When I was first in England you were allowed to bet on football, but I was never a huge fan of it. I preferred the horses.
When I moved to Middlesbrough, you were not allowed to bet on the league/competition you were playing in. You could not bet on the FA Cup, or the League Cup, or the Championship – where we were at the time. But you could bet on the Premier League, for example, and you could bet on games in Scotland.
And we did.
It was never betting against your team or betting on your team. The bus would leave about 2pm if you had a game, say, in London. We’d finish training sharp on Friday – about 11.45am.
Then you’d have a shower, get changed and nip to the bookies and put a couple of lines on. I’ve never had an online account.
We’d drive into Darlington – the training ground was on the outskirts. Right next to the Darlington FC stadium there was a bakery, a chippy and a bookies.
Without being on first name terms with the woman behind the counter, we were there often with our Middlesbrough tracksuits on. It was hard not to know who we were.
But I was lucky in that I always bet within my means. I always bet what I could afford. I think when it gets to betting what you can’t afford it becomes a problem and a horrible addiction.
I have seen it affect players’ lives, sitting in the corner of the changing room always on their phones. I have played with loads of players where that’s been a problem.
The first one who comes to mind is Grant Brebner, who’s spoken about his problems himself.
I was a young boy coming through at Hibs and looked up to Grant, who was a really good player. He was a talisman of the team and he was great with the young boys. He probably had a bad reputation in respect of being a gambler and potentially a bad influence. But he was far from that. He was a terrific boy. But sadly he had an addiction.
I could see it affect him on the pitch. He was in deep, owed the wrong people money. I was mostly a “doing it for fun” gambler. I did have some serious big bets. Stupid bets, really, when I look back. When we had a card school at Rangers the money on the table could be excessive – but it was always what the boys could afford.
It’s not every single player who wants to waste all his money in the bookies. Yes, if you are betting on your team to lose it is totally wrong but I don’t see the problem betting on a game you have no connection with.
I didn’t know much about the rules to be honest. I do think it’s right there is no grey area now – you can’t bet on football full stop. But Joey Barton’s 18-month ban seems completely over the top.