Andrew McCarthy admits over the past couple of years gambling has taken over his life and threatened to derail his football career.
The Peterhead midfielder has opened up about the struggles he has experienced in recent times.
Lockdown has given the 21-year-old an opportunity to reflect on the last couple of years and address his addiction to casino games like black jack and roulette.
McCarthy believes speaking openly about the issue with family, friends, team-mates and the Blue Toon’s management team has helped on his road to recovery.
Having starred for Partick Thistle in the Premiership and Championship McCarthy has slipped down the footballing ladder, having joined second-tier Queen of the South last summer before dropping down to part-time football with Peterhead in League One in January.
He believes his gambling problem was one of the reasons for that and is now determined to become both a better player and a better person.
McCarthy said: “The current period has been good and bad for me. The problem I’ve had with gambling is something that I’ve had for a couple of years.
“It’s affected my career as a whole, but my focus needs to be on football and nothing else and I’ve realised that now.
“With gambling your head can be in the clouds and you’re not properly focused, but I’ve realised that and I’m fully focused on football now.
“It’s very difficult to deal with because gambling can take over everything and it becomes the main focus.
“I would be training in the morning and then up all night gambling and that has an effect and it’s things like that people don’t see.
“People probably look at my career and go ‘how has he fallen away?’ or ‘why has he fallen away?’
“But they don’t know the ins and outs of it and people will maybe never realise those things.
“Footballers are like everybody else, they can have problems and they have ups and downs and people maybe don’t realise that.
“They look at my career and probably wonder what’s happened to me, but I’ve had problems which have held me back.
“They’ve been my own doing and I take the blame for them, but I’m trying to overcome them and become a better person.”
McCarthy admits the last couple of years have been frustrating for him on the pitch when he’s gone from starring for Partick as a teenager in the top flight to dropping down to the third tier.
However, in the future he now hopes to prove his doubters wrong and return to the top level.
He added: “It’s something that’s happened and sometimes you have to drop down, it’s been frustrating, but it’s happened.
“Hopefully I can get back playing, doing well and get my career back on track.
“I think I’ve got quite a lot to prove to quite a lot of people. I played quite a lot at 18 or 19 at Thistle, but then I haven’t played much in the last year or two.
“So I suppose I need to prove that I’m still that player I was and have actually improved a bit.”
For any addict it can be easy to blame other factors for their addiction.
While it may be easy to start gambling online regularly, McCarthy isn’t looking for excuse and says he needed to display greater self-control.
That’s something he’s learning to do and said: “It is easy to hooked on gambling online and things. I know some boys that can have a £5 bet and they’ll never have another.
“But that’s just not the way I am. If I lost a £1 I’d be raging and put on another £1 to try to win it back and then it would lead to things getting worse and worse.
“It’s easy to gamble a lot, but it’s about controlling your own mind and controlling yourself.
“It would be easy for me to blame other things, but ultimately I had to do better and control myself and I’ve learned that and I’m trying to overcome it now.
“Life is about learning and I’ve got people with lots of life experience around me.
“The other day I was talking to (Peterhead team mate) Derek Lyle and he was saying I’m only 21 and I’ve got time to learn from my mistakes as anybody can.
“That’s the thing, I’m only 21 and I know I’ve got a lot of my football career and my life ahead of me, so I’m focused on that and I want to do well now.”
‘Jim, Davie and players have been brilliant with me’
Peterhead’s Andrew McCarthy has thanked everyone who has supported him after opening up about his gambling problem.
The Blue Toon midfielder has opened up to those closest him during lockdown about his struggles in recent years.
The support the 21-year-old has had from friends, family and the Buchan outfit has meant a lot to him.
McCarthy said: “Talking about the problem and addressing it has been like lifting a weight off my shoulders.
“It probably took a few bad things to happen for me to open up and talk about it.
“That’s just the way I’ve been and I always would have just kept it to myself, but opening up has been the best thing I’ve done.
“The manager Jim McInally has been brilliant, Davie Nicholls the assistant manager has been brilliant and the boys have been brilliant with me as well.
“The way they’ve responded to me has been great and it’s really helped me.
“I really appreciate the support I’ve had from them all because they didn’t know what was going on in my life until I opened up and told them.
“And you see what they’re like as people and how good they are as people.
“All the support I’ve had has been top class and has really made a difference. Everyone I know has had my back and supported my during this.”
McCarthy also admits his gambling habit changed him as a person.
He added: “I’ve definitely changed as a person. I think people close to me will have seen it and there are people close to me who I wasn’t nice to.
“When you’re like that and gambling like I was you push people away.
“But things have been better recently because I’ve opened up to my family and, with the people I have been horrible to, I’ve tried to right those wrongs and I feel better about things.”