Gambling with the devil
TONY PULIS has heaped praise on Stoke owner Peter Coates for helping Matthew Etherington deal with his huge gambling debts.
It is understood the club gave financial assistance to Etherington after the player racked up debts of around £800,000.
The winger is in the form of his life, is being touted for a place in the England squad and has not had a bet for more than a year.
And Pulis revealed much of the credit for the remarkable turn-around must go to Coates.
Potters boss Pulis said: “Matty has been outstanding for us, real quality. We saw that against Manchester United.
“He has got his life sorted out off the pitch and the benefits can be seen. The Coates family deserve great credit for getting involved in that side of things.
“The family and the club have given him all the help in the world. We have cleared everything out of the way so that he can see clearly now.
“We have done a lot of things behind the scenes to help him. They have got everything sorted, everything. They have cleared his path. Peter and the family have shown what a real family football club this is.
“Matty has needed that and they have been there for him.”
Coates and his family are the founders of bet365.com.
Winger Etherington, a self-confessed gambling addict, was given help to the tune of £300,000 by his old club West Ham, which only partly cleared his debt to bookmakers.
He moved to Stoke in January 2009 and now regularly visits Gamblers Anonymous.
There have been rumours of Etherington receiving death threats but the player denies this.
Pulis added: “The chairman took it on. When he found out how bad the situation was, he has organised everything and got things going for him. I think we are seeing the benefits.”
Etherington, 28, earns £30,000 a week after a pay rise in February.
It is believed an agreement was reached between player and club over the new three-year contract and resolution of his debt.
With his form flourishing, Pulis is hoping for more of the same ahead of today’s trip to Everton.
He said: “If he was playing for Tottenham or one of the top clubs I think he would get a lot more recognition.
“I love going to Goodison. It’s a proper, old-fashioned ground. Everton are a model for us and any smaller Premier League club to follow.
“We’ve had a tricky spell of games.
“We have Everton away, then Sunderland away.
“When we’ve got those two out of the way it will mean we have had a spell of five games with only one at home and that was Manchester United.”