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vinnie jones was rotting inside during alcohol and mental health battle as he finds sober love with new women
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Vinnie Jones was ‘rotting inside’ during alcohol and mental health battle – as he finds sober love with new women

Celebrating 11 years of sobriety this week, footballer-turned-actor Vinnie Jones is a changed man from his younger days when he revelled in his “hardman” image on and off the pitch, as well as on screen. It is 8:30am and he’s escaped his rainy West Sussex farm for sunny Palm Springs, Florida, where he’s looking forward to playing a relaxing round of golf. His hedonistic younger lifestyle is now well and truly behind him and Vinnie, 59, will be celebrating his sober anniversary simply by “chilling out.” “I’m enjoying the joy in life,” he says in his gruff cockney twang. “I think I’ve learned a little bit that ego is not your Amigo.” Vinnie recently starred in the Netflix hit The Gentlemen, which is directed by old friend and long-time collaborator, Guy Richie. But today he is talking about a cause close to his heart – mental health in the football community, in a bid to encourage fans to open up. It’s a subject he understands only too well. After shooting to fame in 1986 when he was signed for Wimbledon, he had an incredible career playing for Leeds United, Sheffield, Chelsea and QPR, but he battled demons alongside his outward success. Dogged by alcoholism and mental health struggles, he says: “I was 19 or 20 before I even had a drink.” But it didn’t take long for addiction to take over. “It’s all rot. You’re rotting from the inside out,” he says. “I didn’t talk about it to anybody.” Battling what he calls “the monster,” Vinnie was a talented midfielder, known for his highly aggressive style of play. This image was compounded by the now infamous photograph of him grabbing Newcastle United player Paul Gascoigne by the genitals in a 1998 match. But while footballing fouls got him into trouble, Vinnie’s reputation off the pitch was even wilder. And he blames one thing loudly and clearly for his behaviour – drink. Having struggled with his mental health from a young age, after bottling up childhood trauma that stemmed from his parents’ tricky divorce, while his boozing started out as fun, some of his actions were impossible to laugh off. In 1997 he was arrested for beating his neighbour drunkenly, and convicted of assault and criminal damage. The following year he bit late Mirror journalist Ted Oliver’s nose down to the bone and in 2003 he was given community service for assaulting a passenger on a flight to Japan. “You drop all your morals ,” says Vinnie, talking about heavy drinking. “Your moral standards drop, and it’s all about the fact I didn’t have anyone to talk to.” Vinnie’s mental health got so bad that he even contemplated suicide in the late 1990s, embarassed by his behaviour and the strain he was putting on his personal relationships – including that with his beloved late wife Tanya. Looking back on his drinking, he says: “I think it clouds the passion. You know, the passion becomes misty, it becomes clockwork. “Other people say in AA, you’re a functioning alcoholic. You’re a functioning drinker. Yes, you can have a few pints because you’re in your 20s. You can run it off and you can get on with it, but drinking is a young man’s sport.” Vinnie, who is now a successful actor and has starred in nearly 100 films, finally ended up quitting drinking after a series of attempts. But he says that opening up about his feelings is one thing that would have helped him earlier. “During my football career, I spent a lot of time in pubs,” he says. “I went to the pub and played cards with the lads at two o’clock. “And the talk was mainly about football, to be honest. That’s why we’re trying to say to football fans now, let’s also talk about each other a little bit.” And Vinnie hopes that his own honesty about his mental health issues encourages other footballers and fans to talk to him. He adds: “I think people can relate to me because I’ve actually put my heart on my sleeve, and kind of come out if you like.” Vinnie wants to encourage football fans to now follow his lead and start talking about what is on their mind. He says the laddish culture that surrounds the sport can make it a hard environment in which to talk about mental health. It can be tricky for people to confess to being vulnerable, or discuss issues like sexuality and being gay. “I’m passionate about this, ” explains Vinnie. “My daughter came out six years ago. She’s getting married in June to her girlfriend. We have a bit of a modern family. It’s nice not to be a dinosaur.” And it’s not just football fans that he wants to be open about their mental health. He also has great sympathy for the players and empathises with the sort of pressure they are under, having been experienced it himself. Vinnie still sees friend Paul Gascoigne often, who has also struggled long and hard with alcohol addiction. “He’s up and down,” he says. “ It’s how the disease is activated at the time, and that’s what these diseases do.” Another thing that Vinnie went through publicly and is happy to talk about was the tragic death of his wife Tanya in 2019. The mother of his two children Kaley, 37, and Aaron, 33, she died after a six-year battle with cancer. “You know, after four months, four years, five years, 10 years, you just keep moving forwards, the grief is always going to be in there,” says the star of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. “It’s how other things can control it. It’s how much the flower can grow and and bloom. “I think, for me, grief was always black and grey, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be colours and happy memories.” And now he has found love again with Emma Ford, his new partner and PA. He describes their relationship as fantastic, saying, thoughtfully: “Moving forwards, we meet other people that we are fond of and we fall in love with and vice versa.” And his sober existence sees him enjoying a far calmer pace of life. He even skipped The Gentlemen premiere, preferring to shy away from the limelight. “I’ve got the memories of Snatch, and Gone In 60 Seconds and all that, so I’m not missing out on anything,” he says. “All the other actors were texting me going ‘Where are you? You should be here’ and all that.” But Vinnie, who was recently seen renovating his farm on Amazon TV series Vinnie Jones in The Country, adds: “Joely [Richardson] was texting me. Max [Beesley] was texting me and Guy [Richie] texted me the whole time. They were saying ‘you are missing out’ and all that. But I am cool, I am in a really good place and I am fine.” Certainly, the man who was once dubbed a “human rottweiler” seems far more like a friendly puppy dog now. Dismissing those who still apply his hardman image, he says: “I can’t influence how people want to think about me, and I don’t give a sh*t about how they feel about me! That is up to them.” Vinnie Jones stars in ‘Talk More Than Football’ campaign alongside Chelsea FC players Vinnie Jones’ latest role is starring as himself in a short film for ‘Talk More Than Football’ campaign in conjunction with Three, Chelsea FC and The Samaritans. The footage shows Vinnie in the dressing room with Cole Palmer, Nico Jackson and Robert Sanchez, looking set to receive the ‘hair dryer treatment’. Instead, Vinnie candidly uses his own struggles to encourage them to reach out to others and ‘talk more’. In new research 2,000 UK Football fans, conducted by Three UK, has shown two-thirds of football fans admit to struggling with mental health and 1-in-3 have never spoken about it. The #TalkMoreThanFootball campaign which launches today in partnership with Chelsea F.C. and Samaritans, sees Vinnie take over the team talk to deliver a poignant message on mental health. Watch the video here.

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