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How Not to be a Football Millionaire: Keith Gillespie
Release date: 10th December, 2013
Publisher: Trinity Mirror Sport
Our Price: £8.49
You Save: £8.5 (50%)
EVERY aspiring young professional footballer should acquaint himself with the cautionary tale of Keith Gillespie – a man plagued by gambling as if it was crack cocaine.
He was a handsome, dashing right-winger who should have had, if not it all, so much more.
How much money did he blow living life in the fast lane with his demons? One afternoon he sat down with his agent and came to the eye-watering conclusion: £7,215,875.
The Ulsterman’s autobiography overflows with juicy tales. Excess all areas – booze-ups and punch-ups, blood and guts.
A little poignancy too, tucked away on the final page under the heading Individual Honours, where there is painfully little of consequence. The highlight? The 75 minutes he contributed towards Blackburn winning the League Cup final against Tottenham in 2002.
Although he represented Northern Ireland on 86 occasions, the game’s glittering prizes eluded Gillespie. While his pals ‘Becks, Scholesy, Giggsy, Nicky and Gaz‘ were central to Manchester United’s historic treble in 1999 and won medals by the bucketload, he was more often left empty-handed after discarding another failed betting slip.
Gillespie got an adrenaline rush from the “hum of activity, the maze of screens” the very first time he walked into a betting shop as a 16-year-old United apprentice earning £46 a week.
Senior figures at the club – including Alex Ferguson – were happy to deploy him as a bookies runner and the prison officer’s son from Larne was buzzing, in return, when the manager tucked a £50 note in his top pocket as a tip following a successful coup.
Ferguson sold him to Newcastle where his wages escalated and his addiction went through the roof. One Black Friday saw him squander £62,000.
The bad luck was not restricted to gambling. A ruptured abdomen cost him his place in Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle team which infamously blew a huge lead in the Premier League in 1996 and saw United win the title instead.
Gillespie emerges with credit from what could have been a sympathy-seeking sob story.
Yet, turning 39 this winter, what he makes of the future following a career spanning 11 clubs is anyone’s guess – his own included.
Gillespie remains at a loss to explain ”how a Premier League footballer, who considers himself to be a smart guy... chose the wrong friends, failed in two marriages and wound up in a mental health assessment centre, looking for solutions from a strange man in a white jacket.”
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