John Hartson on Eyal Berkavic and gambling


Celtic hero

John Hartson’s autobiography ‘Please Don’t Go: Big John’s Journey Back to Life,’ is about much more than his battle with the cancer that threatened his life a year ago.

The former Celt has led a colourful life on and off the park and doesn’t shy away from the issues in his book.

Despite all the goals and glory from over a decade in top level football a training ground attack on Eyal Berkavic will always follow him around.

Football managers often turn a blind eye to a ruck on the training ground but an ITN camera crew were around when Hartson put the boot into his team-mate and it was suddenly headline news.

Hartson joined Celtic a fortnight after Berkavic was sold to Kevin Keegan at Manchester City but the incident isn’t one that the striker is proud of.

“We were beaten 2-0 by Northampton in our last League Cup game,” he recalled looking back at the incident in September 1998.

“Harry Redknapp asks what went wrong. I respect Harry and we are friends. He likes a bet like me and we go to the dogs together. I give it to him from the heart. I am trying to help Harry help us win. I say: ‘I wouldn’t play Eyal away from home’.

“It infuriates Eyal, his dark eyes blaze like coals, he accuses me of not running for the ball away from home or any other time. He is mad as hell.

“We are on the training field now. I can see our orange bibs and the steam rising from our hot heads into the air.

“John Moncur rolls the ball to me and Eyal intercepts, I charge in from behind and take his legs away. He rolls on the floor, squealing in pain.

“I am instantly sorry and help him up. I offer my hand, but he lashes out unexpectedly, hitting me in the stomach. I catch my breath in shock.

“Suddenly I have no control over my legs. I am absolutely blazing with fury. My left boot shoots out and cracks Eyal under the jaw. I kick him hard, like I’m trying to score a goal with his head.

“I wish I could turn the clock back and erase the memory. I will always deeply regret it.”

As a player Hartson was brutally honest about himself and takes that philosophy into his book.

Stories of his gambling surfaced from time to time with the 35-year-old honest enough to admit that it’s a battle that he’s never going to win.

Colin Hendry faces an on-going struggle with the tax authorities after running up massive gambling debts with footballers easy prey for the bookies with their easy access to cash and credit.

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  • Joe says:

    Berkovic was another player who promised the earth and produced little more than sand. BBJ on the other hand never hid for a second. He had bad games, but he never hid. I loved BBJ. he was a Celt through and through when he pulled those hoops over his head. Berkovic was a woose. One thing we know for sure is that if BBJ said this, it is true.

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