Northern Ireland international Kyle Lafferty recently completed a frank, open and honest interview with BBC Scotland journalist Tom English about his ongoing battle with gambling addiction.

Lafferty said: “About halfway through my contract with Rangers I didn’t have anything better to do after training than go to the bookies or sit online.

“Betting on football had been banned and, if anything, things got worse. I’d bet on horses instead. I knew absolutely nothing about horses. I still don’t have a clue. I open the app on my phone and go by the colour of the jersey or the name. If it’s a winner, it’s a winner; if it’s not, it’s not, and I move on to the next one.

“It was every day on the horses and every single race. I was betting on anything; horses, dogs, virtual racing, roulette.

“There’s been times when I’ve lost big. I don’t want to go into figures, but I’ve lost on the roulette and then I’d be so close to getting it all back. I might be a grand or two from getting it back and I’d keep on going.

“I’d be up two or three grand and I’d end up losing the lot. It didn’t affect me at all because I knew I was about to get a move and there’d be a signing on fee or there was a bonus coming and it would make up for the money I lost.”

Lafferty talked about the amazing level of support that is receiving from his International Manager, Michael O’Neill, and also from his current club Hearts, and in particular from First Team Coach Austin McPhee.

“I know I’m going to take all sorts of grief off fans of other clubs. It’s a big thing to do what I’m doing.

“I know Hearts fans and my team-mates will be behind me, though. I’m not talking about this because I’m looking for sympathy.

“I could have got help in private and nobody would have known about it. I want to do it publicly because I want to be honest and if there are any other footballers who are addicted to gambling, then maybe me speaking about my battle might help them.”

Undoubtedly, it is a brave step for Kyle Lafferty to talk so openly about this subject. It has never been easier to get drawn into problem gambling, particularly with the number of online bookmakers and casinos available, plus casino machines in high street bookmakers.

Prior to becoming a Christian, gambling was a huge problem for me. I remember moving from £2 bets to £5 stakes, to £10, to £20, to £50, until £100 bets became the norm. I even remember placing a £300 bet on one occasion. No matter how much I won, I wanted to win more. I remember in one twelve month period accumulating gambling losses in the region of £15,000.

Thankfully, with the help of a loving Lord and Saviour, those days are long behind me, but I fully appreciate the dark place that Kyle Lafferty is currently in. Like all Norn Iron fans, and ALL true football fans, I wish Big Kyle all the best on his road to recovery from addiction.

The NHS estimate that there are 593,000 problem gamblers in Great Britain. If you require help with gambling addiction there are numerous sources of help available.

Here are some useful telephone numbers and websites:
Gamblers Anonymous NI     028 9024 9185               
(Gamblers Anonymous also run Gam-Anon which supports partners, relatives and close friends of problem gamblers)
Dunlewey Addiction Services                0800 886 725                 
Gamble Aware                                           0808 8020 133