Tony Adams says his ‘mental breakdown’ six years ago led to a Strictly stint

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Former England footballer Tony Adams has said he accepted the Strictly Come Dancing challenge after suffering a “mental breakdown” and nearly dying of a heart condition six years ago.

The 55-year-old captained Arsenal and England during his professional career, earning 66 caps for his country and appearing in four major tournaments.

Following his experiences with alcoholism and drug addiction, he went on to found Sporting Chance, a charity to help sportspeople with mental health and addiction issues.

Ahead of the series launch on Friday, Adams recalled how his brush with death prompted him to join BBC One’s “dumb” show.

He said: “I have been asked many times. I had a nervous breakdown when I was 49 and working too hard in China and I just have time now.

“I’m not working too much, my calendar is pretty empty for the next three months, so I just thought yes, go for it.

“After my heart procedure – I almost died at 49 – my main artery was 99% closed and the stresses of life.

“I’m a little born anxious, my mum was anxious so I just decided to take things a little easier and go on a silly show.”

Adams said the program’s medical staff gave him a “thorough examination” and described the production as “another level.”

He added: “My physio was quite overwhelming because I also have a new metal knee, she didn’t slip a knee.”

“It was ‘I can’t do this, I can’t do that’ – she kept saying ‘you’re not very good, are you?’. I said” I’m 55 now.”

Adams was sentenced to four months in prison in 1990 for drunk driving and said the experience would help him deal with any critical comments about his dancing.

He joked, “I’m going to outrun you all because when I got out of jail they threw bottles at me and I got carrots thrown at me, so I overtook.”

Strictly Come Dancing launches Friday, September 23 at 7 p.m. on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.

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