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Former Blue Friars opens up on addiction battle and how a police chase in Ipswich cost him his Town career

PUBLISHED: 12:00 18 June 2019 | UPDATED: 12:04 18 June 2019

Sean Friars has opened up on his struggles with addiction. Picture: ARCHANT

Sean Friars has opened up on his struggles with addiction. Picture: ARCHANT

Archant

A former Ipswich Town footballer has opened up about how addiction sent his life spiralling out of control and how a police chase in the town ended his career with the Blues.

Friars struggled with addiction during his football career. Picture: ARCHANTFriars struggled with addiction during his football career. Picture: ARCHANT

Sean Friars moved to Portman Road from Liverpool in 1998 and was with the club for three years, making just one appearance against Crewe in November 1999.

The Northern Irishman was a highly-rated youth prospect at Anfield, where he played alongside Steven Gerrard and Michael Owen, but found things difficult off the pitch as he turned to alcohol to help deal with homesickness.

Despite the obvious talent he was released by the Anfield club before former Northern Ireland boss Bryan Hamilton, then part of George Burley's Ipswich coaching team, brought him to Portman Road.

"He was a really good man and was really good to me, so he phoned my straight up and said 'come down to Ipswich, there's a contract here for you'," Friars said during an emotional interview with BBC Radio Foyle.

Friars was a regular in the Blues' reserve side during his time at the club. Picture: ARCHANTFriars was a regular in the Blues' reserve side during his time at the club. Picture: ARCHANT

"So I went down there and had a look around and I loved Ipswich Town. It was a very good place."

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He was making good progress at Portman Road but an incident in April 2001 proved the beginning of the end of his time in Suffolk.

"I got a brand new car, a really nice car, and we went for a few beers that night for one of the boy's birthdays," he said.

"I locked the car up that night and left it there and picked it up the next morning. I started it up and was at the traffic lights with my phone between my legs and looked down.

"As I locked up I thought the car had pulled off so went to pull off and there was just a wee bump - no damage or anything like that. The fella got out the car and could smell the drink off me so he flashed his badge and said he was an off-duty police officer.

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"I remember thinking in that split second thinking that it was Liverpool all over again and thinking 'what have I done?'. I was sitting down with Ipswich at the time discussing a new deal.

Sean Friars made his Ipswich Town debut against Crewe in November 1999. Picture: ARCHANTSean Friars made his Ipswich Town debut against Crewe in November 1999. Picture: ARCHANT

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"I panicked and just drove off and there was a bit of a police chase. They obviously traced the number plate back to the house and I went back there a couple of hours later and out of the blue somebody jumped on my back. There was obviously off-duty police officers in cars there waiting for me on the street.

"I threw one of them over my shoulder onto the bonnet. It happened really quickly. Then someone else, a police lady, grabbed my hood and I pulled away but broke her thumb.

"The next thing I knew I was wrestled to the ground by a few other people and the neighbours were all out on the street watching. It wasn't nice.

"I was done for leaving the scene of an accident and resisting arrest but then it gets blown out of all proportion.

"It goes to court and I was coming out of it like I was King Kong or something. To be fair to the policewoman she wrote her statement up exactly how it happened.

"I had my mum over for the court case and that was really hard because it was on Sky Sports News and was highly documented. They had to put the blankets over mine and her heads to sneak her out the back door and stuff and that was really tough.

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Sean Friars celebrates with David Johnson in the game against Crewe. Picture: ARCHANTSean Friars celebrates with David Johnson in the game against Crewe. Picture: ARCHANT

"I ended up getting a fine and some community service. That's the true story."

Friars, now 40, returned home to Northern Ireland soon after but continued to struggle with alcohol and gambling addictions, while also becoming hooked on prescription drugs he was taking to aid an arm injury.

Following a stint in rehab, he's turned his life around and now works with addicts in Derry and is also assistant first-team coach at Irish Premiership club Institute following a managerial stint at Limavady United.

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