Jewell admits Chopra risk
Paul Jewell has admitted he took a risk playing Michael Chopra in the last three matches.
The striker has done very little training in the last few weeks after checking himself in the Sporting Chance Clinic 48 hours after his two-goal match-winning display against Brighton.
Following that double, Jewell persisted with his striker – who was battling with his gambling addiction – against Cardiff City, where he scored, and then against Portsmouth before naming him as a sub against Crystal Palace at the weekend.
But after he revealed the extent of his problems yesterday, it is clear Town’s top scorer was battling inner demons with the striker looking leggy and off-the-pace compared to his promising start to the season. Jewell admitted: “I took a bit of a risk to play him but I thought he might go on a bit of roll after his goals against Brighton.
“He did about an hour a day at the clinic with a fitness guy, but there was no contact with a football. He scored against Cardiff, played against Portsmouth and didn’t do too well and I just felt it was a step too far to start him against Crystal Palace considering what he’s been going through.”
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But the Town boss, usually so secretive about team selection, had no qualms in breaking with that particular tradition and announcing Chopra would start at the New Den.
Jewell said: “He’s in a great place at the moment and he says he’s the happiest he’s ever been here. He says he’s ready to start a new life.
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“I don’t know if he can do that yet because he’s been through so many false dawns, but this is the furthest he’s ever been and the most determined he’s ever been. It would be great if we could help him turn it around because he’s a terrific player.”
During yesterday morning’s press conference, Jewell confirmed that Chopra had sought professional and dedicated help over his gambling addiction – before the player himself gave a candid interview to this newspaper.
Jewell said: “Michael has got a problem, actually it’s more of a problem – it’s an illness – with gambling. There are people in this room, me included, that are no angels. We’ve all been down routes where you think ‘phew’ I’m lucky to have come through that.
“He has a big problem and we knew that when we signed him. I’d ask people here to respect the fact that he’s met it head on. He’s trying his best, he’s been as low as he can be, but now he’s feeling great about himself because he knows he’s got the support of the team.”