A former Premiership footballer, who was dubbed the new George Best when he broke into Manchester United’s first team at 17, has disclosed how a lifelong gambling habit resulted in bankruptcy.
Keith Gillespie, who went on to play for Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers, earned £14,000 a week at the height of his career.
But he said he lost more than £7 million through gambling and bad investments.
In an interview ahead of the release of his new book, How Not to be a Football Millionaire, Gillespie admitted he started gambling at 16 when he was an apprentice for Manchester United.
“I got involved in gambling pretty much straight away so most of my £46-a-week wages were spent at the bookies”, he said.
“At Newcastle, I was 19, going home to an empty hotel room and I gradually spent more and more time at the bookies as it spiralled out of control.”
Gillespie told the Telegraph: “A low point came at 20 after a 48-hour gambling spree when I lost £47,000 in one day, only to lose £15,000 the next. I blew a total of £62,000 in just two days. When the press got hold of it, it was difficult having to ring my mum and explain I’d blown money that she could only dream of.
“It was sickening”, he said, “because, as a gambler, you’re always trying to chase that next winner. It was also the last race of the day, so it wasn’t like I could try to win it back. I had all sorts of feelings going through my head. I was in my second year at Newcastle earning £1,400 a week and I knew I was in big trouble.”
He spoke about how the introduction of online and phone accounts was the “worst thing that could have happened”.
“In the old days, when I went to a bookie I lost money in my pocket, but now when I rang to put a bet on, I wasn’t physically handing over money”, he said.
“At Blackburn when I was on a £14,000-a-week salary, I rang up Ladbrokes so regularly to put on a bet, when the person at the other end heard my voice, they’d say, ‘Mr Gillespie, account number QT3561439, is it?’
“It got to the stage that I bet on every single race going”, he admitted.