Etherington: players gambled up to ?20,000 per game

  • by Staff Writer
  • Tuesday, 20th October 2015

Matthew Etherington has revealed the staggering extent that in-house gambling took upon both him and his fellow West Ham team mates during Alan Pardew's reign as manager.

Etherington, who spent six years at West Ham lost hundreds of thousands of pounds as a result of his gambling addiction during his playing career - much of which was forfeited during his spell at the Boleyn Ground.

And he revealed how the practise of holding 'card schools' during long away trips was eventually curtailed by the manager, once he discovered the extent of the problem.

"People were losing 15 or 20 grand in one trip, which, looking back at it now, was absolutely ridiculous," Etherington told the KUMB Podcast's Chris Scull and James Longman in this week's exclusive interview. "But it was what it was, it happened.

"I think 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.

"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."

Etherington also revealed that he was asked to play in an important relegation six-pointer against Charlton in February 2007 by Pardew's successor Alan Curbishley - despite having spent the week before in the Sporting Chance clinic, in a desperate attempt to get a grip on his addiction.

"It wasn't revealed in the press but I was in the clinic before that game," he recalled. "I hadn't trained, I met the lads on the Saturday and Curbs played me for some mad reason! I came off at half time as I didn't know where I was or what I was doing. I wasn't in right frame of mind to be playing but Curbs played me. We got beat 4-0.

"On the whole, West Ham were brilliant [to me]. But I'd been in the clinic the week leading up to that Charlton game and Curbs said "I'm going to play you" - and I was like, "ok". Looking back on it now, I probably shouldn't have played."

Now 34 and having retired as a professional, Etherington is taking his coaching badges with view to returning to the game in the near future. He also plans to release a book next summer which examines his addiction and the problems it caused.

"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."

* You may download or stream to the full 71 minute exclusive interview with Etherington here, or via iTunes.

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