Harry’s Heroes: Paul Merson and Neil Ruddock was a difficult but important watch

With the world effectively turned upside with Covid 19, the television schedulers have been presented with a huge challenge to help keeping the nation entertained.

Wednesday, 27th May 2020, 5:41 pm

Last week in tandem with Mental Health Awareness week, ITV broadcast Harry Heroes over three consecutive nights, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, with the nations favourite ginger haired former football manager, reprising his retro football adventure from last year.

Bizarrely the three programmes, were both extremely entertaining but at the same time an incredibly uncomfortable watch.

Maybe, with the awareness of a hugely important subject, that was an essential part of the whole experience.

Former Liverpool and Spurs defender Neil Ruddock

Paul Merson, whose struggles with gambling and alcohol addiction have been well documented, came out of the three nights with an awful lot of credit.

Here’s a man who has literally hit rock bottom, but, with the overwhelming support of friends and family fought back and embark on a new life of sobriety and self-control.

A shining example to everyone currently in that darkest of dark places that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

During the first episode, he rightly felt the need to offer some important advice to ex-England defender Neil ‘Razor Ruddock.

The former Liverpool and Tottenham defender now not only tips the scales at over 24 stones but also in the process of having a heart pacemaker fitted, after Ruddock had embroiled the rest of the veteran football squad in an afternoon of heavy drinking.

There is no way of dressing it up, there is a touch of marmite about Ruddock, you either love him or hate him, my limited experience of him at a fundraising auction in Brighton nearly 20 years ago was that he was a troubled soul back then.

Needless to say, he didn’t take well to Merson’s constructive observation, a foul-mouthed tirade of expletives and a threat of violence thrown in, but ultimately Merse was only saying what he said because he cared.

People can queue up in their droves to help Ruddock but the most important person to administer help has to be Razor himself.

Whilst watching the programme I’d almost forgotten that former Aston Villa and England midfielder Lee Hendrie, had once had eight games on loan for the Albion during the last season at the Withdean stadium.

Hendrie, 44, and a father of five, opened to Merson in the second episode detailing his mental health issues and attempts at suicide after being declared bankrupt nearly a decade ago.

Once again, uncomfortable viewing, but on the flip side so important to see an icon of a huge club like the Villa opening up about such an important subject.

The producers of the show, hit the spot with the level content, there were plenty of laughs, and Harry’s team beat the Germans 1-0 at the business end of the show.

But the important subject matter away from ‘kicks and giggles’, was superbly handled and at the end of the show on Wednesday, I for one felt better for having watched the show and seen the ‘ongoing’ success stories off the pitch.

A message from the Editor, Gary Shipton: In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news, I am asking you to please purchase a copy of our newspapers.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspapers.

Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world. But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.

Stay safe, and best wishes.