Former West Ham winger Matthew Etherington has revealed how he and his team-mates would gamble up to £20,000 on the team bus on away trips.
Etherington, 34, who spent six years at West Ham from 2003 to 2009 admitted some of his gambling was “shocking” and is believed to have lost more than £1.5m betting on greyhounds, horses and poker.
“People were losing 15 or 20 grand in one trip, which, looking back at it now, was absolutely ridiculous,” Etherington told West Ham’s fanzine Knees Up Mother Brown.
“But it was what it was, it happened.
“I think (Alan) Pardew saw the money that was being exchanged. We were bring five grand in cash per person to every away trip. If someone wasn’t winning and owed 15 grand, you’d say “can I have five off you?” – and jot it down.”
Etherington, who moved to Stoke in 2009 for £2million, received loans from both clubs to help with his gambling debts, but revealed he had to leave London to try and “sort my life out”.
“As much as I loved my time at West Ham and as much as I genuinely loved the club, at that time I needed a change, to get out of London and just have a bit of time to breath and sort my life out. Which, luckily, I did,” added the former England youth player.
“I was the best liar in the world,” he admitted. “I’m not proud to admit that, but I was. It’s one of the most dangerous addictions, I think. People would say ‘alcoholism is an addiction, and there’s drug addiction, but gambling’s not an addiction – why can’t you just stop?’
“I always think that’s such an ignorant way to look at it. It’s an illness, there’s no doubting that. And it’s a dangerous illness because you can hide everything, tuck it away deep down and no-one has to know about anything.
“I’m releasing a book next summer and there’s about a million stories in there that you probably won’t believe. It’s quite shocking and I’ve tried to block most of it out. But a big part of that was my last couple of years at West Ham.”
The former Tottenham man, with support from Stoke and their then boss Tony Pulis, overcame his addiction and is now retired, taking his coaching badges and planning to release a book about his troubles next summer.