By John Edwards
Last updated at 10:32 PM on 6th October 2011
Andy Morrison was a cult hero, a ferocious competitor whose will to win endeared him to team-mates and supporters.
The burly centre back was proud of the example he set on the pitch. The one he set off it caused him nothing but shame and suffering.
Just over a decade ago, in the days before Manchester City’s billions, he was the club’s most charismatic figure. But the team’s skipper and main inspiration also fought a battle against alcoholism.
He was repeatedly caught up in bar brawls, faced the threat of an eight-year jail term over a malicious wounding charge, frequently heard voices in his head and was so tortured by alcohol he wanted to kill himself.
Still waters run deep: Andy Morrison in composed mood
His autobiography, a forthright and compelling account of the ‘demons’ that drove him to ‘barbaric’ acts of violence, opens with a graphic description of when he was at his lowest.
He recounted the episode for Sportsmail by saying: ‘I asked Joe Royle (his manager) if I could go up to Scotland for a few days, after picking up a suspension for a red card against Wimbledon. I was heading for Kinlochbervie, in the far North West, but stopped off in Inverness, to break the journey and have a few quiet drinks.
‘I should have known better. I woke up the following morning in a prison cell, looked at the four walls and thought, “What have I done this time”. I had no idea, until the custody sergeant started reading the charge sheet. Each offence — there were six in all — jogged my memory and as the haze began to clear, a picture started forming. I’d been in an Irish bar, got into a scrap and been escorted off the premises. One of the doormen had whacked me on the back of the head as they turfed me out and that had done it.
Honest: Morrison's autobiography is a candid and forthright read
‘I ran back and launched myself through a plate glass door, smashing glass in all directions and cutting my arms and stomach. I didn’t feel a thing. I never did in those situations. I just grabbed the doorman, dragged him into the car park and gave him a pasting.
‘It was carnage, it really was. Eventually I blacked out due to the amount I’d put away. That was it until the following morning. Fortunately, the bar manager had seen the doorman’s initial punch. I paid for the damage and he made sure all charges were dropped.
‘Not that it made any difference. I just carried on with what turned into a four-day bender. On the Sunday, I drank right through to closing time, in a pub in Kinlochbervie, then went up to the bar and ordered a carry-out of eight cans of lager and a half-bottle of vodka.
‘The girl looked concerned and asked if I was sure. It’s an indication of my mindset that I thought she meant would that be enough to see me through the night, so I increased it to 12 cans. I sat in the car and drank the lot, right through to sunrise.
The Good, the Mad and the Ugly, The Andy Morrison Story, Fort Publishing Ltd, £16.99
‘That’s when I was at my lowest. Alcoholism was taking over my life. It was making me miserable and it even spoke to me. Whenever I felt sorry for myself, a voice would say: “Stop being such a soft ****”. Then I heard another voice, reminding me my uncle nearby kept a gun and that I knew exactly where he stored it.
‘That voice was so powerful in my head. It was telling me, “Just end it now. Blow it all away. That’s all you’re good for”. I had to face Joe over all the trouble I’d got myself into, I had caused absolute chaos and my head was up my a*** again. Just do it, and you won’t have to face any of it. Easy.
‘But a million other thoughts were going through my mind, not least my family. I couldn’t let them down, though I still had a decision to make. It was no good saying I wouldn’t do it again, because I would. I had to say I wouldn’t drink again.
‘I actually got down on my hands and knees and asked for help. I wasn’t exactly sure who I was talking to, but I looked up and said, “Please, please help me. I can’t take any more of this pain”. I am prepared to believe I was addressing something or someone far greater than any of us, because I soon found the strength to do it.
Fierce competitor: Morrison confronts Stan Collymore (right) in 1999
‘I attended 90 Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in the following 90 days and I still go. It’s one day at a time, but I haven’t touched a drop for 13 years. That’s how it has to stay. Most people might think, on a nice day like today, let’s go and have a pint. I can’t. For me, one pint is too many and 100’s not enough.’
Morrison can trace the cause of his alcoholic rages back to an incident in a Plymouth park, when he was dragged into toilets by two men late at night and physically abused.
CLUBS OF A CULT HERO
Blackpool............. 2001 (on loan)
Crystal Palace...... 2001 (on loan)
Sheffield United.. 2001 (on loan)
‘I had no idea that event might have created a monster inside me,’ he said. ‘I just thought I was a nasty, evil b****** who lost it when he had a drink. I did lose it, completely, but it was pointed out to me by therapists that I had tried to hide that awful experience. I’d locked it away. They said we all have a conscious level, a subconscious one and another that’s even deeper. That’s where I had stored it, and it only came to the surface when I was drunk. It was almost as if I was trying to take it out on those two individuals responsible.
‘It made sense, because I was like a wild animal when I’d had a drink and it all kicked off. More than one person on the receiving end has said that. If I was fighting you now, and someone started banging me on the back of the head with a chair, I wouldn’t feel it. I wouldn’t feel a thing. I somehow felt twice my size and three times as strong. It really was like the Incredible Hulk when his buttons start flying.
Taking no prisoners: Morrison battles with Robbie Keane, then of Wolves, in Division One in 1999
‘At times, it was just downright vicious, grotesque and barbaric. In fact, I look back and wonder how I didn’t kill someone. Certainly, I would have gouged someone’s eye out without a second thought. The way I was when the rage took me, if I’d got my hands round someone’s windpipe, I’d have ripped it out. It was never exactly Queensberry Rules.
MORRISON BY NUMBERS
£35,000: The amount that Joe Royle paid to take the defender from Huddersfield to Man City
£1,000: The amount Morrison earned a week at Man City – a far cry from Tevez’s reported £250,000 salary
37: League appearances Morrison made for City
2: Promotions he achieved during his time at Maine Road
‘It was also insane, because I never gave the repercussions a thought. When I was at Blackpool, under Sam Allardyce, I returned to one of my haunts in Plymouth. Three guys started prodding me and provoking me and finally I exploded. Ninety seconds later, one had a smashed jaw, one a broken nose and the other was missing an eyebrow.
‘I was arrested and charged with malicious wounding, which is only one down from attempted murder. I pleaded not guilty, seeing as they had goaded me and led me on and the verdict went my way. So what did I do? I went out on the lash to celebrate and ended up decking someone in a kebab shop in the early hours.
‘Fortunately, the lad on the receiving end did not press charges, but how idiotic was that? I could just imagine ringing Sam the following morning, after he had appeared as a character witness for me. He’d have called me insane and he’d have been 100 per cent right.’