A former Everton starlet has spoken out about how he went from putting in a Man of the atch performance against Liverpool to sniffing cocaine every day in the space of six months.
Billy Kenny shot to stardom when he came through the youth ranks at Everton to appear in their 1992/93 season.
He made 17 appearances for the club, earning the accolade of the “Goodison Gazza” from England’s Peter Beardsley.
However, after sustaining an injury setback that spiralled into drug abuse and alcoholism, Kenny’s fledgling career came to an end and he retired at just 21 years old.
Now, speaking to James English on his Anything Goes podcast, the former midfielder has talked through the devastating circumstances that cut short a promising career.
Recalling his younger years, Billy explained that he had never even been tempted into drinking with his mates while he was growing up, instead concentrating on his fitness.
But, when he sustained an injury at Everton, the former starlet was faced with 12 months on the side-line, and he admitted that he became depressed.
“I was under pressure. I was thinking, ‘I’ll never play again, I feel terrible’… all negative thoughts in my mind. And the only enjoyment I got was going out with my mates,” he confessed.
Billy went on to describe how he soon began to spiral out of control into days of drug-taking and heavy-drinking, and when Everton realised the extent of his troubles, the club sent him to rehab.
But, despite the Merseyside team’s best intentions, this did little to resolve the matter.“It was terrifying,” he recalled. “I was 19 years old.”
Billy said that he was placed with a variety of people suffering from different degrees of alcoholism, meaning he didn’t feel that he received appropriate care.
It was a devastating fall from grace for the youngster. Just six months before, he had been awarded man of the match for a fine performance against rivals Liverpool.
“That was the game that just sticks out in my mind,” he remembered. “That was my dream.”
But, after playing the first 14 games of that season, Billy noticed that his leg began to ache, and it was recommended that he have an operation.
This forced him into months off the pitch, and into ultimately embracing the intoxicating distractions that came with a spell on the sidelines.
Billy delved further into the extent of his struggles, acknowledging: “I was snorting coke every day. The only time I wasn’t snorting coke at that time, was when I was asleep.
“It got that bad that I wasn’t even going out. I was just getting the dealers to my ma’s and having the dealer climbing up to pass me [the drugs]. All that was going on while my mum and dad were in bed.
“I’d just lock myself in my room – six months I was in there.”
The starlet eventually recovered from his injury and even spent a year sober when he found himself at lower-league side Oldham Athletic.
But, with intrusive thoughts once again interfering with his decision making, Billy explained that he decided he needed to quit football if he was to ever fully recover from his alcoholism.
He remembered: “I thought, before it goes any further I’m retiring, how about that? I thought, ‘you’ve f***ed it again, you’re doing everyone’s head in around you’. My family, everyone who cares about me…
“So do you know what lad, I’m retiring. And I did, I retired. I was 21… It wasn’t just so much for me, it was the people around me, I was letting them down left, right, and centre.”
Thankfully, after all of his struggles, Billy told James that he is now on a better path.
He said: “After all the ups and downs, I think my life is going a bit better… For the last 8 years I’ve been clean.”
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