A large section of England’s National Football Team in the early 2000s dealt with various levels of gambling addiction, if recent reports are to be believed. Kieron Dyer recently opened up about his time with the squad and discussed tales of rampant gambling which speak to the excesses of the team in general.

Though Dyer does not name many names, he spoke about a squad of young rich men with a lot of idle time and a lot of pressure to perform.

Dyer said, Gambling is an issue in football. Players get bored. Players have too much disposable income.”

Dyer, who made nearly 100 appearances for the National Football Team and over 200 appearances for Newcastle, said, “We are problem gamblers waiting to happen.”

Under Control: The Kevin Keegan Era

Gambling for the squad during Kevin Keegan’s reign was said to be under control. Though the squad was known to gamble on other sports, it was pretty tame. According to Dyer himself, the state of the team was sedate, compared to future behavior.

Alan Shearer and Gareth Southgate were part of card school within in the squad, but did not play for money. Other players that were in other games played with real money, but kept sums small by pro athlete standards.

According to Kieron Dyer, the players bet a few hundred here, a few hundred there – but it was nothing excessive.

Sven Goran Eriksson Era

In 2001, when Sven Goran Eriksson took over the team, things to escalate. Even at that point, gambling was still under control. According to Dyer, the usual betting squad consisted of himself, Michael Owen, Teddy Sheringham, David James, Wayne Bridge, and sometimes Robbie Fowler.

Dyer said, “We’re talking about a maximum of a couple of grand in a hand. That sounds pretty excessive but, given the wages we were on, that was not out of control and nothing was going to make us panic.”

Unluckiest Card Player Ever

Dyer talked about one of his teammates, though he didn’t mention his name, “I loved it when one lad in particular was in the England squad. He was either the unluckiest card player I’ve ever seen or the worst. I think he was the worst. I was just happy to take his money.”

With this one teammate, Dyer said other would completely beat him anytime they put money on the table. Dyer said it got so bad, that his teammate would have to pay him back in payments and that he had standing bank transfers from him every month.

Dyer joked that the player might have gone bankrupt, but he did not qualify for the Euro 2008 squad.

Michael Owen’s £130k Debt

In January of 2003, a story about Michael Owen was published, claiming that he had run up debts of £130,000 and that he suffered from a gambling addiction. Owen, however, denied all claims and said he was only an “occasional” gambler.

According to Michael Owen (pictured above, alongside Dyer), his debt was “nowhere near the levels” that had been reported. He claimed the actual total fell closer to £30,000-40,000 over a two-year period. Dyer mentions that the Owen’s debt was owed to him and that he felt sorry for Owen. He had volunteered to be the bookmaker while in Japan and took the players’ bets.

Dyer said he had bet £500 on South Korea to beat Italy in the knockout stages. Owen then gave the odds of 16–1. Dyer took the bet, so Owen ended up owing Dyer £8,500 at the end of it.

Keiron Dyer added that that particular trip ended well for Owen, because he had made back his money from other people. According to Dyer, Michael Owen probably ended up a little ahead at the end, but that was one instance alone.

English Squad Loses Control

As time went on, the England Squad seemed to lose control of their bets as the amounts of money being gambled were extreme. Dyer said, “It got to the point where I thought there was a huge danger. It was destabilizing individuals and potentially affecting our results.”

During Euro 2004 and Euro 2008, the squad would meet in their rooms, as the bets were of such large amounts they could not show them in pubic.

Dyer added, “We were like clandestine drinkers, hiding ourselves to get wasted. Except the drug was gambling and there was a sizeable band of us that were addicted.”

No Betting 72 Hours Before Matches

Though there didn’t seem to be a limit on betting amounts, the England Squad did set one restriction: the players would stop playing 72 hours before any game. Dyer claims the limit was an “unconscious admission that playing cards for obscene amounts of money could be just as damaging to you mentally and physically as going out for a few drinks.”

Gaming in those circumstances is an adrenaline rush, so it could sap a player’s focus and willpower. Losing made things worse.

Dyer said, “It was an acceptance that it was very hard to get your mind back on an important game, if you had lost hundreds of thousands of pounds to a teammate a couple of nights before. And that is the kind of money I’m talking about.”

Did it Affect the Game?

According to the former national team member, gambling those “hundreds of thousands of pounds” was routine at Euro 2004.

Dyer discussed a teammate that was down so much by the end of Euro 2004 that he was begging to make deals with players he owed money. The player would ask teammates, “Would you take 30 grand for the 50 grand I owe you?”

Did Rampant Gambling Affect Relationships?

Dyer said of the rampant gambling, “I can’t talk about how it affected other players, because I don’t know. I don’t think it affected relationships within the squad. But we were at a major tournament. How can you go into an important game and not have that playing on your mind?”

“I don’t see how you can go out against France, say, in one of the biggest games of your life and play your best football.”

Fans might say these are world class professionals who should not let personal feelings and off-field concerns affect their on-the-pitch results. It is human nature, though.

Kieron Dyer gave his analysis on problem gambling and how it affects sports, saying, “You’re supposed to be in the shape of your life at a tournament, but if you’re in that kind of debt, your head is going to be a mess.”

About the Author
April Bergman avatar
April Bergman

April Bergman was a longtime news blogger for BOC. She wrote gaming news posts from January 2013 until September 2018. April also wrote slot reviews, strategy articles, and online casino reviews for the site.

April Bergman began in the online gaming industry in August 2010. From 2010 to 2013, she managed evergreen content for several top online casino. Her duties included developing and maintaining multiple websites in the gaming space. When not writing about online gambling, April loves horse racing, travel, photography, and gardening. She's began in the business as a devoted poker players and spent several years as a card game editor on the now-defunct DMOZ. These days, she lives with her husband and two children in the Toronto metropolitan area.

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April Bergman was a longtime news blogger for BOC. She wrote gaming news posts from January 2013 until September 2018. April also wrote slot reviews, strategy articles, and online casino reviews for the site.

April Bergman began in the online gaming industry in August 2010. From 2010 to 2013, she managed evergreen content for several top online casino. Her duties included developing and maintaining multiple websites in the gaming space. When not writing about online gambling, April loves horse racing, travel, photography, and gardening. She's began in the business as a devoted poker players and spent several years as a card game editor on the now-defunct DMOZ. These days, she lives with her husband and two children in the Toronto metropolitan area.

READ MORE
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