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Last Updated: Monday, 10 April 2006, 14:39 GMT 15:39 UK
Rooney/Owen dismiss gambling rift
Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen
Rooney and Owen have been the subject of newspaper claims
Representatives for England strikers Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen have dismissed reports that the pair have fallen out over gambling.

It has been claimed Rooney accrued debts of 700,000 through gambling on other sports, and also that he owed it to one of Owen's business partners.

But Rooney's spokesman said: "As far as Wayne is concerned there is absolutely no row or rift with Michael."

Owen's representative said: "They are the best of pals."

Newspaper reports suggested Rooney and Owen had fallen out over betting, and it had led to a bad atmosphere in the England camp ahead of this summer's World Cup in Germany.

The BBC understands Rooney's bets were all placed in the five months to January - and that he has not been gambling since.

But Rooney's agent insisted: "His and Michael's is a great friendship based on mutual respect."

And Owen's spokesman added: "They are very much looking forward to playing together in the World Cup."

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson had already hit out at the original claims made in the Sunday Mirror about Rooney racking up large gambling debts.

"It is just nonsense but these things will happen to the boy throughout his life," said Ferguson.

"We have had this with George Best, we had it with Paul Gascoigne and we had it with David Beckham.

"We know Wayne Rooney. It is rubbish and we shall dismiss it the best we can," he added.

But FA spokesman Adrian Bevington said on Sunday England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson is set to talk to Rooney as a result.

What Rooney has to do though is learn his lesson
Footballer and self-confessed gambler Steve Claridge

Much-travelled footballer and self-confessed heavy gambler Steve Claridge believes the saga could actually prove to be "the best thing that could have happened" to Rooney.

Claridge told BBC Sport: "What he's got to do though is learn his lesson. I don't care who he is or what he does, in 20 years time if he is still betting like that he won't have a penny to his name.

"I learnt my lesson. It took me a long time but I did.

"I spent more than I should have - it's as simple as that. But like everybody it gets to the point where you realise you can't win.

"But this is not going to affect his form - look at the way he played against Arsenal on Sunday," Claridge continued.

"England are not going to lose the World Cup if Wayne Rooney has lost a couple of bob on the horses."

However, Claridge insists gambling is "not a major problem in football".

"I've been in football for 22 years and if anything it's the other way and lads don't like betting and don't like giving their money away," he said.

"That might sound strange and goes against the grain but that is very much the case.

"Players play cards at every level but it's a bit of fun. A lot of my mates do it on a Friday night but no-one is spending money they can't afford."

It's for club managers or the national manager to step in if they feel there is an issue
Gareth Southgate

However, former England defender Gareth Southgate insists measures must be taken to protect young footballers from the dangers of gambling.

"Gambling is an addictive pastime but I think anything in moderation is okay," said the Middlesbrough skipper.

"If it starts to get out of hand individuals would need to deal with that.

"I think it's for club managers or the national manager to step in if they feel there is an issue.

"People have always gambled in squads and to be honest sometimes in the squads I was involved in it was good fun and it got people together.

"But some of the sums being spoken at the moment would be disturbing no matter what you're earning.

"There is a duty for everybody involved at a club to look out for younger players and to try to make sure those problems don't get out of hand."




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