When former England captain Tony Adams ended up on stage with a stripper after a 16-hour pub crawl earlier this year, it must have been bare-cheekily apparent to him that his drinking had become somewhat out of control. The tell-tale signs had been there as far back as 1990 when he was jailed for four months for drink-driving and three years later there was the celebrated case of him going head over heels down the stairs of a nightclub. Similarly, Adams' Arsenal teammate Paul Merson embarrassed himself in public several times before admitting that he had hit the tierce in the addiction stakes - drinking, drugs and gambling. While it is the most difficult thing in the world to admit to oneself that a few lagers after a match has turned into a drink problem then deteroriated into alcoholism, those around Adams and Merson must have had a pretty good idea that they were seeing the world through the bottom of a beer glass. They are, after all, professional footballers with a high level of fitness and even though their addictions were not immediately evident on the pitch, it must have been noticeable on the training field, the morning after the bender before, that the legs were not quite right. That the manager, coaches and fellow players presumably looked the other way did a disservice to themselves, Adams and Merson. The feeling that their cases are just the froth on the beer has been given credence by comments from a player whose own drinking habits are well documented, Paul Gascoigne. Gazza says that British clubs advocate boozing to improve team spirit, a claim labelled a 'wind up' by the vice-chairman of his current club, Rangers. While Gazza's comment that Rangers management encourage the players 'to get drunk for a couple of days' does sound like the leg pull of the year, his assertion that players go out together midweek for 'a good drink' is more credible. In August, Scotland and Rangers striker Ally McCoist was charged with drink-driving in the early hours of the morning after celebrating with fellow players their European Champions Cup preliminary round win over Vladikavkaz. This tendency to have a beer or five after a game has led to fitness in the British game dipping well below that in the rest of Europe, according to former England manager Bobby Robson. Robson, now in charge of Barcelona after a stint with Porto, said that while British players hit the bottle in a big way, the continentals restricted themselves to a glass of wine with their dinner. As a result, stamina levels were far better. Indeed, history shows that the booze factor in British football could be endemic. The incomparable George Best is the best (or should that be, worst) example of a player ending his career prematurely because of binges which caused him to miss training and matches while with Manchester United. And, in the same era, Scottish fans discovered that their heroes 'liked a few bevvies' when Celtic winger Jimmy Johnstone had to be rescued from a rowing boat he had put to sea in, after a 'session' with the national squad. The names and the labels on the bottles may have changed but the alcohol affliction, worryingly for British soccer, remains.