Matthew Etherington has opened up about his gambling addiction – and how it came to a head during his time at Stoke City.
The former Potters winger has spoken about the problem which saw him losing money on greyhounds, horses and poker at height of his Premier League career, which also included spells at Tottenham and West Ham United.
Etherington finally began to regain control of his life in the early days of his five-and-a-half-year spell with the Potters.
“I didn’t stop until about four or five months into my Stoke career, when I couldn’t hide it anymore,” he said during an episode of Talksport’s After The Lights Go Out series.
“Compulsive gamblers are really good at hiding emotions and feelings, you can’t look at them like an alcoholic or a drug addict and see that they’re in trouble.
“After a few years, it became a bit too much and my wife, who was then my girlfriend, organised an intervention with my mum and my dad.
“They’d read various newspaper stories in the press, most of which I denied to them, but they were crying around the table.
“I didn’t realise, because as a gambler you’re very selfish, I didn’t realise what I was doing to them. Just telling them was a huge weight off my shoulders.”
Etherington was a key man as Stoke punched above their weight in the Premier League under Tony Pulis.
But after Pulis was replaced by Mark Hughes, Etherington spent just one more season at the Bet365.
Injuries were beginning to affect the winger, who said he felt “rejected” after not being offered a new contract by Stoke in 2014.
He announced his retirement at the age of 33 a few months later, a decision he came to regret.
“It was a very spontaneous decision, one that my wife didn’t agree with – and in hindsight, she was 100 per cent right,” added Etherington.
“I was really struggling with my back, I’d been at Stoke for five-and-a-half years, and felt like I’d given a lot to the club.
“They gave a lot to me too but I felt a kind of rejection that they didn’t want to extend my contract.
“I went in at West Ham under Sam Allardyce and did really well for a week or two, but my back flared up again, I went to Millwall for a day but could hardly get out of the car from training.
“I wasn’t used to rejection and I was angry at my body for giving up on me a little bit.
“My wife was saying, ‘Don’t make any hasty decisions, you can still play League One or League Two and make a living, then we can plan for the future’.
“I’m one of those people who makes spontaneous decisions from time to time. I wasn’t anywhere near ready to retire from football.”