Michael O’Neill praises Lafferty for opening up over gambling addiction

Northern Ireland international admits his gambling was out of control

Northern Ireland international  Kyle Lafferty has admitted his problems with a gambling addiction. Photograph: William Cherry/Inpho/Presseye

Northern Ireland international Kyle Lafferty has admitted his problems with a gambling addiction. Photograph: William Cherry/Inpho/Presseye

 

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill has praised striker Kyle Laffery for admitting he is battling a gambling addiction.

The Northern Ireland international admits he has lost thousands of pounds as a result of his problem but believes opening up about his demons will aid his recovery.

Lafferty was fined £23,000 by the English Football Association last summer after breaking betting rules during his time at Norwich.

Now the Hearts player has given an interview to BBC Scotland in which in details the depths of his struggles.

The 30-year-old admits his issues began after he made his 2008 switch from Burnley to Rangers.

“About halfway through my contract with Rangers I didn’t have anything better to do after training than go to the bookies or sit online,” he said. “Betting on football had been banned and, if anything, things got worse. I’d bet on horses instead.

“I knew absolutely nothing about horses. I still don’t have a clue. I open the app on my phone and go by the colour of the jersey or the name. If it’s a winner, it’s a winner; if it’s not, it’s not, and I move on to the next one.

“It was every day on the horses and every single race. I was betting on anything; horses, dogs, virtual racing, roulette.

“There’s been times when I’ve lost big. I don’t want to go into figures, but I’ve lost on the roulette and then I’d be so close to getting it all back. I might be a grand or two from getting it back and I’d keep on going.

“I’d be up two or three grand and I’d end up losing the lot. It didn’t affect me at all because I knew I was about to get a move and there’d be a signing on fee or there was a bonus coming and it would make up for the money I lost.

“The thing is, I’m one of these people who could wake up in the morning and feel absolutely shattered, then I can flick a button and I’m hyper, I’m the clown and I’m doing the jokes. I’m taking my anger out on the training pitch. Football was my escape.”

Lafferty – who was sent to the Sporting Chance Clinic following his FA charge – has thanked O’Neill as well as Hearts chairwoman Ann Budge and manager Craig Levein for their help and support.

The striker has frequently credited O’Neill for turning around his Northern Ireland career, and his international manager released a statement in support of his striker.

“I admire Kyle for speaking so openly and honestly about his battle with gambling,” O’Neill said through the Irish Football Association’s website.

“We have talked about it at length and I have assured him that he has the full support of me, my staff and everyone at the Irish Football Association as he aims to overcome this addiction.”

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