Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

How football star Jeff Whitley tackled his drug demons

A former Northern Ireland international footballer has spoken about his battle with drugs and alcohol.

Jeff Whitley earned 20 caps as a midfielder with Northern Ireland, as well as enjoying a successful career in English club football.

The 32-year-old, who is now sober and clean following a spell in rehab, said he had been on “humongous benders” which included a cocktail of alcohol, cocaine and a mixture of other drugs.

“The cocaine just enabled me to drink more. From being so drunk, to having some cocaine, and then being able to go another two or three days.”

Whitley spoke yesterday about his history of both drug and alcohol dependency.

Originally from Zambia, his father was born in Belfast, which allowed him to play for Northern Ireland for eight years, making his debut in 1997.

Although his international career never quite flourished, his time in club football was where he shone.

The former Manchester City player said his problems with cocaine started when he began playing for Cardiff City in 2005.

He said then Ninian Park boss Dave Jones had told him at one point not to come in as a result of his drinking.

“I never took any other drug apart from alcohol and cigarettes when I was playing at the time.

“When Dave Jones said that to me, I thought: ‘I've never tried cocaine, I'd give it a blast’, and when I did I thought: ‘Wow, this is what I'm missing’.

“I was hooked. If you're an addict you can get hooked on computer games, texting, eating — it don't matter what it is.

“When it comes to class A drugs, then you're in trouble.”

He checked into the Sporting Chance clinic where he said he had thoughts about taking his own life.

“The only time I would go to sleep was when my body shut down.

“At times I would just be praying just to die.”

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