Team GB striker Kelly Smith returned to squad after overcoming drink problem and depression


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The Independent Online

Team GB's star striker Kelly Smith battled against alcoholism and depression to win back a place in the Olympics squad. 

Watford-born Smith’s 18-year career has seen her play for Arsenal Ladies in three spells and earn 111 England caps.

But her career has also seen her struggle with self-doubt and addiction.

Her drink habit grew when she was playing in the US between 1999 and 2003, which finished with major knee surgery and then a broken leg.

Smith, 33, was thousands of miles from home, missing her family and suffered periods of depression.

With nothing to do after physio appointments she turned to alcohol to “numb everything” and would often drink, usually vodka, until passing out.

In 2004, Smith had 28 days treatment  in the Priory and then was helped by the Sporting Chance Clinic run by Tony Adams, the former Arsenal and England defender.

She returned to Arsenal Ladies the same year and says she has never looked back.

Smith added: “I’m ready to go and I just need games now. I’ve had a few injuries over the past five or six years but I’ve got to have a strong mentality and I’m fighting fit now.”

The forward has scored 45 goals for England and has been described by commentators as “lethally quick, bountifully gifted”.

This year there were doubts whether she would be fit enough to compete in the Games. Smith said: “I’m used to coming back from injury.

“I’m a lot older now and I know how to deal with disappointments of not playing the game. I have strategies in place for people who I speak to if I feel down or anything like that.

“That was a different part of my life, I’m older and wiser now. I can deal with things better. It was injury and being alone, not playing the game that I love and not being able to deal with that and that’s when I picked up the bottle.

“It doesn’t happen any more. I’m on the road to recovery, fit and healthy now and haven’t looked back since.”