Former Doncaster Rovers boss now working as builder after descent into gambling, drugs and prison

Former Doncaster Rovers boss Kerry Dixon is now working as a labourer after his glittering football career spiralled into drugs, gambling, bankruptcy and a spell in prison.

Tuesday, 20th September 2016, 3:07 pm
Updated Tuesday, 4th October 2016, 1:09 pm
Kerry Dixon was formerly Doncaster Rovers manager.
Kerry Dixon was formerly Doncaster Rovers manager.

The former Belle Vue boss has spoken of his hell following the end of his goal-laden career with Chelsea and England which includes four months in jail, ten years of drug abuse, two bankruptcies and hundreds of thousands of pounds blown on gambling.

As Chelsea's third-highest scorer with 193 goals, he is still worshipped by fans at Stamford Bridge.

However, the striker's life spiralled out of control after retirement from the game and hit rock bottom when he was involved in a fight with a man in a pub that led to him being found guilty of actual bodily harm in June 2015 and sentenced to nine months in prison.

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Dixon was released after four months and, having lost the hospitality and media jobs he had at his beloved Chelsea, is now trying to rebuild his life by working as a labourer.

"I'm going to be remorseful for the rest of my days," Dixon told Reuters in an interview. "I'm sorry it happened but I'm drawing a line underneath it and trying to move forward.

"I've done my time for the crime I committed. I was never sent off in my career and I was booked only five times in 17 years so violence is not my thing.

"The judge saw it as a vicious assault and I've got to live with that," said Dixon.

"But I don't believe you should be provoked by people in public that you don't know. If you've got nothing nice to say to someone then don't say anything at all."

The time he spent in prison certainly provided a salutary lesson for Dixon.

"I was in my cell for 16 hours a day and the boredom, the inactivity, the loss of privileges, the whole package, made me realise I've got more to offer life than this," said the 55-year-old.

"I'm not going to say I'm a totally changed person. I still have a drink and I still meet people but I won't put myself in a position where I see rowdiness and sense things may kick off.

"I was quite comfortable in those situations before. Now I tend to say to whoever I'm with, 'Come on, let's go somewhere else'."

One of the most harrowing experiences Dixon endured came within minutes of his sentencing.

"I was put in a prison van and the worst part of the journey was the sweat box I had to squeeze into," he said. "Those vans contain a number of small compartments.

"My shoulders and knees touched the sides and I found it extremely oppressive, made worse by the heat. I started to have a panic attack...I felt like I was in a coffin.

"A dish of water was passed under the door and I gulped it down," said Dixon who has written a hard-hitting autobiography about his roller-coaster life entitled 'Up Front', by John Blake Publishing.

"As a means of transporting prisoners it was horrendous and in my opinion it should be changed, it is inhumane."

Dixon, a member of England's squad at the 1986 Mexico World Cup, received no special privileges in jail and discovered that boredom was the worst thing about his incarceration.

He had eight different cell mates and said the highlight of each day was the half-hour when the inmates were allowed to get some fresh air in the exercise yard.

"There was a suicide," Dixon added. "Someone hanged himself in his cell, went into a coma and could not be revived. I never knew the guy.

"When you are inside you appreciate the depths of depression that take hold. It's easy to slip into feelings of being unwanted and unloved, coupled with loneliness."

There have been several other moments in Dixon's life where he may have felt similar emotions.

After his career with Chelsea, Southampton, Watford, Reading, Luton Town, Millwall and Doncaster Rovers ended, Dixon developed a drug habit that lasted for around a decade.

"If I stayed up late drinking socially on a night out... I would take cocaine as part of the ritual," he said.

"Fortunately I have found the urge has died down in recent years. As I no longer have too many late nights, the need for cocaine hardly exists and I've managed to shake the habit off."

Dixon also has a string of failed business ventures behind him. He was made bankrupt twice and has lost three homes as a result of the chronic gambling addiction that first took hold when he was a teenager.

At one point during his halcyon spell at Chelsea between 1983-92, his annual salary was £130,000 pounds but he lost £135,000 pounds through gambling in the same year.

"I don't have a proper home now, I've got nothing left," said Dixon who has three children by his former wife Michele and now lives with his partner Kim.

One thing he will never lose is the adoration of the Chelsea supporters.

For most people the matchday walk from Fulham Broadway underground station to Stamford Bridge takes no more than five minutes, for Dixon it takes three times as long.

Every couple of steps he is greeted by a fan who wants to hug him, shake his hand or simply tell him, 'You'll always be a legend here'.

Dixon's ultimate aim is to re-establish himself with the hierarchy at Chelsea.

"Almost the first thing I did when I came out of prison was to make arrangements to see chairman Bruce Buck," he said. "I will always naturally gravitate toward Stamford Bridge.

"I loved my job in the hospitality lounges, on Chelsea TV and as a pundit. Were I to be given a second chance back at the Bridge I would be sure not to let them down."

Dixon arrived at Doncaster on the first day of the 1996-97 season when controversial club benefactor Ken Richardson replaced the then manager Sammy Chung before a ball had even been kicked.

As player manager at Rovers, he scored three goals but left the club after he revealed to a supporters' meeting that Richardson, and not him, was picking the team.