Danger of gambling with a career

In addition to listening to expositions of theory and practice, the routine for young footballers once included an introduction to the thrill of betting. It was something that my father, himself an old pro, warned against. "Join the union," he sai d, "and stay away from the gamblers."

This, and the pecuniary evident in some of my team-mates ensured that it was a while before I succumbed to the temptation. Instead, I stuck with the more serious types - you may think it surprising, but every club has them - who seldom took a drink and were considered to be good family men. The metamorphosis was gradual.

Since a time that memory recreates as being one of comparative innocence, I have come across any number of sportsmen who are the poorer for failing to observe that bookmakers dress the best and work the least.

This a foible common to all walks of life, not least journalism, but there is often widespread shock when it results in sportsmen coming up against the sort of financial predicament that brought about Peter Shilton's suspension from his post as manager of Plymouth Argyle yesterday.

Some years ago, on an England tour of South America, we fell out. The details are unimportant, but as I recall, there was fault on both sides. The next day, Shilton generously offered a hand in friendship. The basis for reconciliation seemed to be that we both liked a bet, although his were considerably larger than mine.

On a personal note, that is not the basis of relationships formed with some footballers, but it helped cement them. The irresistible thing to say is that I find risk-takers appealing.

The former Rangers and Scotland half-back, Jim Baxter, could once be heard speaking with uncharacteristic reverence about his countryman, Dave Mackay, who many understandably believe to be the most influential player in Tottenham Hotspur's history.

What Baxter remarked on was Mackay's daring. "The Marquis [Mackay's nickname in the Scotland team] would bet you to death. Whatever you attempted in training, or just hanging around the place, he'd bet himself to do better."

The great Celtic manager, Jock Stein, never took a drink in his sadly foreshortened life, but on and off the field, gambling came naturally to him. one manager had the "blower" - a method by which racecourse commentaries were relayed to betting shops - connected to his office.

A coach of considerable distinction was "warned off" after failing to settle a monumental bet. Two players were involved in an outrageous scam that involved large on-course betting by an Indian stallholder plucked from Petticoat Lane and passed off as a prince.

Going back a bit in time, a telephone was removed from the home dressing-room at Arsenal, following the discovery that bets on horses were being placed immediately before the kick-off.

When one of the club's finest players and later captain, the Scottish international, Jimmy Logie, went missing just 20 minutes before the 1950 FA Cup final against Liverpool, it was discovered that he had crept out to learn the result of a dog race.

The marvellous Australian all-rounder, Keith Miller, was more likely to consult the racing calendar than the tour itinerary. When bowling against England at Lords, information on a bet reached Miller by signal from the players' balcony.

"Gather it lost," Len Hutton said sardonically, after a ferocious bumper had whistled past his head. "Too bloody right it did," Miller replied.

In the years of sad decline, when he was grateful to be employed as a casino "greeter" at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, it was put to Joe Louis that he would have grown exceedingly rich as a heavyweight in the modern era. "Just bigger bets," he said phi l osophically. "Just bigger bets."

From experience, there are any number of people in sport who would find it easier to fill in their tax returns than make out a betting slip. The remainder have my sympathy.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

£25,000 - £30,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a fantastic opportunity...

Neil Pavier: Commercial Analyst

£50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...

Loren Hughes: Financial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Loren Hughes: Are you looking for a new opportunity that wi...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Professional Services Firm - Oxford

£21000 - £24000 per annum + 21 days holidays: Ashdown Group: Technical Support...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor