Danny Collins backs Michael Chopra to overcome gambling demons

DANNY Collins believes the pressure of professional football – coupled with players having too much time on their hands – can lead some into the murky world of addiction.

The towering centre-back has seen two team mates battle serious gambling problems after sharing a dressing room with winger Matthew Etherington at Stoke City and now Michael Chopra at Ipswich.

And he thinks the lifestyle of a professional footballer can lead to “active” players finding it hard to cope away from the club.

He explained: “People say footballers earn a lot of money but there is a lot of pressure as well. Some players find it easier to get away from the pressure with drink or drugs, fortunately I have not been one of them.

“You get a lot of spare time on your hands. You finish training at 1pm and there are some lads who can’t just go home and relax.

“There are players here who just find it hard to sit down and watch TV, they need to be active and be in the bookies or the pub. It is easy to see why lads can get distracted.”

Well versed into the potential pitfalls faced by footballers, Collins insists it can come down to the individual – but stressed that team mates have a role to play in helping the situation.

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He said: “The lads will have a laugh and a joke, for instance if you are one of those who don’t like to go out for a drink. But there are times when you are struggling and they will help you, by inviting you round for some dinner to put an arm around them. I’m happy with my own company but other lads need a bit of TLC.

“I think it is a lot to do with personal willpower and people you have around you like friends and family who can try and help you stay on the right track.”

Collins, and team mate Lee Martin, yesterday visited Ipswich charity NORCAS to lend their support to the “Too Much Too Young” appeal, which aims to raise money for the 15,000 Suffolk children affected by a family member’s misuse of drugs and alcohol.

And having witnessed the damage addiction can cause team mates, the 31-year-old added: “Matty is over it now – he doesn’t bet any more.

“We have been on the coach playing a friendly game of cards for no money, but he wouldn’t even get involved in that. He said he couldn’t because it leads him back into gambling. Matty was in trouble but he’s sorted himself out.

“I’ve known Chops for a few years and he is a good lad who wants to do well. But he is one of those who if he has a bit of time, he can’t just relax with a DVD. He is an active lad.

“He has been away for a couple of weeks and hopefully he is on the right track. We can help him and look after him.”