Despite an estimated salary of 10 million pounds ($16.17 million) from a 20-year soccer career, recently-retired former Northern Ireland winger Keith Gillespie faces an uncertain financial future.
The millions earned at Manchester United, Newcastle United, Blackburn Rovers and a host of other British and Irish clubs are long gone and gambling and bad investments have left him having to start again from scratch.
Instead of being financially secure for life, the 38-year-old Gillespie is dealing with the repercussions of being declared bankrupt in 2010. "I knew the bankruptcy was coming so it was a relief in the end," he told Reuters in an interview to mark the publication of his autobiography 'How Not to Be A Football Millionaire'.
"I worried about it at the time but once it was out there and I was able to get myself back on my feet I was pleased it was all over. "I feel lucky I've been a professional footballer and to play for the clubs that I have and for Northern Ireland 86 times.
Most people grow up wanting to be a professional footballer and I've lived that dream." Gillespie hung up his boots this year after spending three seasons at Longford Town in the second tier of the League of Ireland.
"I was left to my own devices. Clubs say they want to treat you like adults and if you're earning money you're expected to spend it wisely," he said. "There was no-one there to say 'don't be putting money on horses' or anything like that." Gillespie said gambling was part of the culture of English football.
"At clubs you have your little cliques of four or five at a minimum who like a bit of a punt - although obviously not to the extent that I liked it," he added. "You'd go in and you'd go straight to the horse racing pages, you'd be talking about what's racing today and what you backed yesterday.
"That's a common thing. All the clubs I was at, they had playing cards on the coach journeys too. It's been about for a long time." Despite several high-profile cases involving players with gambling issues, Gillespie said the problem was getting worse.
"I think gambling is more rife now. I was one of the first to be exposed," he explained. Gillespie's problems suddenly became public knowledge when a tabloid newspaper reported that Newcastle had to step in to help him settle a debt to a bookmaker after the winger lost 47,000 pounds in one day in October 1995 - a day he refers to as 'Black Friday'.
The club ended up advancing him part of a signing-on bonus to settle his arrears. Gillespie said his gambling never affected his form on the pitch, as shown by an outstanding display in a Premier League game straight after 'Black Friday'.
"A couple of days later we played at Tottenham and I played very well. On the way home (manager) Kevin Keegan said to Peter Beardsley on the coach, 'He could be the best player in the country at the moment', so it wasn't harming my performances at all.
"In fact for me going out and playing 90 minutes was a relief." Despite his difficulties Gillespie said he still liked a bet at the weekends.
"I keep it to very small stakes but I enjoy Saturday afternoons as the scores come in with my football bet in front of me. It's more of an interest than anything - it's not going to get me into any trouble," he added.
Gillespie came through the Manchester United youth ranks alongside David Beckham and Gary Neville before being sold to Newcastle as part of the deal that took striker Andy Cole in the opposite direction.
He went on to represent Blackburn and Sheffield United among others and whatever money he did not gamble was invested in property deals and film productions that could have earned him tax relief on his football income. But most of his investments turned sour and a debt to British tax authorities arising from one such scheme eventually led to him being declared bankrupt. "Money has been lost and not through gambling," said Gillespie.
"I had good sound investments that were to be there for me when I was 35 but with some bad advice and some naivety from me, that disappeared too." Matthew Etherington, a player with English Premier League Stoke City, also lost hundreds of thousands of pounds at the height of a betting addiction and said he turned to 'loan sharks' when his money ran out.
Etherington, who began gambling as a young player at Tottenham Hotspur, sometimes wagered 40,000 pounds a month on greyhounds, horse racing and poker. He finally received help in September 2009 when he moved to Stoke and his family intervened.
"It just snowballed," Etherington told BBC radio. "I was frequently spending my monthly wages and then borrowing money off loan sharks and towards the end it got very, very bad."