Sir Alex Ferguson to keep their feet on the ground. …