England’s 3-2 win in Slovenia – with the winner netted by Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney – marked the start of a long summer off for England’s elite footballers.
With no World Cup or European championship on the menu, Manchester’s soccer stars will be jetting off on their holidays before pre-season training commences in mid-July.
One popular venue in the past has been that mecca of adult entertainment, Las Vegas. Don’t be too surprised if you hear tales of Manchester footballers fluttering away fortunes at the roulette table over the summer, or hoping to come up top trumps at blackjack.
“I think most players get bitten by the betting bug when they’re playing cards in the back of the bus during long coach trips,” said Joseph Attard, editor of casino news and information hub RightCasino.com.
“If you’re earning tens of thousands of pounds a week, you’re not going to want to play for a handful of pennies.”
England and United captain Rooney and ex-teammate Wes Brown were snapped prior to Euro 2012 in a Las Vegas casino, Rooney betting on the roll of the dice at a minimum stake craps table.
In May 2015 it was announced that ex-United superstar Cristiano Ronaldo had joined Team PokerStars as an ambassador. PokerStars is recognised as the most-populated online poker room on the web.
Another former United hot-shot – Teddy Sheringham – is a some-time competitive poker player. Teddy finished fifth in a 2010 European Poker Tour event, winning just under €100,000.
“Like people from all walks of life, lots of football players simply see gambling a bit of fun, even if the stakes are considerably higher,” added Attard.
“Most players seem content at leaving it at that, but for some this only acts as a stepping stone for bigger amounts and higher-stakes games.”
Footballers and gambling have always seemed to go together hand-in-hand. As long ago as 1915 three United players – Sandy Turnbull, Arthur Whalley and Enoch West – were banned from football for life for match-fixing.
A large number of bets had been placed on United winning 2-0 against Liverpool at odds of 7/1, and the trio allegedly colluded with four Liverpool players to make certain United ran out 2-0 winners.
Another ex-United player Keith Gillespie was an exciting winger who was part of the deal that brought Andrew Cole to Old Trafford, but his career never really reached the heights predicted.
Gambling eventually completely overwhelmed the Irishman, and in 2010 he was declared legally bankrupt in the Belfast High Court when he couldn’t find the funds to pay his tax bill.
Former Manchester City midfielder Dietmar Hamann was another player who eventually went public with his gambling problems, revealing that he once lost just shy of £300,000 in one day when betting on the amount of runs scored in a cricket match.
It’s not just modern superstars who seem prone to the addictive nature of gambling.
Ex-England full back Kenny Sansom ended up homeless because of his gambling and drinking and is receiving support from the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) , while ex-City midfield maestro Stan Bowles went from playing in the European Cup for Nottingham Forest to playing for Leyton Orient in the second division in three months because – allegedly – Brian Clough didn’t love Bowles’ love of betting shops.
Main image courtesy of Sports To Watch via YouTube, with thanks.