I’VE followed the Kyle Lafferty story over the past few days after he admitted he has an addiction to gambling.
That may sound like a straightforward thing to own up to, but I’d imagine it took a helluva lot of courage.
So the lad should be congratulated for holding his hands up and admitting he needs help to conquer his demons. To do that shows an amazing amount of strength, not weakness.
It must have been an amazing sense of relief for him to get it into the open and now get on with beating this problem he faces.
Hopefully, in time, by acknowledging he has a serious issue to tackle, he will receive the support and guidance on a daily basis that he clearly needs from those at Heart of Midlothian Football Club and also the experts he will see.
Kyle must try to do what is best for himself and to also make life easier for those around him.
He’ll want to reassure his wife, Vanessa, and his family that he is serious about completely walking away from his addiction and seeking the necessary help.
He has given media interviews in the past week and there appears to be a real determination on his part to put all this behind him.
He has admitted he has gambled away incredible amounts of money. That must put a tremendous strain on your everyday life.
Listen, it’s all well and good for me to say that Kyle should have set aside a set amount every week that he was able to afford and bet that.
But it’s clearly not that easy for addictive gamblers to do, otherwise they would be disciplined and controlled in the way they gambled.
So I do have a certain amount of sympathy for him – and others in any walk of life with this addiction.
It is, in a way, an illness but it’s not obvious to the naked eye. It’s not like you have broken an arm and you are in a plaster cast.
Sure, at certain points, you must be breaking inside. But it can’t be treated unless you want to own up to it.
Of course, Kyle is not the first footballer, or sportsperson, to own up to having an addiction to gambling.
Some of the amounts of money players have owned up to gambling away have been absolutely mind-boggling.
From my point of view, thankfully, I’ve never really been a gambler.
As a footballer, when I was a teenager, then into my early 20s, then in the latter stages of my career and into management, I never had strong urges to gamble.
I’d maybe bet on a horse here and there when I had a day at the races, but I’d see it as a social thing.
And, more importantly, I regarded my bet being quite simply a donation to the bookmaker as I never expected to win.
Very rarely, I’d maybe put a football coupon on. But if I was ever fortunate to win, it would never amount to much because my stake would never be big in the first place.
When I was a kid, I remember the fella would come to the house on a Thursday night and my dad would hand over his coupon after picking 10 draws that weekend, or whatever.
But, again, I was never sucked into that.
Now, of course, gambling is readily available, 24 hours a day, and if you are that way inclined, then you would need to be really strong-willed to avoid it.
When I was a player 40 years ago, we had plenty of spare time on our hands after training and some would go to the bookmakers or a snooker hall.
It could very easily become a way of life and create different problems.
Back then, you were allowed to gamble on games of football.
It’s different nowadays and, to be honest, I think the rules on gambling are too strict.
I don’t see too much of a problem if a player bets on the football, as long as it’s not the game he is involved in.
I think it may well be calling into question the integrity of people to suggest otherwise.
However, I do respect we need to keep a close eye on things and protect people from themselves.
In the short, medium and long term, we need to watch out for people and get them help when they need it.
The footballing world can be very close-knit when it needs to be, and I’m sure Kyle will already have received a tremendous amount of support from people.
He is a talented footballer and has so much going for him at club level and with Northern Ireland.
We must all wish him well in his ongoing fight against his addiction to gambling.
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