FORMER Wales footballer Mark Aizlewood today reveals his 27-year battle with booze, how he contemplated suicide because of his drinking and how he has now turned his back on the bottle.

He talks exclusively to BEN FRAMPTON.

IT WAS the moment Mark Aizlewood's life hit rock bottom.

On Valentine's weekend 2003, the Newport-born former international and TV commentator stood on a motorway bridge in Rome - what should have been a truly romantic time in one of the world's most romantic cities - and thought about taking his own life by jumping to his death, sick and tired of his battle with alcoholism.

Something pulled him back from the brink, possibly fuelled by thoughts of home and family, and shortly afterwards, he took his last drink and began to turn his life around.

Mr Aizlewood, 50, reveals his darkest moment in his new Welsh-language autobiography, Amddiffyn fy Hun (Defending Myself).

And he also reveals how his struggle against alcoholism began at the tender age of 18 - when he took his first alcoholic drink.

Mr Aizlewood had been brought up in Ringland, going to Alway juniors and Hartridge High School before signing as a schoolboy for Newport County aged 14 where he was paid £5 a week expenses.

His debut at 16 saw him "kicked from pillar to post" but didn't dampen his enthusiasm and he went on to play for a number of clubs, including Luton Town, Charlton Athletic and Leeds United where he played under the club's iconic captain and then manager, Billy Bremner.

He won 39 caps for his country and played alongside greats including Mark Hughes, Ian Rush and Ryan Giggs.

He became David Pleat's first signing as Luton manager when the Hatters paid County £50,000 for the 18-year-old.

He soon found himself caught up in the drinking and gambling culture endemic in football: "I was making a very good living, I had a lot of disposable income - people have a misconception about alcoholism, sometimes I didn't drink for two or three weeks, but then I'd drink for three of four days in one go."

Once, he went to the shop for a newspaper one Sunday morning and didn't come home for ten days and it got to the stage where he was able to drink 20 pints and a bottle of brandy during a binge session and was still able to stand.

He said: "Some of my drinking sessions were with the biggest personalities in world football. There were always willing participants."

However, Mr Aizlewood, later a BBC commentator and the Technical Director at the Football Association of Wales, says he never took to the field while drunk and said the news of his drinking would shock some of his former managers because of his professionalism.

Gambling was also an outlet for Mr Aizlewood, saying he would gamble on anything, losing or winning up to £30,000 in one go, but said he has no idea how much he lost over the years.

His drinking became worse after he retired in 2000 as he didn't have the outlet for aggression which football afforded him, saying the anger manifested itself in drinking.

He has been sober for five years and now lives in Chepstow working as an education consultant, running courses with the government.

He has been with second wife Penny for 12 years and the couple have a ten-year-old daughter, Ffion.

Mr Aizlewood has three children from his first marriage to Margaret, Nikki, 27, Jordan, 16, and Jodie, 17.

He says this book was to help put things right after hurting loved-ones over the years and described the writing process as a "painful and difficult experience," but said he felt he had to do it.

All proceeds from the book will go to former Arsenal defender Tony Adams' Sporting Chance clinic, which helps amateur and professional sports stars battling with behavioural problems.

The book will be published in English, depending on sales of this version.

Amddiffyn fy Hun, published by Gomer Press, hits the shelves on November 26 priced £7.99 and is available at