How NOT to be a Football Millionaire

By: Keith Gillespie

So, the calculations took a while. Eventually, we reached a club by club consensus.

It went like this...

Manchester United £60,000

Newcastle United £1,102,000 [+£250,000 in bonuses]

Blackburn Rovers £3,510,000 [+£400,000 in bonuses]

Leicester City £1,050,000 [+£40,000 in bonuses]

Sheffield United £670,000 [+£75,000 in bonuses]

Bradford City £15,000

Glentoran £43,875

Total £7,215,875

A substantial amount of cash, eh? And that’s only a conservative sketch of the incomings. It doesn’t include boot deals, promotional appearances, Northern Ireland match fees, libel settlements, and all the other elements that come with the territory.

Not that the libel settlements could be classified as a perk of the trade. The £150,000 or so I’ve made from that avenue does not compensate for the loss of earnings from the negative publicity, particularly the episode in La Manga that etched a black mark next to my name. Without the media driven set-up that unjustly landed me in prison – we’ll deal with the details later – my total earnings might have reached the £10 million mark although, as my friends point out, I’d have probably blown the extra £2 million anyway.

I always tended to spend what I had in my possession. My relationship towards money probably mirrored my attitude towards life when the going was good. Impulsive, reckless, unthinking. When it came to real responsibilities, I always veered towards the ‘why do today what you can do tomorrow’ school of thought. The brain switched off.

With cash, there was no tomorrow. All that mattered was having enough for the next race, the next round, the next taxi home with the girl I just met ten minutes ago.

Gambling emptied my pockets, decimated the short-term cashflow. Truly, I haven’t a notion how much I squandered. There’s no way I can put a figure on it. Between all the lost afternoons in the bookies, the ill-advised phone bets, and the multitude of opened and closed accounts, there’s no coherent paper trail to reach a definite conclusion.

I didn’t gamble away all of my money, however. If only it was that straightforward. While I had an unbelievable ability to back the wrong horse, that poor judgement extended from the racetrack to the decisions I made in day-to-day life.

My savings were directed towards people that I shouldn’t have trusted. It was too late when I realised I’d done my money. My race was run. The taxman caught up far too easily.

This is my 2013. It’s leaving home in Bangor, County Down, on the north-east coast of Northern Ireland, at lunchtime, and embarking on a 149-kilometre journey to my place of work. Longford Town is a semi-professional club in the midlands of the Republic of Ireland, vying for promotion from the second tier, the graveyard of Irish football. A good home gate is 500 supporters, although our 4,000 all-seater stadium is above average for our division, a reminder of better times at the turn of the century when they won a few trophies.

I knew nothing of their existence when Phil mentioned them as I sought to rebuild after bankruptcy. Now, my football life revolves around this small, community club.

The straightforward route from Bangor to the City Calling Stadium takes me down a variety of country roads. Sometimes, I take the long way around to get some extra time on the motorway but, usually, I negotiate my way through the towns of Armagh, Monaghan and Cavan until I reach the N55 at Granard, which brings me into the county of Longford, just 30 minutes away from my destination. I arrive at the ground over two hours before kick-off, and head straight for the dressing room to change. At this level, we don’t have the budget to gather in a hotel for a pre-match meal before a home game. I’m expected to have eaten earlier in the day. Afterwards, a local pizza company might dispatch some of their produce to the ground, and I grab a slice before throwing the gearbag into the back seat, and starting on the return journey through the night.

I break my trips by making phone calls. On the way down, I’ll call my daughters, Madison and Lexie, who live in England with their mother. Madison, the eldest, is five and quick as a flash.

“Where are you?” I ask.

“But you know where I am, Daddy, I’m talking to you,” she’ll say.

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