As a young footballer, I loved the thrill of gambling. After getting myself into thousands of pounds of debt, the thought of betting large sums of money made me feel physically sick.
The early Nineties were an exciting time for me both on and off the pitch. I had broken into the Norwich City team during one of the greatest periods in the club’s history and was starting to make a name for myself.
I was not long out of school, living on my own and being paid £500 a week having never had much money before.
After breaking into the Canaries side in early Nineties, I was starting to make a name for myself
After training, a few of us would spend whole afternoons at the bookmakers. Then, we would go back to one of our houses and bet on the dogs on Teletext.
More often than not, we’d spend the evening at Kings Casino in Great Yarmouth. The casino made a real fuss of us — they would serve us lobster free of charge.
It was not just the gambling that gave me a buzz. There was an adrenaline rush that came with the whole experience.
The problem with betting all the time is that eventually you will come a cropper. I got myself into debt and I panicked.
I went to my parents. They told me in no uncertain terms that I was chucking my money away and that I should be ashamed of myself.
During my time at Norwich, I got into thousands of pounds of debt and went to parents for help
My mother’s side of the family worked in the fish markets in Lowestoft and my dad’s mum picked mushrooms for a living. I was made to understand very quickly the importance of money. I felt guilty.
Mum forced me into an agreement. She would pay off the debts but would take control of my spending.
At the age of 19 or 20, I found myself in the bizarre situation where I was scoring goals in the Premier League and being limited to £10-a-day spending money by my mum.
Afterwards, I never liked the feeling the thought of gambling gave me. When I moved to Blackburn, I was being paid very good money. To make the winnings worthwhile it would mean betting huge sums of money and that was something I was not prepared to do.
I admire my former team-mate John Hartson for opening up about his gambling addiction
Of course, other players were. Three-card brag was played on the coach at Blackburn, and, although it never got out of hand, at one stage it was £200 a hand to play blind.
Then, you could only withdraw £250 a time from a cashpoint. That struck me as too much money to spend on a hand of cards.
Those early days at Norwich were great fun but gambling can have a terrible effect on players. I admire my former Celtic team-mate John Hartson for opening up about his gambling addiction.
I was very fortunate that I had strong parents who made me come to my senses.