Mark Walters hopes that opening up about racism he faced and child abuse that affected friends can help kids overcome their own hurdles.
The 54-year-old former Aston Villa, Rangers and Liverpool winger says working on his biography, Wingin’ It, “was very cathartic”.
“A lot of things I hadn’t spoken about for years,” Walters said.
“If there’s a little child somewhere in Britain that takes some inspiration from it, I’ll be chuffed.”
Walters was pelted with bananas by opposition fans after moving from Villa Park to Ibrox.
And, before breaking through with boyhood heroes Villa, he was one of those in his Dunlop Terriers youth team that escaped the attentions of paedophile Ted Langford, who also scouted for the Premier League club during the 1970s and 1980s.
Langford was jailed for three years in 2007 and died in 2012.
Walters said it was good to get
“off my chest” memories of people like Langford, “who ruined a lot of people’s careers by physically abusing them”.
“A couple of lads in that team have even tried to commit suicide because of all the problems they had with that,” he said.
“As long as people can talk about these things and get it out in the open, if one child can do that because of my story then that would be good.”
Walters, who played once for his country, always felt he had to be twice as good as other boys because of the colour of his skin.
He had already faced racism in English football before being subjected to monkey chants and fruit-throwing on his Rangers debut at Celtic Park – and being hit with a banana against Hearts at Tynecastle weeks later.
Recalling his debut, Walters said:
“The thing I remember is some man being in the papers before in the game – boasting is probably the wrong word but just telling everybody what he was going to do when I played – all the fruit he had bought ready to throw at me and things like that.”
“But, typical footballers, we all had a laugh about it on the bus. I don’t know if I was laughing at it or with it at times. I will never forget those things.”
“I have always said football is a reflection of society and the fact it has stopped virtually – I have not heard about any incidents anyway – says a lot about how things have come on, which is fantastic.”
‘I resisted doing a Cantona’
Walters, who went on to play for Liverpool, Stoke City, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Southampton, Swindon Town and Bristol Rovers, said former England and West Bromwich Albion striker Cyrille Regis had been his own inspiration.
“I looked at the way he dealt with it and I had some friends who didn’t deal with it that way, who dealt with it, if you like, the Eric Cantona way and were fighting every minute,” he added.
“I know that was the best way to deal with it. If I reacted to it, I wouldn’t be any help to my team-mates or myself, so I dealt with it the only way you should do really.
“If I had reacted the way a lot of people said I should have, it would have ruined my career and I wouldn’t have played for some of the biggest clubs in Britain.”
First Published 01.10.18: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/45710667