Former Everton midfielder George Green recently spoke to the BBC about rebuilding his life following a drug and alcohol addiction.
In 2011 aged 15, George’s talent was spotted by Everton who signed him from Bradford City in a deal worth £2million.
At 16 he was playing for Everton’s U21 side and had represented England at Under-18 level.
By 2015 however, he had been released by Everton and subsequently contemplated ending his life.
"I was in that much debt, I thought I'd lost my partner because of my drug use, and I didn't see a way back for me with football," he told BBC Sport.
"Before I turned 18 you wouldn't catch me out at night. As soon as I was 18 it was like a new world opened up. I was drinking, doing drugs and playing football.
"The first time I took drugs I'd gone to watch football in a pub with mates. I was offered cocaine and it changed my life."
George’s addiction to drugs and alcohol spiralled out of control.
"I was spending way over £2,000 a month. I remember one particular Monday morning I was supposed to be training. I didn't wake up until the afternoon.
"The night before I'd gone to a friend's house for drink and drugs. I think that's when alarm bells started ringing at Everton.
"I remember phoning a welfare officer at Everton one night. I was crying and said 'I need help'. Soon after I was admitted to the Priory."
“Everton paid for it all, I think it was about £5,000-a-week,"
George left Everton without playing for the first-team, and went on to play for spells with Burnley, Oldham Athletic and Kilmarnock, as well as Viking in Norway.
Funding his addiction meant he was reckless with the £500,000 he believed he made in total from football.
"I have an iPad to show for it. That's how much of a downfall my life has become because of drugs," he added.
"I squandered it all. I'm embarrassed."
"A good night out? I'd easily spend about £1,500. A meal would cost between £200 and £300," he said.
"I'd be like 'let's get a bottle of champagne' and then a girl would come and sit next to me and I'd be like 'would you like a bottle of champagne?'
"Earning the money I was, I thought it was never going to end.
"Everybody wanted to know who I was and I was enjoying life. But I never got introduced to people who would keep me on the straight and narrow. They drank or did drugs and I fell into that circle.
"I got a brand new Mercedes-Benz A-Class and did about £4,000 damage to it. That stemmed from drink-driving. I was ridiculous, I used to drink-drive everywhere."
"It was due to drink and drugs, I'd fallen out of love with the game and decided I didn't want to play any more."
It was following his signing for Ossett Albion after leaving Everton that his depression intensified and he contemplated suicide.
"Leaving Everton hit me hard," he said. "I was stood on a railway track close to Mirfield station near Dewsbury ready for a train to come. I remember it being around eight or nine o'clock at night.
"I hadn't written a note. It was all the pressures of everything in my life. The drugs, the alcohol, my mental health, football wasn't going well, lack of money.
"Then there was an announcement over the speakers that the next train was delayed.
"I thought 'it must be a sign that it can't be my time to go'. I broke down in tears and walked away."
"I went in the pill cupboard at home and took everything there was. I wanted to die at that time," he added.
In 2017 he went on loan at Salford City, and Salford's co-owner Gary Neville wanted to help George.
"I was invited round to his house. I had been in hospital for taking too many tablets. We spoke for an hour about football and things Salford could do to help me."
"There's not a day I don't speak to him. He's a lifesaver," adds Green.
"Football is the only thing I am good at. Without it I'd be dead," he added.
George is now at Chester City who play in the who play in the National League North. He attends weekly Alcoholics Anonymous and Cocaine Anonymous meetings.
"I thought my career would be over if I came out and started talking about my issues with drugs.
"Then I said to myself 'how about being honest for once in your life and admit your problems'.
"If my story helps one person, I'm happy to tell it. I'm happier, healthier and way more positive than I was."
Getting support via the PFA…
The PFA provides members with a 24/7 counselling telephone helpline. This 'round-the-clock' support is available to all members past and present.
All services are private and confidential, PFA members (or concerned friends and family) can contact the PFA:
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- PFA Members can call the 24hr Counselling Helpline: 07500 000 777