John Hartson on gambling and cancer

John Hartson in 2005 World Cup qualifier against AustriaHartson: Battling for Wales on the pitch – and against gambling addiction off it

Ex-footballer John Hartson admits his gambling addiction was costing him thousands of pounds a month.

The former Wales, Arsenal and Celtic striker told BBC Wales he still goes to Gamblers Anonymous twice a week.

Hartson, 39, from Swansea, said he tells himself: “If I have another bet I will not only lose my wife and children but I will also die.”

He deals frankly with his addiction and his cancer fight back in a documentary broadcast on BBC One Wales later.

Five years after being diagnosed with testicular cancer while he was at Celtic, the former Wales international who was capped 51 times for his country, has opened up about his turbulent life experiences.

John HartsonHartson is part of the BBC 2014 World Cup commentary team

His life-long addiction to gambling began with slot machines when he was an apprentice footballer with Luton Town.

As his football career grew – his record signing with Arsenal as a teenager made him Wales’ most expensive player at the time – so did his gambling habit.

And it ended up costing him thousands of pounds every month.

But he faced an even bigger challenge when at 34 doctors found his cancer – and it had already spread to his lung and brain.


In the documentary, Hartson, his family and his doctors describe the emergency operations and the night he almost died.

In an interview with Radio Cymru, he said: “I was so, so close to dying, people don’t realise I was only seconds away from death.

“Others have suggested that I had no chance of survival and that in fact ‘John has gone’.”

The interview coincides with the one-off documentary The John Hartson Story on BBC 1 Wales.

The programme includes contributions from fellow players Ian Wright, Alan Shearer and Robbie Savage.

It also follows his charity work with his foundation’s motto “Grab Life By The Balls” to raise awareness among young men about testicular cancer.

The John Hartson Story, BBC One Wales at 21:00 BST

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Keeping Bony will be hard – Hartson

15 May 2014
Last updated at

John Hartson believes Swansea could find it hard to keep hold of top-scorer Wilfried Bony this summer.

The 25-year-old striker has been linked with several clubs after scoring 25 goals in his first season.

Bony has been included in

Ivory Coast’s 28-man provisional squad for the World Cup in Brazil.

“There’s going to be bids, it’s just how strong Swansea City are in terms of holding on to these guys,” Hartson said.

“Swansea are a selling club. They like to make money and like to bring players through and sell them on.

“It’s going to take a strong board and a strong manager to say ‘this player is vital for next season.’

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I’m not too sure whether the likes of Michu, they will stay

John Hartson
Former Wales striker

“Bony’s attitude, does he want to stay? Will he make noises if a Man City or a Bayern Munich come in?

“I would like him to stay. I want Swansea to keep all their best players.”

Swansea boss Garry Monk insists Bony, the

club’s record £12m signing from Vitesse Arnhem

in July 2013,

will be staying at Liberty Stadium.

Bony himself has said he is enjoying life at Swansea and

would be happy to see out the remaining three years of his contract.

Swansea-born Hartson thinks other players such as Michu could leave the club during the close season.

Michu, 28, was Swansea’s top-scorer during the 2012-2013 campaign but his second season at the club was disrupted by injury.

The Spain international was

signed by previous manager Michael Laudrup from Rayo Vallecano

for £2.2m in July 2012 and

signed a four-year contract extension in January 2013.

“I’m not too sure whether the likes of Michu, they will stay,” former Wales, Arsenal and Celtic striker Hartson added.

“They’ve not featured in the last few games.

“I think as well the Michael Laudrup factor, he was massively influential in bringing them players to the club, he’s no longer there.

“Garry Monk may well want to keep him but I read some of Huw Jenkins’ comments and Huw Jenkins wants Garry to look at players that are going to go straight into the first-team.

“They want the squad to be competitive, they don’t want to be carrying squad players on two or three year contracts.”

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Gareth Bale: Tottenham should not fine forward, says John Hartson

29 August 2013 Last updated at 13:37 GMT

Wales coach John Hartson says it would be “ridiculous” should Tottenham decide to fine Real Madrid target Gareth Bale for missing training.

The 24-year-old has failed to report for three days of training this week, and manager Andre Villas-Boas said Spurs will consider fining the forward.

Villas-Boas said Bale’s action was “not the correct behaviour” but Hartson, 38, defended the Wales international.

“I think Tottenham are being a bit ridiculous over that,” he said.

“I don’t think Gareth’s to blame there. Gareth’s probably a bit confused and probably a bit frustrated with what’s going on right now.

“I think it was the sensible thing [to miss training]. If he goes into training, all of a sudden all the cameras are on him and everything else. I think they should cut him a bit of slack.”

Bale has been linked with Real all summer and Villas-Boas says the record-breaking transfer “could happen very, very soon”.

Hartson added: “They’re just about to get £86m for him and they want to fine him an extra couple of hundred grand. I think a little bit of common sense should prevail there.

“He was outstanding for them last season. How many points did he win for Tottenham Hotspur last season on his own basically?

“The fact [is] that they’ve bought four or five players on the back of Gareth Bale.”

Tottenham are reluctant to sell until they have signed a replacement. They have been linked with Roma’s £30m-rated Argentina forward Erik Lamela, but missed out on Brazil midfielder Willian, who joined Premier League rivals Chelsea.

Bale, who joined Spurs in a £10m deal from Southampton in 2007, was named player of the year by both the Professional Footballers’ Association and Football Writers last season after scoring 26 goals for the White Hart Lane side.

He has not featured for Spurs this season and missed Wales’ recent friendly against the Republic of Ireland because of a foot injury.

Wales manager Chris Coleman is hopeful Bale will be available for the World Cup qualifiers against Macedonia and Serbia in September despite the uncertainty over his club future.

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Gareth Bale would take Madrid move in his stride – John Hartson

30 July 2013 Last updated at 15:42 GMT

John Hartson believes Tottenham Hotspur’s Gareth Bale would take a move to Real Madrid in his stride, if it were to happen.

Wales international Bale, 24, has indicated he wants to speak to the Spanish giants.

And national assistant manager Hartson told BBC Wales the star winger has the temperament to handle the pressure.

“It wouldn’t be an issue for Gareth. He’s very level headed, his feet are firmly on the ground,” he said.

“I get to see him close up, obviously, working with him with the Welsh national team.

“He comes along to the squad and he works like all the other players, he gets his head down.

“If he was to go – I’m not saying that he’s going to go – I’m sure he will deal with everything.

“He’s got a great family. He doesn’t come with a big entourage.

“He’s got his agent, he’s got his advisers and he’s a really down-to-earth, level-headed lad and I think whatever Gareth does I’m sure he would have thought long and hard about it.”

Cardiff-born Bale joined Tottenham from Southampton in May 2007 and signed a new four-year contract in June 2012.

He went on to enjoy his most successful season for the club in 2012-13, scoring 26 goals and being named Premier League player of the year and young player of the year.

Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas has insisted Bale is not for sale and says talks about a new deal are ongoing.

Spanish daily newspaper Marca claims Tottenham are demanding a fee of 145m euros (£125m), and former Spurs manager David Pleat told BBC Sport he felt Bale was “too young to move” and that it would take £100m to prise Bale from White Hart Lane.

Real Madrid are yet to submit a formal offer for Bale but 38-year-old Hartson, capped 51 times by Wales, says he is not surprised by the interest, although he admits he thinks the figures being quoted are “absurd”.

“He’s a phenomenal player, very explosive, very quick, clever and he’s got everything as a footballer that you require so it doesn’t surprise me,” said the former Celtic striker.

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Who’s to say what Bale’s worth?

George Burley Gave Bale his debut

“That’s where we are in the current world market – £95m or £100m is absolutely absurd.

“Christiano Ronaldo went for £80m three seasons ago. Luis Suarez, if he was to leave Liverpool, would probably look for £50m for starters.

“It’s crazy money, but that’s where we are.”

George Burley, who gave Bale his first team debut for former club Southampton in April 2006, said it was hard to put a price tag on the 24-year-old.

“At the time we had a lot of good young players thanks to the youth policy, but Gareth always showed the biggest promise. He’s always had that exciting talent, he’s level headed and always wanted to listen,” Burley told Sport Today on BBC World Service.

“Last season was incredible, playing in different positions and scoring some of the best goals you’ll ever see.

“He wants to keep pushing his career forward. Who’s to say what’s he’s worth?”

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