Niall Quinn: Governing bodies need to get to grips with addiction problem

Jun 08, 14 Niall Quinn: Governing bodies need to get to grips with addiction problem

Niall Quinn insists it’s time Irish sporting bodies got to grips with the addiction problems that have become the norm writes Michael Scully

Quinn has seen former team-mates fall into the trap of addiction and admits he was lucky to have a support structure in place to prevent him doing the same.

It’s why he spoke from the heart in 2013 at Tiglin Rehab Centre, which is located in the Wicklow hills, at the opening of a new astro turf pitch on the grounds.

“It’s a snakes and ladders game and you can slip, and it’s all sports, all people,” said the former Ireland star and ex-Sunderland chairman, referencing the gambling horror stories Keith Gillespie and Kenny Sansom recently revealed.

“I’m not just blocking it off to soccer, the Premier League being so big and paying out so much money to players.

“But the GAA world is even tougher. The fall can be harder in many respects because you’re losing more vital stuff than easy money.

Niall Quinn says - "The GAA world is even tougher" - Picture by www.irishexaminer.com

Niall Quinn says – “The GAA world is even tougher” – Picture by www.irishexaminer.com

“I saw players whose marriages broke down, players with problems with addiction and depression and it makes me wish I had a longer education.

“Going away at 16, it’s too young. My mother is a teacher, I did decent enough at school but I still wish I had a university education behind me because I would’ve been better able to handle life in England.

“I can only imagine a 17-year-old, 18-year-old now – I came across a couple of issues at Sunderland which I obviously cannot go into the personal details of.

“But the person on the street won’t understand it, or perhaps won’t have too much sympathy for a young player whose on this incredible wage. But they crash quicker and harder.

“The depression is just that bit lower than the ordinary person on the street.”

Quinn believes everyone has an “addictive gene” and that without the right support he might have succumbed.

“The difference is some people like me have support around us – in my case a great family – when I was young and carefree and earning more than say, a company director, all I could think of was the next night out and the next horse to back,” he said.

“Then the family came along and good people outside the family as well. From speaking to one or two of the guys, they might have missed out on some of that support network.

“I’m no expert but if you could put all the energies you have into being an addict and put that into something positive then that is your addiction.”

Quinn is regularly quizzed by parents whose teenage sons are offered deals to join clubs in England.

He sees the situation as simply a continuation of what has gone before, back to the 1950s and even earlier – and the only option available is for talented youngsters to leave the country.

Having been through it himself and almost falling into the trap that caught Arsenal colleagues Tony Adams, Paul Merson and Sansom, the Dubliner wants to see that change.

Quinn himself almost fell into the trap that caught Arsenal colleague Tony Adams - Picture by isheja.com

Quinn himself almost fell into the trap that caught Arsenal colleague Tony Adams – Picture by isheja.com

“I would love to see the FAI having a better alternative than parents having to trundle kids off at 16 in the hope of making it with their fingers crossed,” he admitted.

“In the old days it was hard to say to parents ‘don’t let them go’ because they were going to Man United, Liverpool, Chelsea, or Arsenal.

“But the last number of people who have asked me about their sons, it’s been Championship clubs, League One clubs.

“And that’s not because Irish football is failing but because of the European and African influence. There aren’t as many chances at the top clubs anymore.

“The Irish first team personnel will prove that, there’s not many up around the top teams anymore.”

Quinn wants the FAI to provide an option here – so that when players go abroad they are men, not boys.

“I don’t want to be hard on the FAI unnecessarily, the Emerging Talent programmes are starting to hit full swing,” he remarked.

“That’s fine in the education of football but to deal with what’s coming, it would be great if we were collectively sending players like Belgium are sending them over the last few years.”

For links to this article by Michael Scully in the www.irishmirror.ie please (CLICK HERE)

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