Soccer

How Wigan’s Steven Caulker’s gambling addiction will make him a better manager

On the floor, Wigan defender Steven Caulker has had what most would think about a profitable soccer profession, together with taking part in for Great Britain on the Olympics, however gambling and alcohol addictions have dogged his each transfer.

Caulker’s profession has seen him making 123 Premier League appearances and taking part in for the likes of Tottenham, Liverpool, and England, and now captaining Sierra Leone, a aspect he qualifies for via his paternal grandfather.

On paper, that might qualify as success, however he advised ESPN that spells in rehab, beginning in his teenagers, and his battle to beat his addictions left him with many regrets, and he hopes to take these classes into his future managerial profession.

Caulker [31], who’s at the start phases of achieving his teaching badges whereas nonetheless taking part in for Wigan, advised ESPN: “I would love to be a manager and I think that the experiences that I’ve had hold me in good stead for that.

“Being capable of deal with younger gamers – or simply gamers usually who could also be fighting confidence and all that – having the ability to spot that, put my arm round them, have a dialog with them; I believe it may be a massive asset going into teaching.

“I look back on football – my playing career – with a lot of regrets, and I don’t want to have the same as a manager.”

Caulker feels he’s better-equipped than most to cope with the lows of being a footballer, and already makes use of his experiences to identify and help teammates fighting their psychological well being.

“It doesn’t mean that they must be an addict or they must be depressed, but absolutely, I look around and I see people who are feeling low; I look around and I see people who are anxious, worried and scared for the future,” Caulker mentioned.

“I feel, having lived so much of these experiences, I’m able to spot it really easily. People often question: ‘How do you know that?… How do you know when I’m not well?’ We actually had the conversation today and the guys were like: ‘Yeah, you’re like our agony aunt. We can come to you and share and moan – whatever it is, get it off our chest.’

“I’m comfortable to assist in any approach I can, actually. If it helps the staff and helps people, then nice. I really feel better for it.”

For Caulker, the cycle of squandered chances started at Tottenham, a club which gave him an opportunity many others had denied him. Between the ages of nine and 15, Caulker had unsuccessful trials at Chelsea, Southampton, Reading, QPR and Brentford. At the age of 15, he joined Spurs’ academy after one training session and one training game.

Caulker signed his first professional contract for Spurs two years later in 2009, and although he had loan spells at Yeovil Town, Bristol City and Swansea, his game was visibly improving year on year, as was his status within the Spurs setup.

However, while Caulker appeared to be on the up as far as football went, his life off the pitch was beginning to spiral out of control. His biggest asset on the field – a relentless desire to win – quickly became his biggest liability off it.

Caulker explained: “[My gambling] began on the age of 15, nevertheless it wasn’t till the age of 19 that it actually had a grip on me. You undergo phases and at 15, it was in all probability the early phases when it was simply starting.

“[At] 16, 17, 18, I really stepped into it – especially 18, when I was able to go into casinos. That’s when it really sort of started to speed up. By the age of 19, it had a firm grip on me, which is why I decided to enter rehab.”

Even after making that call, he nonetheless didn’t perceive that he was coping with a downside that he must battle for the remainder of his life. He admitted that he didn’t settle for that true restoration meant he would by no means be capable to gamble once more.

Caulker mentioned: “I remember walking into rehab and them telling me: ‘Look; this is going to be an issue for life. You are going to have to attend meetings at least once, twice, three times a week.’ I was like, ‘what?’ I wasn’t ready for that. At 19 years of age, I was not ready to hear that.

“I felt that I had a downside and I needed that they may assist me handle my gambling. That would have been my good situation, as a result of I liked it – I completely liked it.

“I just wished that they could teach me how to do it and stop when the fun stops, as all the adverts say, but that wasn’t the case for me. I was never able to stop, ever.

“I’m a compulsive gambler and once I gamble, I proceed and proceed and proceed, so even when I’m profitable, I by no means really win, as a result of I do not take my winnings; I simply put increasingly more and extra [on the line].

“It’s a very vicious cycle, and I guess at 19, I felt that was my rock bottom, but deep down, I guess I knew that it wasn’t, because it wasn’t until many, many years later that I hit my rock bottom.”

In equity to Caulker, there was ample trigger for him to cling onto the phantasm that he had his life beneath management. After taking part in for Team Great Britain on the London Olympics, he made his England debut aged 20 in a 4-2 away pleasant defeat to Sweden on November 14, 2012.

The match is most well-known for its remaining objective – Zlatan Ibrahimović’s unimaginable 32-yard bicycle kick which sailed over Joe Hart – however earlier, Caulker had put England 2-1 up.

In the thirty eighth minute, the then-Tottenham defender met Steven Gerrard’s inswinging free-kick, timing his run between the opposition defenders completely and protruding a leg to stab house on the far publish.

Now, 10-and-a-half years later, Ibra continues to be taking part in for Sweden. Raheem Sterling, who additionally made his England debut that day, has 82 worldwide caps. For Caulker, that might be his final look for his nation of start.

His off-field misdemeanours caught as much as him at Tottenham and chairman Daniel Levy finally ran out of persistence. Spells at Cardiff City and QPR adopted. While at QPR, he went on mortgage to Southampton and later Liverpool, the place he was an emergency signing at the start of Jürgen Klopp’s reign.

Wherever he went, his demons adopted him: “I wasted so many opportunities and that’s something that hurts.

“I typically say that I haven’t got any regrets, as a result of it formed me into who I’m as we speak, nevertheless it does harm to look again and go: ‘Wow. I used to be a 20-year-old taking part in for Tottenham Hotspur; I used to be taking part in for Liverpool at 24.’ It does harm to really feel like I wasted these alternatives.”

His stint at Anfield started well, with brief cameos against Arsenal, Manchester United and Norwich City in the Premier League and a full 90-minute run in the FA Cup fourth round against West Ham

But after January 2016, he never played for the Reds again. Not only had he fallen out of favour on the field, but he realised that he would have to return to rehab.

Caulker said: “It was tougher to go there for the second time, as a result of I felt: ‘It did not work the primary time, so why is it going to work the second time?’ But I used to be determined. I knew I wanted assist.”

The healing journey has not been linear for Caulker. There have been clean spells of up to three years and brief relapses which have reminded him of the lesson he did not want to learn in his first rehab spell – that his struggle is for life.

This knowledge about one’s mental health journey, he says, will add to his managerial style one day: “What I do not assume is honest, and what I’m fairly vocal about, is that when gamers are talking about these points, it’s then used towards them additional down the road.

“[Clubs say]: ‘Oh, we can’t give you a new contract because of so and so,’ or: ‘We can’t sign him because he is trouble – he has a problem’.

“When you’re again [from rehab], you’re match and coaching effectively, I nonetheless imagine that as a rule, managers are gamers and saying: ‘Well, I can not belief him as a result of he is had these points, however I can belief [another player], so I will play him.’

“As a manager, what I would do differently is: for one, treat everybody fairly. I would actually look at players who have had their struggles, whether that be mental, emotional or physical – because physical injuries are tough – I would look at those people and go: ‘They’ve overcome adversity and I want those characters in the dressing room; I want those characters on the field, because when the going gets tough, they’re the ones that everyone looks to.'”

Caulker says he discovered it tough to seek out golf equipment who have been prepared to take probabilities on him. After leaving QPR halfway via 2017/18, he had a seven-month stint at Dundee earlier than shifting on to Turkey with Alanyaspor.

When the British sport appeared to have given up on him, Turkey breathed new life into Caulker’s profession. He spent 5 season within the Super Lig, for varied golf equipment, and in 2021 his efforts there drew the eye of Sierra Leone.

Caulker, who’s of Sierra Leonean descent via his paternal grandfather, revived his worldwide profession after switching allegiance to the Leone Stars. This time, he was ready for the expertise and knew to not take it with no consideration.

After receiving clearance to play for Sierra Leone in December 2021, Caulker was appointed nationwide staff captain 4 months later. By then, he had confirmed his price by slotting in seamlessly on the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations [AFCON].

“It’s a completely different experience and it’s a completely different feeling [to representing England]. When I played for England, it’s quite sad to say that I had very little feeling,” Caulker confessed.

“Looking back, it was, of course, a great honour and was huge, you know. It’s something that I guess not everyone gets to do, so it was a huge achievement, but at the time, I guess I probably took it for granted, which is a shame in the sense that football was moving so fast; life was moving so fast.

“Playing for Sierra Leone, I’m a totally different particular person as we speak, so I’m capable of type of embrace what’s in entrance of me and actually benefit from the second. I assumed AFCON was unimaginable – simply such an unimaginable expertise for me to be a a part of. Now, as captain, I’m working actually laborious to get us again to the following AFCON.

“We’ve got two tough games to go, but I do really believe in us and I believe that we’re building for the future. We’ve got a great squad and a really great country behind us. People don’t realise just how beautiful Sierra Leone is.”

Sierra Leone are presently third in Group A and will have to overturn a two-point deficit to second-placed Guinea-Bissau of their subsequent two fixtures order to qualify for subsequent yr’s match in Ivory Coast.

In his membership profession, Caulker returned to England in January 2023 to play for Wigan. At the time, his former Liverpool teammate, Kolo Touré, was in cost, however the former Ivorian worldwide was sacked inside three weeks of Caulker’s arrival and changed by Shaun Maloney.

Wigan have been deducted three points final month after repeatedly failing to pay participant salaries, so Caulker’s homecoming has not been with out its challenges.

At least, in Caulker, they’ve a senior participant who is aware of all there’s to learn about what to not do beneath strain. It could also be too late for him to have the taking part in profession he dreamed of on the highest degree, however not for his expertise to depend for membership and nation when it issues most.


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