Lee Dixon: It might sound hypocritical after my days in the Tuesday Club but players should now be teetotal

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I can see both sides of the debate concerning Andy Carroll's drinking habits. I don't know the guy but judging by what has happened to him in his short career, he is someone who likes to have a few beers.

England manager Fabio Capello has asked him to cut down on his drinking, while his manager at Liverpool, Kenny Dalglish, has said there is no problem anymore. The reason I can see both sides is because at the start of my career I was part of the drinking culture at Arsenal, but that all changed when Arsène Wenger came in and alcohol was seen as a bad thing. Now I look at players getting in trouble as a result of their drinking and wonder what on earth they are doing.

I do, however, understand the pressures on professional footballers, and the way that having a few beers can help you relax. When I started at Arsenal under George Graham, looking back now, the team had a few heavy drinkers.

We would have a few team bonding sessions through the season, and they would all revolve around beer. In particular, we had the Tuesday Club, which became notorious.

In the morning, George put us through some very tough physical training, running until we were almost sick followed by some gym work. And afterwards we would go to the Bank of Friendship pub round the corner from Highbury and sink a few beers.

In those days, players could still socialise in the same places as supporters and there would not be any trouble. There'd be old Jim sitting in the corner smoking Woodbines, and us at the bar downing pints. I was never a heavy drinker – six pints was my limit and I'd be blotto.

But some of the others, Tony Adams in particular, would carry on all night. I used to join the Tuesday Club once a month, but others like Tony would be there every week. It was an important part of the team, where the strong bonds were formed that took us to a couple of league titles.

And if you didn't join in, then you would be ostracised. I remember Martin Keown was an example of that. He told me that in his first spell at the club it was expected of him to have a drink with the lads from time to time. He is very strong-minded and didn't join in with the drinking sessions. He might have a pint but he wasn't part of the group and as a result he was cut off a little. At the time, that must have been very difficult for him. I admired him for having that strength of character.

It was the same at the time with Liverpool. Alan Hansen talks about the drinking culture at Anfield during the 1970s and '80s and how they drew strength from that. But that was then and this is now.

For one thing, players are like pop stars and their private lives have become public property in a way that did not happen when I was a player. And also the game is so much faster these days and alcohol just slows you down.

I used to pride myself on my fitness, because I knew I wasn't the most talented, so I used to take care of myself, watching what I ate and drank. And when on the rare occasions I had one too many I was sluggish and lethargic in training, and would have to work twice as hard to be sharp for the weekend. And that was 20 years ago.

Now there is no hiding place. My eyes were opened when Wenger came to the club. It was a struggle at first. On his first pre-season tour, a few of us wanted a beer after our first practice match, and Tony – who by now wasn't drinking any more – asked the manager if we could have a beer. Arsène said: "Is that what they really want? OK."

So when we sat down to dinner there was a beer on the table at everyone's place, except Tony's. We necked that one, and when someone asked a waitress for another, Arsène was on his feet in an instant, saying: "You asked for one beer, so you get one beer." That was his mentality. A few years later, Arsène confided in me that he had been shocked by how much we used to drink.

I am now convinced that his way is the only way, in the modern game. It might sound hypocritical, having been part of the drinking at Arsenal in my early years, but I am sure it does you no good. Kenny Dalglish may say in public that he does not have any problems with Carroll and that is great news, for Liverpool and for England. Maybe a change of scene from Newcastle was just what Carroll needed.

But I am sure in private Kenny is keeping a close eye on him, and has had a few words with him. There have been plenty of players in the past who have been at this kind of crossroads and have made the wrong decision.

The signs are positive that Carroll has heeded the advice and has cut back on his drinking. He might have got away with it 20 years ago, but he cannot in today's game.

New faces and tactics have rejuvenated England, but don't get too excited yet

Sometimes it needs a change of personnel, or a change of tactics, to kickstart a team. With England it has taken a bit of both. At the World Cup, with their 4-4-2 formation, they were too predictable and too pedestrian.

The emergence of Jack Wilshere as an international player has helped bring about the change for Fabio Capello.

The manager said he would build the team around the teenager and it is just what he has done, changing to a 4-3-3 formation which certainly suits Wilshere better, as he plays in a similar system for Arsenal.

Having the protection of playing with a designated holding midfielder gives him the freedom to play further up the pitch.

But as much as the emergence of Wilshere has forced a change of thinking by Capello, so the form of Scott Parker at West Ham United has confirmed it.

Parker has been outstanding and Capello had to find a way of getting him in the side. By playing Parker in the middle, Wilshere can play with greater freedom, and it suits Frank Lampard better too. You can also see Steven Gerrard liking the system when he is fit.

Playing three in the middle makes it difficult to play two up front, so it is logical to go with three strikers in an arrow-pronged attack. It is vital that you have versatile players in the wide positions, because there will be times when you need them to come inside and make it narrower.

Wayne Rooney does that brilliantly for England, and he can also be the main, central striker. Ashley Young has shown in recent games that he too can be adaptable. It is looking much better for England but the only thing that matters really is how we do at a tournament. We need to see this improvement carried on into the Euro 2012 finals before we get too excited.

Five Asides

1 Bring back the 10-yard penalty for dissent

I am a great believer in the need for players to improve their behaviour on the pitch, but I can't see what the Premier League expects to happen with its latest clampdown. Rugby does not have this problem with lack of respect for officials. I cannot see why Fifa dropped that rule making it a 10-yard penalty if a player shows dissent. Instead they are more bothered about banning snoods. Pathetic.



2 Houllier fears the drop but he must get tough

Gérard Houllier has said there is nothing wrong with team spirit at Aston Villa, despite the stories about James Collins' and Richard Dunne's antics. Villa are one point above the relegation zone, so Houllier probably thinks if he comes down too hard on players, it could have a detrimental effect. It is a very tricky time of the season, but you also have to stick to what's right and what's wrong.



3 Wilshere should have the summer off

I don't think Jack Wilshere should play for the England Under-21s this summer. The Under-21s are all about providing the next generation of players and Wilshere has already made the step up.



4 Gallas injury is a Real blow for Tottenham

Spurs will have their work cut out at Real Madrid if William Gallas is not fit. They are likely to have plenty of defending to do, and they need someone with his experience. I hope they stick with their attacking philosophy.



5 My view? First blood to Chelsea against United

Don't expect Wednesday's game between Chelsea and Man United to be a classic. I think it will be gritty and tight, and I have a sneaky feeling Chelsea might win.

Premier League Predictions

West Ham United vs Manchester United

Dixon's verdict Nemanja Vidic's return from injury will be a big boost for United, but they remain unconvincing away from home. Avram Grant's side have improved enough to hold the leaders here.

Kick-off Today, 12.45pm (Sky Sports 2, HD2; Highlights BBC 1, 10.20pm)

Prediction Draw

Birmingham City vs Bolton Wanderers

Dixon's verdict Bolton won at St Andrew's in the FA Cup last month and Alex McLeish's side will be desperate to avenge that today. City have a number of players back so I think the spoils will be shared.

Kick-off Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.20pm)

Prediction Draw

Everton vs Aston Villa

Dixon's verdict Aston Villa remain in trouble at the wrong end of the table and, despite Everton suffering a few problems, not least Louis Saha being ruled out for the season, I don't think they will get anything today.

Kick-off Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.20pm)

Prediction Home win

Newcastle United vs Wolverhampton Wdrs

Dixon's verdict The last three meetings of these sides have ended 1-1, but Newcastle have enough to win at home for the first time in three months. Joey Barton's return could provide an interesting aside.

Kick-off Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.20pm)

Prediction Home win

Stoke City vs Chelsea

Dixon's verdict Stoke have lost their last seven meetings with Chelsea, scoring just two goals, and they face an almighty task to turn that around today – despite Chelsea's impending Champions League quarter-final.

Kick-off Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.20pm)

Prediction Away win

West Bromwich Albion vs Liverpool

Dixon's verdict Roy Hodgson has improved West Bromwich's fortunes, with the club unbeaten since before he took over, and they could pick up yet another draw here. Steven Gerrard's return could prove vital, however.

Kick-off Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.20pm)

Prediction Draw

Wigan Athletic vs Tottenham Hotspur

Dixon's verdict This is probably just the match Harry Redknapp did not want ahead of the trip to Real Madrid. Having said that, I think the depth of their squad gives Spurs the capacity to beat an inconsistent Wigan side.

Kick-off Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.20pm)

Prediction Away win

Arsenal vs Blackburn Rovers

Dixon's verdict Both clubs are desperate for points at different ends of the table. I think Rovers will be cursing the timing of the fixture, with Arsène Wenger welcoming back a number of key names.

Kick-off Today, 5.30pm (ESPN; Highlights BBC 1, 10.20pm)

Prediction Home win

Fulham vs Blackpool

Dixon's verdict Blackpool's form has improved recently, if not their results, and Ian Holloway's side can cause Fulham problems. Let's hope they're not too distracted by the unveiling of the Michael Jackson statue!

Kick-off Tomorrow, 1.30pm (Sky Sports 1; Highlights BBC 2, 10pm)

Prediction Draw

Manchester City vs Sunderland

Dixon's verdict City have not been entirely convincing in the last few months but remain steady at home, unbeaten since December and conceding just once in eight games. Home win for Roberto Mancini's side.

Kick-off Tomorrow, 4pm (Sky Sports 1; Highlights BBC 2, 10pm)

Prediction Home win

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