O'Connor drug arrest the latest dip in a once promising career
Detaining of three players on Class A charges delivers another blow to authorities in a troubled season
Wednesday 18 May 2011
A difficult season in Scotland suffered another setback yesterday when it emerged that three players, including the international striker Garry O'Connor, had been detained by police on suspicion of possessing Class A drugs.
O'Connor, who is currently without a club after being released by Barnsley last month, was stopped by police in the early hours of Saturday morning in Edinburgh's Hope Street. The 28-year-old was arrested for possessing cocaine but released without charge pending further inquires.
Meanwhile, also in Edinburgh, two Hearts players, Ian Black and Robert Ogleby, were arrested early on Sunday after allegedly being caught with a Class A drug in the toilets of the Lava & Ignite nightclub. A spokeswoman for Lothian and Borders Police said: "We had two people detained, both were cautioned and charged."
O'Connor's arrest is the latest downturn in a promising career that once saw the forward sign for Premier League Birmingham City for £2.7m. His three years at St Andrew's were blighted by injury and O'Connor, who has 16 Scotland caps, the last coming in September 2009, joined Barnsley on loan last September. However, four goals in 22 games resulted in him being let go by the Championship club.
In recent weeks he has been training with Celtic, though an incident when his Ferrari Spyder F1 430 was found abandoned after crashing into a bridge at Tranent, East Lothian, raised eyebrows that a club which had suffered a run of adverse publicity should wish to run the risk of more bad headlines.
O'Connor, who started his career with Hibernian and secured a lucrative move to Lokomotiv Moscow in 2006, is no stranger to the perils of drugs. In 2006 he walked out of the Scotland squad just before a European qualifier against Ukraine and later said it was because his elder sister Kerry, a recovering drug addict, had tried to commit suicide.
On winning his way back into the Scotland squad, O'Connor claimed that he was committed to turning over a new leaf after selling his car collection – which included a Hummer – and spending £20,000 on removing tattoos from his neck.
"I had too much too young and there wasn't anybody around to help me deal with problems like there is now," he said in 2009. "I was thrown into the deep end and left to fend for myself. The money turns your head when you are a youngster and I think it changes everybody.
"I'm proud that I've learnt my lesson and I'm certainly not flash any more. There will be no more Ferraris – it's just a Range Rover for me. The tattoos went because they sent out the wrong message."
The Scottish domestic game will be glad to see the back of 2010-11 when Celtic take on Motherwell in the Scottish Cup final at Hampden on Saturday. A referees' strike in the autumn, March's touchline clash between Celtic manager Neil Lennon and the Rangers assistant Ally McCoist, and the death threats received by Lennon that culminated in a number of parcel bombs addressed to him and a number of Celtic figures being intercepted in the post have frayed nerves at the Scottish Football Association and led to high-profile interventions from both the police and Scottish government.
Only last week Lennon was attacked on the touchline at Tynecastle by a Hearts supporter during Celtic's 3-0 win. However, this weekend's drug arrests threaten to ensure the controversy north of the border drags on well into the summer.
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