Former Man City player Jeff Whitley reveals drug battle

Jeff Whitley
Whitley made 126 appearances for Manchester City over seven years

Former Manchester City and Northern Ireland midfielder Jeff Whitley has spoken in depth about his battle with alcohol and cocaine.

The 32-year-old is now sober after a spell at the Sporting Chance clinicexternal-link.

"I'd been on humongous benders. It wasn't just alcohol, it was cocaine and a mixture of other drugs," he said.

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

Whitley was speaking to BBC Radio Manchester's 'In the Spotlight' programme, talking in depth about his battle with at first drinking, and later drugs.

As a youngster his family moved to Wrexham from Zambia and, along with brother Jim, he played in the Wrexham Youth League before being taken on as a trainee at Manchester City.

He made his City debut in 1996 and went onto make 126 appearances at Maine Road, before mutally agreeing to leave the club after falling out of favour.

After a trial spell at the Stadium of Light, Whitley signed a contract at Sunderland and followed that with spells later in his career at Wrexham, Notts County, Cardiff, Stoke, Woodley Sports and Northwich Victoria.

Whitley revealed it was during his time at Cardiff between 2005 and 2008 that he first began to experiment with cocaine.

"I remember Dave Jones [Cardiff manager at the time] at one point said to me 'Jeff don't come in but we'll still pay you' [because of his drinking]," Whitley told BBC Radio Manchester.

"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 that quick. 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."

Having a Belfast-born father, Whitley was eligible to play for Northern Ireland and represented the country 20 times.

An occasion when his drinking binges did catch up with him was on the eve of an international game in 2005, when along with Philip Mulryne, they broke a team curfew to go drinking.

He later apologised for the incident but, after continued problems, he checked into the Sporting Chance clinic when he had thoughts about taking his own life, and became concerned at his health.

"The only time I would go to sleep was when my body shut down," he added.

"At times I would just be praying just to die.

"I was throwing up blood at times and waking up with urine and the rest of it in the bed and all my back was in agony."

Hear brothers Jim and Jeff Whitley talk about their lives and careers further on 'In the Spotlight' on BBC Radio Manchester on Thursday, 13 October. If you miss the show you can listen again via the iPlayer or download the show as a podcast.