EX-MANCHESTER United star Keith Gillespie, 43, went off the rails in the 1990s and lived a life filled with gambling, fighting, sex and drinking thanks to his footballer salary.
Keith’s life came crashing down in 2010 when he eventually declared himself bankrupt – so as someone who’s been in plenty of trouble, he has some sage advice for Wayne Rooney after his latest booze-fuelled bender in the US.
Here, he warns the father-of-four to wise-up before it’s too late…
‘Alan Shearer knocked me out cold’
“Footballers such as me and Wayne Rooney, tend to act before they think. We do what we want and think of the consequences afterwards.
I know more than most how tempting it can be to misbehave when you are earning big money and have everything offered to you on a plate.
Like Wayne, we had some wild nights out and there was lots of alcohol involved.
One night in 1998 I got into a drunken fight in Dublin with Alan Shearer and he knocked me out cold.
As I fell, I hit my head on a plant pot – although we went on to laugh about it the next day.
Another night I went back with a woman to her house, only to be caught by her irate boyfriend.
There was a knock on the front door at 2am from him so I went to hide in the spare room and pretended to be asleep on a bunk bed.
He wasn’t too happy when he discovered me in there and to make it worse I realised that the room was covered in Newcastle United posters – including one with me on.
He started to throw punches at me, so I had to run away and out of the house.
‘Women are a danger for married footballers’
Wayne will have found that attention from women comes easily to him.
People turn around in bars to see you and girls will fall at your feet – it’s one of the perks of the job, which is fine if you’re single.
But women are a danger for married footballers and that’s something that every footballer knows.
You need to know how to handle the attention in the right way.
But it’s now time that Wayne put his wife and kids first because they are the ones that will inevitably have to pick up the pieces.
Only Wayne knows what the current situation is with Coleen and his family, but he needs to realise that he can’t really get away with 10-hour booze benders when he’s expected to come home and be a husband and father.
He needs to realise what he is putting his family through as they are the ones that really matter.
‘Wayne has made some mistakes – but he’s under intense scrutiny’
Like me, Wayne was very young when he was signed as an Everton player – just 16 – and the pressure was immediately on him.
But I lost everything and it’s time he stepped up before he does the same.
Wayne has made some mistakes recently in his personal life and in the past there’s been alleged prostitutes and threesomes – he’s under the same intense scrutiny that I was.
He is said to be in hot water with wife Coleen at the moment after a ten-hour drinking session with barmaid Vicki Rosiek, knocking back shots together until 2.30am earlier this month.
While there is no suggestion that Wayne has been unfaithful to Coleen, this follows on from an arrest for public intoxication in Virginia in January, and an arrest for drink driving in Cheshire back in September 2017.
I’m not privy to how much he drinks, but he has had several publicised incidents with booze in the last few months.
If the common denominator is booze, then Wayne needs to address that.
Keith wasted millions due to a crippling gambling problem[/caption]
‘I kept my problems secret from my family’
Gambling was my biggest vice, a secret I kept from my wife, Vicky, but one day she opened a bank statement and was shocked by what she saw.
This was just after my first daughter was born, and Vicky was extremely angry. I later went on to file for bankruptcy. I had a wife and three kids, so like Wayne, I had many responsibilities.
That was my absolute rock bottom point.
It was front page headlines and allowing it to happen is my biggest regret.
After that, Vicky and I went on to split up in 2014 and divorced a few years later.
The breakup wasn’t anything to do with my gambling issues.
She is English and when we moved to Northern Ireland we started to grow apart.
She was always incredibly supportive to me in regards to my gambling issues but who knows whether Coleen will be the same pillar of support for Wayne?
While it was also a relief to be able to start afresh, I had to sign on for Job Seeker’s Allowance when I was 35.
It was very surreal being in the dole office in Bangor after playing and partying with the likes of Shearer and Les Ferdinand.
I eventually managed to make a career from after-dinner speaking – after everything that I’ve been through, there’s lots I can advise people on.
My football career was finished and I was suffering with depression.
While I can’t put an exact figure on how much I lost gambling, it would have cost me millions and I hope Wayne never goes down this path.
‘I wasted millions at the bookies’
For a kid from Northern Ireland, it doesn’t get much bigger than singing for Manchester United as a teenager.
The first time that I gambled I was only 16 or 17 and went with another player from Manchester United who asked if I fancied visiting the bookies.
By the time I was 19 I was playing for Newcastle United and everything looked golden but behind the scenes, I was living alone in a hotel room in a strange city and when I got bored I would head out and gamble to entertain myself.
Keith declared himself bankrupt in 2010 after years of betting[/caption]
I have an addictive personality and that was me hooked straight away, putting bets on the horses and the dogs.
I got a buzz from it instantly – it’s a huge adrenaline rush when you win a bet.
When I finished training at midday each day, I would go and gamble.
At the time I didn’t have a wife and kids to head to like the rest of the players on the team.
Betting would go on to become an addiction that would ruin my life and cost me millions.
I was never one for casinos, I preferred the bookies, but it was when telephone betting came in that things got really out of hand.
‘I lost £47k in one day’
One of the worst moments of my life was when I lost £47,000 in one day, back in 1995, which is a large amount of money now, but was worth even more back then. But I carried on gambling, which is my biggest regret.
One of the traps of being a footballer is that you have a good wage coming in each week, so if I lost a lot of money, I’d always have another huge pay cheque coming my way.
Another horrifying headline followed in 1996 when I squandered £62,000 on betting in two days but I still wouldn’t learn my lesson and I carried on.
Wayne was seen pacing the grounds of his US home just before the news broke of his latest boozy bender[/caption]
It may have been fun at the time but things came to a head for me in 2010 when I had to declare myself bankrupt.
I’d earned £7.3million during my career but was unable to stop betting.
Up until that point I had kept my troubles a secret from my mum and dad, who lived in Northern Ireland.
‘It’s not too late for Wayne’
I’ve played football against Wayne and he is a good guy on the pitch.
What he needs to remember is that he isn’t any Joe Bloggs on the street. He is globally famous for being an England captain and their record goal scorer.
Footballers are scrutinised for their partying, though I don’t always agree that what they are doing is wrong.
Keith, top right, pictured with David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt[/caption]
If they head out drinking on a Saturday night to celebrate a victory, they’re only doing what the rest of the country is doing – the difference is that they are being watched by the nation.
Players are human beings like everyone else and they need to live their lives, but they also need to be aware of their fame.
‘Wayne should be wary of hangers-on’
When I was at Newcastle it was like living in a goldfish bowl. People wanted to be seen with me – it’s the same for every footballer.
I had to be wary of hangers-on and Wayne should be too. People will want to hang out with him because he is rich and famous.
Wayne may also be missing home now that he is based in the US and that will make things even more difficult for him.
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But in terms of what I’ve seen of his football, moving to Washington DC has had a great impact on him. He is playing brilliantly.
The US is an amazing place and he will have a great lifestyle out there, but Wayne needs to be aware that he will be more visible than ever in the States, especially if he is out drinking.
It’s time to make some changes, and things certainly aren’t too late for Wayne – if he’s able to make the right choices for the future.”