ACCRINGTON Stanley’s former captain Peter Cavanagh hopes other footballers learn from the betting scandal which engulfed the Reds – and that he can bounce back stronger from the experience.
The 27-year-old had his eight-month ban from all football activities upheld after an unsuccessful appeal to the Football Association last week.
He did get his costs reduced – originally £9,500, they were reduced to £2,000 – and he is left owing the FA £5,500, including £3,500 fine. He also owes his solicitor around £7,500.
Cavanagh pleaded not guilty – he said it was his brother-in-law who used his account to put the bet on – but he was found guilty of placing a £5 accumulator on the Accrington Stanley v Bury match in 2007 and going against the FA’s rules on betting.
The ex-captain, the most successful skipper in Stanley’s history having worn the armband when the club secured Football League status in 2006, has also lost his evening coaching job at Liverpool Academy.
He has just passed his taxi driver test and is preparing himself for something of a culture shock.
"I suppose I will know how privileged I was being a footballer when I start working at least 50 hours a week as a taxi driver, but I am prepared for that. I have applied for one or two others jobs and I am just waiting to hear," said the Liverpudlian.
"I am obviously gutted about everything that has happened. The appeal lasted five hours and I did hope that they would reduce my ban or at least let me carry on my coaching role.
"After all, what good did it do the FA or me in not being allowed to coach?
"I think they should have made all the players who were banned do some voluntary coaching to give something back and perhaps even use us more positively to make other players aware of the dangers of betting.
"And I just felt the punishment of an eight-month ban was disproportionate to the £5 accumulator. I was really disappointed, although obviously getting the costs reduced was a relief as I haven’t had any income since June.
"It has been an awful few months and you do wonder if you will wake up and realise it has been a really bad dream. But it has happened and I have got to get on with it."
Cavanagh has had some torrid experiences in his life, in particular the death of his brother, Anthony. This month is the anniversary of that fateful night out in Liverpool five years ago when Anthony died after being hit once. The culprit has still not been found.
"Sometimes I hope that God has six numbers waiting for me on the lottery, as it has been a hard few years. But I have always been a glass half full person and you have to get on with things."
And he does hope that he can carry on being a footballer once his ban is up.
"I am keeping fit – going to the gym, doing classes and running. I might try and do a half-marathon in March," said Cavanagh, whose wife is expecting their first baby next year.
"At the moment, April seems a long way away and I did think of giving up football as a way of getting at the FA but, at the end of the day, the only person I hurt is myself and I know it’s wrong.
"But I know once it starts getting closer to the end of the ban, I will get the buzz again and want to play. I have been going to a lot of matches as watching them is the next best thing to playing in them.
"I have watched Everton, Morecambe and Accrington Stanley and it is like being injured and sitting in the stands – which I did get used to in my career!
"I know when I come back I might be labelled because of the betting scandal but that doesn’t worry me. As long as I can look at myself in the mirror and look my team-mates in the eyes, and I can, then I can cope with anything else."
And he is following Stanley’s current plight and praying they survive.
"It’s such a shame what is happening at the moment as on the field we have done so well getting into the Football¿League and it would be a travesty for the club to disappear. The manager, the players and the fans deserve so much better.
"I know people said the betting scandal cost the club but I don’t think that’s fair. That didn’t make Fraser Eagle go bust and it didn’t not pay the tax bill. I will be keeping everything crossed for Accrington Stanley."
* Ex-Stanley players Robbie Williams, David Mannix, Jay Harris and ex-Bury striker Andy Mangan also had their costs reduced but their bans – between six months and a year - were also upheld. They bet between £2,000 and £4,000 on the Stanley v Bury match.