Book Review: Addicted
Addicted by Tony Adams
Published by Willow
1999, prices vary
Having read many footballer’s autobiographies over the years, few are seldom worth picking up for a second read. Tony Adams’ account of his life as a professional footballer of over 17 years with Arsenal and England, Addicted, is one of the exceptions to that rule.
What is it that marks Adams story as different to the rest? Well the first thing to note is that his book is remarkably candid. He does not shy away from the more unpalatable aspects of his fight with alcoholism, his 58 days in jail and other on and off the field issues. Adams doughty resolve and honesty as a player were part of the attraction for his myriad of fans and he brings the same candour to his book.
Addicted is not a comfortable read through seventeen years of football success; certainly Adams takes time to identify the high points of his career as captain of club and country and his golden era’s with both Arsenal and to a lesser extent England are all present.
Yet they are not the driving force behind the book; what does intrigue and grip the reader are Adams’ battles with his own problems, self-doubt and the dreaded demon; drink.
Be assured, Adams pulls no punches when he comes to telling his story as he saw it. There are no sanitized versions of events and many of the situations he describes when under the influence of booze are undeniably graphic and visceral. The section where Adams describes waking up after several days on the booze having wet the bed as giving him a good feeling as the beer wasn’t “rotting” his insides, being a good example.
Passages similar to the one above make uncomfortable reading and there’s no doubt that Adams and his co-writer Ian Ridley wanted to get that across to the reader and they certainly achieved it.
Yet despite the feeling of queasiness when reading, it adds to a compelling story. Incidents like this, Adams’ drunken behaviour in a Pizza Hut – when he turned a fire extinguisher on some Spurs fans who had been mocking him – provides the reader with an often-unseen dichotomy when it comes to top-level professional footballers; a man loved and revered by millions, who seemingly has it all, yet who struggles frantically with his own self-destructive tendencies.
Drink has proved a potent foe in the case of many footballers, Adams’ own team mate during his heyday at Arsenal, Paul Merson, has also recounted his tales of the drinking culture that enveloped football particularly during the 80s and 90s. George Best lost his battle against the booze, Jimmy Greaves won it, Paul Gascoigne is still fighting and probably forever will be.
While football fans will perhaps gloss over these more unsavoury incidents of Adams’ career and prefer to remember and celebrate the legend that lifted many of the games top prizes, his descent into alcoholism and the circumstances that precipitated it provide gripping reading. It is this aspect of the book that turns what would be a somewhat ordinary account of a footballer’s life, into a story with greater substance.
Indeed, given his accounts of how the culture of drinking to excess was part of the football fabric in the 80s and 90s, it is a wonder that more stars from that era are not experiencing the problems faced by Adams and others previously mentioned – especially when you hear tales of Adams wearing a black bin bag to “sweat out the beer” at training and just how many of his Arsenal team mates were happy to join him on an all day, or several day, bender.
The incident-packed back-story of Adams drinking habits puts his performances and successes on the field into new light. Upon hearing his story, the then new Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger reckoned that Adams achieved all he did in his career only playing to about 70% of what he was capable of due to the affect on his body of alcohol. Yet this is also a story of redemption as after he hit rock bottom and sought advice for his problems, he began the process of rehabilitation.
It was a journey that would ultimately provide him with a focus in his life beyond the next pint of beer or kicking of a ball; it is a journey that he is still on, providing help for others through his Sporting Chance clinic.
Adams’ book reveals more than a colourful life story or his insights into life as a professional footballer at the top of his game. His comments about England manager Glenn Hoddle in 1998, and how he disagreed with several aspects of Hoddle’s managerial style (such as telling Paul Gascoigne to have a drink the Sunday before a World Cup warm up fixture) may have made the headlines, but where the book really earns its stripes is in the revealing picture it paints of Adams both as a football icon and as a flawed human being.
If you have not already read this book, then it is well worth a read. 8/10.
About The Author: This review was written by David L., the owner and editor of a site called Cheeky Punter which focuses on all aspects of football with a particular bias towards football betting. You can check out all of his betting site reviews by clicking this link or alternatively check out the homepage for latest news, tips and blog posts.