Gambling becomes an issue when you have a lot of spare time, outlines former Tottenham, West Ham, and Stoke player Matthew Etherington in a recent interview for TalkSport’s After the Lights Go Out talk show.
Betting and Playing Poker
In 2018, Matthew Etherington released his autobiography, Lucky Man, in which he provided details about the time he struggled with gambling addiction which led him regularly spend his month’s wages in excess of £120,000 playing in the casino or placing bets.
The player who had been forced out of football at the age of 33 after a recurring back injury in December 2014, openly admitted to compulsive gambling behavior in the interview, a pattern which at one moment cost him £1.5million, betting on greyhounds and horses, and playing poker.
Matthew Etherington paid special attention to an episode prior to a UEFA Cup qualifier away from home against Palermo in 2006, during which gambling among West Ham players got out of control.
“We’ve got a really important fixture round the corner, a UEFA Cup qualifier, and we’re gambling tens of thousands of pounds against each other.”Matthew Etherington
He further remembered the feeling he had against one of his teammates after every winning hand, willing to “wring his neck”, despite having to play with him on the pitch in a few hours.
Etherington plainly admitted to being in the midst of his gambling addiction during that episode but also stated he was not the only one, implying other West Ham players had the same gambling problem too.
The player did not mention it, but West Ham got hammered 3-0 during that second leg first-round qualifier and went out of the competition 4-0 on aggregate.
Matthew Etherington clearly remembers his first bet: he moved to Tottenham and one night when accidentally found a Walthamstow dog card inside the Evening Standard, which led him to the track, where he got mesmerized by the greyhounds and the concept of greyhound racing. That love eventually cost him a fortune spent on the game, besides the 6 greyhounds he bought, Etherington admits.
The former football player also spoke about a month when, midway through it, he had to walk home, having no petrol in the car and having lost his loose change in a bet, despite earning £30,000-a-week.
When looking back now, Etherington believes problem gambling is not about bad willpower, as it is a condition easily triggered and difficult to escape without the appropriate help.
Luckily for him, he had the support of his then-girlfriend now wife, which at one point organized an intervention with his mum and dad, finally managing to stir feelings of guilt inside the player, making him realize it was not only himself he hurt but everyone around him who loved and cared for him.
It was not his gambling addiction that cut his football career in his prime, yet Matthew Etherington’s experience can be invaluable to fellow players struggling to cope with it.