By 90Min
October 17, 2017

Former Arsenal striker John Hartson has revealed that his addiction to gambling nearly cost him his family.

The 42-year-old, now a pundit for BT Sport, also played for the likes of West Ham, West Brom, Luton Town and Celtic during his 15-year-career, retiring in 2007 after a loan spell at Norwich City.

The Welshman made millions over those 15 years, but his wife, Sarah, was left unable to pay the bills when he fell ill.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, Hartson revealed just how bad of an addiction he went through, insisting that his wife's decision to walk out on him after she reached her breaking point was what forced him to change.

"It’s when you start opening accounts with the betting firms that the roof starts falling in for people, like me, who are addicted gamblers," he declared.

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"It’s like Monopoly money then, because it’s all on account. You’re not holding the notes in your hand. You’re not seeing it go.

"I had accounts with seven or eight different companies in the end — StanJames, William Hill, Ladbrokes, Sunderlands and others.

"If one account runs down, you can use another. And the accounts mean you can hide what you’re doing very well. You can place a bet while you’re sitting down to dinner with your family or having a conversation with your wife.

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"In my case, that’s Sarah — the woman who kept things on the road for us in the most challenging times you could imagine eight years ago.

"I’d been diagnosed with cancer and while I was in hospital, in and out of consciousness after major brain surgery, she was the rock of our little family.

"She was pregnant, she looked after the children, she ran the household and then — despite everything she had done — I came out of hospital and carried on with the gambling.

"This was a man who earned millions. My wife couldn’t pay the bills.

"She’d had enough of my walking in from trips, ignoring her and the girls, going straight to the TV and turning on a cricket match, golf tournament or horse race I had £5,000 on.

"She made a decision to pack her bags and leave me. ‘I won’t put my girls through this,’ she said. I remember those words like it was yesterday.

"So the penny dropped then. I ended up at Gamblers Anonymous and it’s saved me. I’ve found other ways to protect myself, too."

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