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Wayne Rooney has detailed for the first time how his struggles with gambling affected the peak early years of his career with Manchester United and England.
The 34-year-old who racked up a £700,000 debt by the age of 20 – described how he was “sucked in” by early betting successes, but he has since quit gambling altogether, having “learned from my mistakes”.
He agreed with associates to speak out about his personal turmoil after facing criticism over Derby County’s decision to give him the number 32 shirt in association with a betting sponsor.
Rooney, who set up a goal in his first appearance as player-coach for the Rams on Thursday, blamed a mix of boredom and unlimited telephone gambling on his habit. “When you are losing money it will affect you,” he said of the impact on his game.
Speaking on a video for 32Red’s Stay In Control gambling awareness campaign, Rooney said he now has a responsibility as an older player to help younger teammates handle the pressures of coming into money early in life.
“I was a young lad who’d just come into a lot of money,” said the former England captain, who once earned £300,0000 a week at United. “For an away game with Manchester United you stay in a hotel – and with England you’re in a hotel for seven to ten days. You get bored and do things to fill the time. At that time gambling was one of them. It was easy to place bets by phone. It didn’t feel like real money. It wasn’t like I had to go into a bookies and put bets where there are limits.
“Before you know it you’ve lost a good bit and you don’t realise the amount you’re putting on at the time. I won at the start and thought it was easy money. It sucks you in a bit more and I ended up losing, ended up down.”
In August, England’s record goalscorer had faced criticism from a Church of England bishop, the sports minister and a healthcare professionals after it was disclosed he would wear the 32 shirt in association with online casino 32Red. However, his wages are being paid by the club, rather than the gambling firm, and the Football Association ruled this week that his debut wearing the number 32 shirt does not breach its rules and regulations.
Rooney, who had previously cited his issues with gambling in his autobiography, is understood to have agreed with associates that he needed to make his position on gambling clear. In the video, he explains how he previously resorted to “chasing my bets trying to win my money back”. “You’re there to play for your country or club and when you’re losing money the way I was then it will affect you,” he said. “Thankfully I managed to pay up what I lost and I didn’t gamble again. I’ve learned from my mistakes. If you carry on gambling, you lose more. That’s when you can get sucked into a bad situation.”
In his first match in the Championship since his switch from MLS side DC United, Rooney created the first goal and played a big part in the winner as Derby beat Barnsley 2-1. He said it “felt good” to be back. “I have had a lot of training and hard sessions. It is frustrating to do that as a player but they have helped me through the night,” he said. “It was different in the last few weeks as I was in and around the team and being on the bench and helping them prepare but you can’t beat that buzz of being out there. I love being on the pitch, whether that is as No 10 or No 9. The only one I don’t want is wide right as I don’t have the pace any more.