Footballers lose the shirt off their backs… to ex-wives, bookies and the Inland Revenue

Footballers lose the shirt off their backs… to ex-wives, bookies and the Inland Revenue
David James

David James

I confess I thought David James was meant to be one of the clever ones. Footballers that is. Wasn’t he supposed to be brainy? I’ve always found him to be a more thoughtful and intelligent interviewee than the average footballer.

But even David James can lose a fortune acquired from playing the game he loved. And while the ex-wife will have played a big part in his financial downfall (as they usually do!), there must be more to him going bankrupt than a divorce. Ah yes, of course, that other she-devil was involved. HM Customs and Excise. The taxman cometh!

If you want to save David James from the Inland Revenue you can bid for the shirt off his back here

It seems declaring yourself bankrupt is quite the thing these days. De rigueur indeed. It’s never been easier to declare yourself bankrupt. It’s not only footballers doing it. Single mothers, bus drivers, shop owners, lawyers… they’re all choosing the path of least resistance. Owe lots of people some money? Then go declare yourself bust. After a period of not being able to take out yet more credit, your slate of debt will be wiped clean. And you can start all over again!

Now footballers are at it. Not the players of yesteryear who earned bugger all and depend on the state pension. Not those players of the 60’s or 70’s who hobble to the post office, their mobility impaired due to injuries they picked up as players. Injuries treated using little more than a bucket and sponge.

Today some of those who lived on millionaires’ row are now selling their medals and shirts to make ends meet. How did it come to this?

Keith Gillespie lost £62.000 in two days

Keith Gillespie lost £62.000 in two days

In the case of former Manchester United and Newcastle United winger Keith Gillespie it was irresponsible gambling that saw him lose it all. Like the man who represented him at the PFA (the highest paid Union leader in the country, Gordon Taylor); Gillespie bet on anything with a pulse. He and Taylor would bet on two flies crawling up a window.

The bookies didn’t open their shop especially for Gillespie, as they did for Gordon Taylor, but the end result was the same. Gambling on sport is fine just so long as you are responsible about it. Gordon Taylor, responsible for the welfare of thousands of footballers, was not. He made the mistake of many punters, he bet on just about any sport that was taking place anywhere in the world. Events he knew nothing about. He just had to bet. Mind you, at least he had a salary large enough to throw at the wall.

Keith Gillespie was a player who straddled the pre and post Sky era. He earned well but was not in the same financial league as the foreign mercenaries who are the so called stars of the Premier League today. Having said that, by his own admittance, he blew over 7 million pounds. Yes, you read that correctly. 7 million!

Gillespie told Jim White one year ago: “It’s my fault. I guess I’m just an addictive personality. I would have bets on every race going, in the bookies I’d have slips for two horse races and a dog race all going off at once. I couldn’t follow what was happening. You’re always chasing the next winner.”

Big mistake Keith. Never chase. And always concentrate on what you are betting on.

I can recall when people spoke of the Northern Ireland winger as the “next George Best.” Always a ridiculous title to live up to, of course. But, before Ryan Giggs became the man on the wing at Old Trafford, Gillespie was the bright hope.

He told White: “Without a doubt I was a stupid gambler. I had a good education and was brought up well. Alex Ferguson had spies everywhere in Manchester, he knew I was in the bookies. I was the runner for the first team’s syndicate. It was seen as normal. There are heavy gamblers in every dressing room. And loads come really unstuck.”

Gillespie admits that during his time playing for Kevin Keegan at Newcastle he once lost £62.000 in two days! How stupid can one man be?

He said: “As a footballer, you get everything done for you. Your agent sorts out the bills, the club does this and that, so when a letter came in, I’d put it to the side. At Sheffield United I realised I had a real problem. Online betting had come in which was a nightmare for me. I was staking over £100.000 in a day.”

Gillespie was declared bankrupt in 2010. Bad investments were also to blame. He’s not alone in that regard. I’ve seen and heard of footballers being parted from their income by sharks, bullshitters and con men. Footballers are not good at choosing their friends.

Gillespie leaves court a bankrupt

Gillespie leaves court

Does Gillespie have advice for the young stars of today: “Going out and playing 90 minutes was a release for me. What I would say to young ones starting out in the game is this: get a hobby. It was the boredom that got me.”

I doubt there will be much sympathy for the likes of Gillespie, David James or the next footballer to blow it all. Portsmouth fans will be quick to tell you that James cost their club a fortune. Some say his salary brought Pompey to the brink of extinction.

You don’t have to be a footballer to blow vast riches. You don’t even have to be famous. Lots of people live beyond their means. But footballers think their career will never end. They spend, spend and spend on flash cars and beautiful women. They buy homes with more bedrooms and bathrooms than they can count. They have a car for each day of the week. Not all footballers, of course. Some do possess brain cells and invest wisely.

Mark Hughes, a colleague of Gillespie’s at Old Trafford, doesn’t need to manage these days. He chooses to. While others were spending their cash at the bookies, Hughes was investing in property in the north-west. He and his family will always be secure courtesy of his wise handling of money. While being sacked as a manager will always dent his pride, ‘Sparky’ Hughes will not need to sign on the dole.

There is more help and advice for young players today than ever before. Many will not listen to that advice. But until we educate all the young how to deal with finances, at school and from an early age, there will always be young men and women who end up bankrupt.

If a man as seemingly bright as David James can blow it all, anyone can.



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