Former Watford player Allan Smart has said he is a changed man since escaping jail three years ago and admits that he frequently contemplated ending it all during the trial.

At the end of 2016 the striker made the headlines for all the wrong reasons when he bit off a man’s ear in a pub after his wife had rebuffed his advances.

What followed was a court battle that mentally pushed Smart to the limit.

“The day that you pack your bag to go to court to potentially go to prison, if that doesn’t change your mind, I don’t know what does," he said.

"Did I have a thought about ending it? Of course I had, 100 per cent. Have I taken that thought seriously? Not really, because it felt an easy option. A harder option was to embrace what you are, who you are. And it takes a lot of strength to do that."

Smart reflected on the darkest hours of his existence. Missing a clear-cut chance for Watford in the Premier League, reading that he did not play so well in a newspaper or being snubbed by Gianluca Vialli paled in comparison.

"The day I walked into court, I had already packed my bag, I was putting telephone numbers on the socks, I was putting telephone numbers on my toes. I was told by my barrister that 'under no circumstances’ I was not going to jail that day.

"He said to me 'I can't have you going to court thinking that you are coming out, I am not dressing this up in any shape of form, you need to know on this charge at that level, it's a mandatory jail sentence, at best three to four years prison.'"

Smart was petrified. He had lost all hope. Yet the unthinkable happened when the judge read out the sentence. Smart was cleared. A huge sigh of relief was breathed and the promise to change once and for all.

"The judge felt it was more like a headbutt, it was one strike and I shut off, I wasn't there to fight, he had seen the CCTV and all the statements.

“Then the judge said: 'Look I have a job to do here. You are thoroughly a decent man, you have made a mistake but you've learned from this, I can tell by the way you are right now and by the reports we've seen that this has really impacted your life, your business, your job, all of these things As part of my job as a job as a judge I instruct you to get counselling...but that's what makes you unique, you are already doing that. I have got to take that into account that you understand that you have an issue, which you are trying to address as you have seen the counsellor 40 times in a year. I can't ignore that’. And I was in tears."

But despite the positive outcome in court, his personal life has irreversibly spiralled out control.

Smart opened up on the emotional turmoil of the last few years, which cost him his marriage and deeply affected his relationship with his four children. Most of his outbursts, if not all, were caused by alcohol.

The Watford legend admitted that he suffered with mental health leading him to seek the help of a therapist.

“Mental health problems? Yes, 100 per cent. I am not going to a doctor and ask for pills or help, that’s just my way. But I have a counsellor that I speak to from time to time.

“I am not playing the violin either. I went through a divorce, which was a painful divorce, my tax bill is astronomical and my agreements with the British film industry took a toll.

“I wasn’t a big drinker, but the emotional baggage and the frustration about leaving Watford, film partnership, divorce with ex wife caused a lot of anger and frustration.”

Although he was spared jail by the judge, his children no longer want to have anything to do with him because they feel he brought them into disrepute. And that's what hurts the most. Their silence. Their disappearance from his life. Their refusal to pick up his phone calls.

“My children don’t speak to me at this moment in time. I’ve got tough a situation in life. My daughter hasn’t spoken to me in four years.

"My son is 20 and on a scholarship in America. The last time I saw him was 16-18 months ago. He is a footballer and I helped him out with jobs and stuff. My youngest lads haven’t spoken to me for three years. I am shut out at the moment from my family. It has been tough.

“You try to do the right thing, sometimes you make bad choices but it’s a thing in the past and it shouldn’t stop you seeing your children for the rest of your life”, Smart said as he failed to suppress his emotions.

Despite clinging on a glimmer of hope, the idea of one day rebuilding a broken relationship with his children is too far-fetched for him.

And the former footballer believes that it is not all the children’s decision alone. He believes they have been influenced by their mother and Smart’s ex wife, who he presumes is turning them against him.

“It's too idealistic (that they will give me a second chance). Look, there’s no excuse for what I did and I understand the shame and the embarrassment I’ve brought on my family. I understand that, I carry that burden every day. But the punishment you are getting from children and the family is immeasurable and I am not convinced things will ever be fine again.

"My ex wife played a card that I have dealt her. She doesn't have to play the card but she is.

“I keep contact, I sent a lot of money to my daughter for her 18th’s birthday and I did not get a thank you for it. I sent presents to my other children and I don’t even get acknowledged on father’s day. Enough is enough I think.”

Smart thinks that things have been blown out of proportion and that he has paid an exaggeratedly salty bill. What's more, he believes if he hadn't had that one season in the Premier League no newspaper would have been interested in the story in the first place.

“You could be the worst criminal, Ian Brady or somebody like that, (then) you could understand the family don’t want to be associated with you but I am not a criminal.

“That 20 seconds doesn’t reflect my life, it reflects a bad choice at that moment in time. They don’t define me as a man. Something was said that wasn’t right and I reacted badly. Many times people said I lost the plot, but very often I was just trying to help out others, like that incident in the hotel when I was playing for Oldham.

He lashed out at the national newspapers: “Nobody would take an interest in this story if I, Allan Smart, wasn’t a ‘former Premier League footballer’. And all that because of one season in the Premier League.”

Now Smart said that he has learned his lesson and is determined to avoid repeating the same mistakes in future. He has behaved impeccably since the sentence was read out in March 2017. Even though it's not impossible to see him in a pub these days, it’s very improbable.

“I helped myself. I had to get on top of it quickly, take it seriously and hold my hands up, try to get myself in as good a position as possible," he said. "I think I reacted really well and really positively, I started a business that I now run and I rarely go to pubs these days, I am very, very cautious about what I do. I’ve got periods where I don’t need and don’t drink alcohol because I am very frightened about what can happen when I drink. When I am in public, in a pub, I am an avoider and stay away from it.”