Ex-Liverpool ace Paul Stewart has given a lengthy and emotional interview in which he’s admitted abusing drugs during his professional career because he was suffering from depression.
He also claims his Reds manager Graeme Souness confronted him about it, but that he denied it, managing to avoid detection in blood tests because cocaine doesn’t stay in the system very long.
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Speaking to The Mirror, he said: “I started taking drugs at 27 or 28, when I was playing for Spurs, but it continued after that. I relied on it almost daily. I had a bad habit for 15 years, maybe more.
“Liverpool manager Graeme Souness asked me if I was taking drugs. I just denied it.
“Someone had told him that it was the case, and he questioned me about it.
“Marijuana stays a lot longer in the system, in the hair for example. But with cocaine, it goes very quickly and I would take that on a regular basis. I was tested for drugs, but it was random and I took the risk. I got away with it. It was a way of blocking out the abuse, so that is what I did.
“I could get it at any place, any time I wanted it. I don’t know how I managed to perform on the pitch. At times that is why I was not chosen.”
“You would not believe how many times I contemplated suicide, even when things were going well,” continued Stewart. “Drinking was a release. There were times I just felt so alone; there was loneliness, even at the very top of the game, like you would not believe.
“I am sure there are players, lads who were with this group, who have struggled through life. I want them to feel they are not alone and not to be ashamed of it, and hopefully something can be done if these people are still alive. My abuser got my mother to fall under his spell, she was blind to it. It became impossible to do anything.”
Stewart was contracted to Liverpool between 1992 and 1996, but after playing regularly in 1992/93, we loaned him out the next three seasons on the spin. He only racked up 32 top flight appearances in total, with injuries plaguing him – but now we can see there were clearly mitigating factors.
The highlight of his stint at Anfield came in Europe, scoring a brace against Apollon Limassol in the Cup Winners’ Cup.
It takes a lot for footballers to discuss mental health in the pubic, due to culture of masculinity and the embedded ‘stiff upper lip’ mentality. We praise Stewart for coming out in this manner and are sad for him that he didn’t have a better support network at the time. There’ll undoubtedly be current footballers going through similar issues. The important thing is to talk, be open and let those around you help.