26 March, 2008

Insanity is Hel

With Gazza still languishing under padded lock and key, it’s pretty sad to see another former Premier League star from the same era currently facing similar treatment. Ex-Arsenal winger Glenn Helder was this last weekend committed into the De Waag mental health instiution in his native Holland, having been recently diagnosed with “a Narcissistic personality disorder with hints of borderline” while in prison for gun possession and assault.

Helder’s tale is ultimately a tragic one, despite starting so brightly in the Ajax youth system, and impressing at fellow Eredivisie side Vitesse Arnhem to earn a dream move to Arsenal early in 1995. His time at Arsenal was patchy to say the least, and as the final signing under George Graham, found himself left out in the cold somewhat under Arsene Wenger. Marc Overmars was soon brought in by the Frenchman to essentially replace Helder, and from there, the slippery slide began. At the time, club captain Tony Adams was an alcoholic, and Paul Merson was addicted to drink, drugs and gambling, but it was reportedly Ian Wright who introduced Helder to the life of luxury, clubbing till all hours and shopping on New Bond Street. “Ian has shown me everything that's good and where it happens,” Helder enthusiastically told The Guardian at the time. The Dutchman also bought a top-of-the-range BMW while his debts started to mount: “Gambling caused 50 per cent of my misery,” he told Dutch magazine Vrij Nederland. “The other 50 per cent? Not being able to say no.”

Following a brief and unspectacular loan spell at Benfica, Helder moved to Dutch club NAC Breda permanently and it was here where he reportedly started to suffer from mental problems, even admitting to a failed suicide attempt when gambling debts spiraled out of control. The early years of this millenium were further defined by instability for Helder, who strangely enjoyed spells in China and Hungary before officially ending his career at third-tier Dutch outfit RBC Roosendaal. Still however, the gambling problems continued, and he became more famous for underwhelming performances on Channel 5’s Late-night Poker than for any rose-tinted football memories. Occasionally he still dabbled with Masters Football for Arsenal, and even made a bizarre return to the side to play against Ajax in Dennis Bergkamp’s testimonial, but all the while his personal life was getting increasingly out of hand.

The flashpoint came in the summer last year though when he was arrested for making threats to an ex-girlfriend and attacking her current partner. During the ensuing kerfuffle, a concealed weapon was revealed, and last September he was imprisoned pending psychiatric evaluation. There had been rumours for years of Helder suffering from severe paranoia, and carrying a gun as protection from out-of-pocket creditors, but with this recent diagnosis it looks like the ex-pro will be at least safe on lockdown for some time now. As with so many players of this era, close friends have blamed his downfall on being surrounded by the wrong kind of advisors during his career, and simply not being able to keep hold of his money. It goes without saying that STT’s thoughts are all with the clearly troubled Dutchman, and we hope that he makes a full recovery soon. When you get out, have a bong and a blitz on us Glenn.