I'm an ex-Premier League star who retired at 21 – I binged booze and cocaine for 25 years and am surprised I'm alive | The Sun
AN ex-Premier League star who retired at 21 after binging alcohol and drugs has turned his life around – and said he is surprised to still be alive.
Billy Kenny was once one of the most exciting young prospects at Everton and was the best player on the park during the Premier League's first Merseyside Derby.
But things would quickly unravel for the star and he would make just 17 appearances for the Toffees before being moved on.
Kenny, who had the world at his feet at 19, struggled with drinking amid football's heavy booze culture that was still around when he made his breakthrough in the early 90s.
Issues with injury, depression and drugs contributed to his downfall.
The star had wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, Billy Kenny Sr, who played at Goodison Park between 1971 and 1974.
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Now 49, Kenny told the Liverpool Echo how the dream of playing for Everton quickly became his sole purpose.
He said: "Growing up on Burly [Burlington Street], wanting to play for Everton. That was it. That was all I ever dreamt of. In the ‘80s there were a lot of kids on the street playing football then.
"Back in the ‘80s we only had a ball. Everyone wanted to either play for Everton or Liverpool. As soon as I found out my dad had played for Everton – I must have been about seven – I couldn’t believe it.
"Naturally I wanted to play for them. I think I wanted it worse than any Everton player ever – the desire, the dream, the nightmares – and that derby game everyone goes on about, that was the dream. That was it."
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Kenny would break into Everton's first team from their reserves and made his debut against Coventry in October 1992.
But his big moment would come in December when he was named man of the match in a game against Liverpool after an influential performance from midfield.
The Reds took the lead in the derby thanks to Mark Wright before goals from Mo Johnston and Peter Beardsley handed Everton local bragging rights.
GLORY DAYS SHORT LIVED
But the glory would not last long as Kenny quickly fell into a drinking problem and became dogged with injuries which required operations, keeping him on the sidelines and away from the pitch.
He would leave Everton before trying in vain to revive his career at Oldham and Barrow, making only a handful of appearances for both.
Kenny retired at 21 and fell into a spiral over the next two decades.
He said: "I was drinking for 25 years and on cocaine for 25 years as well.
"I am talking absolutely non-stop. I am surprised I am alive. I was just getting up, boom boom boom, two day bender, get my head down and go on a three day bender, two days of sleep, have a Chinese then back on it."
He added that the "worst bit" was the embarrassment it caused for his mum and dad, with his "ashamed" dad not wanting to leave the house "for years".
The death of his mother Bella provided the former footballer with the inspiration to turn his life around.
He said that now he is "sober and great" and is reflecting on mistakes he made.
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Kenny got to writing during the Covid lockdown and put his incredible story into words as a cautionary tale for younger players.
His work is being turned into a stage play at Liverpool's Royal Court Theatre.
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