London (AFP) – Scott Davies stood in his kitchen and held a knife to his chest as he contemplated the wreckage of his football career due to an obsession with gambling.
Now he makes a career out of warning other players of the perils of betting.
The 31-year-old former Ireland under-21 international, who describes himself as a “pathological gambler”, has found salvation and a vocation working for EPIC Risk Management, touring English Football League clubs.
EPIC chief executive Paul Buck was jailed in 2012 after stealing more than £400,000 ($525,000, ) from a client at the bank he worked for to help pay his gambling debts.
Davies, who estimates in seven years he lost £300,000, including £60,000 he borrowed from his parents, told AFP he began playing poker when he went on loan to Aldershot from Reading aged 19 as he wanted to feel part of the group.
“Obviously you put three things together — time, money and opportunity. It is a recipe for disaster,” he said after appearing on a panel at the Betting on Football conference at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge ground this week.
“When I did have the time I would not use it wisely. The money, I wasted it and any opportunity I had to gamble I gambled.”
He said the lies that addicts tell eventually prove costly, as happened with him at Reading, where he was playing under then-manager Brendan Rodgers, now boss at Leicester City.
All seemed rosy after the midfielder broke into the first team and played the first four league games of the 2009/10 campaign, and he somehow hid his addiction from Rodgers.
“Brendan Rodgers said ‘You are younger than the other players in the first team so I think you should stay later and do extra training’,” said Davies.
“I could not do that as I had a date with the roulette machine or at the bookmakers for horse racing so I shot out of training at the earliest opportunity.
“It cost me my place as he (Rodgers) took me aside and told me I was dropped after I lied to him about my whereabouts, saying I had a dentist’s appointment. Instead I went to the bookies.
“I never played another game for Reading and my career spiralled downhill.”
– ‘The devil had taken me over’ –
Davies said the turning point came on another foray to a bookmaker, when saw his mother standing at the door.
“She broke down in the middle of the street and said ‘You need to stop gambling. You are either going to die or break up (your parents’) marriage’,” he said.
“I thought ‘I am not going to be the reason for breaking up their marriage’. That was my go-to reference.
“My self-worth was the lowest of the low and I went back that night and held a knife to my chest…. That story I tell the players as it hits home.”
Davies, who credits his mother for making the call to the rehabilitation clinic that kickstarted his process of recovery, said the betting addiction was as though someone had taken possession of his body.
“It is like I had a foreigner in my body,” said Davies, who would bet on Hungarian handball in the early hours of the morning to keep himself stimulated.
“I am now a completely different person to what I was back then. It was almost like the devil had taken me over and forced me to gamble.”
Davies, who has a degree in broadcasting and professional writing, regrets wasted opportunities after a career spent playing sporadically at lower-level clubs but said he gets a buzz out of public speaking.
“Some of my mates are playing in the Premier League” he said ruefully.
But he said dozens of first-team players have been in contact after he had made visits to clubs.
“They will ring when they feel the time is right, when they hit rock bottom.”
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