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EXCLUSIVE: Dundee United hero Lawrence Shankland opens up on fatherhood and issues outside of football close to his heart

Mandatory Credit: Photo by David Young/Action Plus/Shutterstock (10817846l) Lawrence Shankland of Dundee United during the warm up before the match; Tannadice Park, Dundee, Scotland; Scottish Premiership Football, Dundee United versus Livingston. Dundee United v Livingston, Scottish Premiership, Football, Tannadice Park, Dundee, Scotland, UK - 02 Oct 2020
Dundee United hero Lawrence Shankland.

Goal machine Lawrence Shankland – it’s a phrase we’ve become accustomed to hearing.

Scratch beneath the surface, though, and you uncover the man behind the moving parts.

The Dundee United star’s work off the pitch supporting Gamtalk UK – a scheme aimed at preventing problem gambling among Scottish youngsters – is particularly telling.

As much as the Tangerines’ Scotland striker got involved to help people, not least founder Paul Pettigrew, he’s doing it for himself too.

Paul Pettigrew of Gamtalk UK alongside Lawrence Shankland.
Paul Pettigrew of Gamtalk UK alongside Lawrence Shankland.

Shankland is no stranger to addiction. Like many Scots, he has seen its effects up close.

So, when approached by Pettigrew – a former youth footballer and ex-gambling addict – to become a Gamtalk UK ambassador, the United man didn’t have to think twice.

“When I went on Paul’s Instagram page and saw what he did it hit home,” the 25-year-old said.

‘It’s something that’s quite close to my heart’

“Problems with addiction affect a lot of people. We’ve experienced it in our family over the years with different people… and not just gambling.

“It’s something that’s quite close to my heart and when Paul asked if I’d be able to help out I was more than happy to.

“Gambling addiction affects a wide range of families and is quite a common thing, but it maybe doesn’t get spoken about as much as it should.

“Paul’s working ever so hard at getting the issue out there.

“If he wants me to go and speak to people of course I don’t mind that. In all honesty, I just said to him: ‘If there’s any way I can help out at all then I will do, just ask me.’

“In a couple of situations it’s already helped get a wee bit of backing for him so I’m just there as support.”

Lawrence Shankland in action for Dundee United.
Lawrence Shankland in action for Dundee United.

Betting and its potential pitfalls aren’t something Shankland has had to face up to personally, nor has he encountered them in any dressing room.

However, the United hitman believes more could be done to educate young players on the dangers of gambling.

In fact, he thinks the football authorities and the bookmakers that sponsor our game have a responsibility to raise awareness of possible issues before they arise.

Getting people to open up about gambling

He added: “Obviously there are people over the years who have come out and said they’ve had problems with gambling.

“It’s easy [for habits to spiral out of control] I think, especially in lockdown, because everything’s done on the phone.

“It’s very easy to get into a bad way with it, so if my involvement helps people and I get one person to talk about it, or it solves their problem, I would see that as a win.

“It’s not something I’ve seen in a changing room yet but I know in football it can be a problem, it’s been proven by many players.

“The bookmakers are big names and big sponsors and they do well to support all the cups and the leagues.

“It’s valuable for football to have those sponsors but I think it could probably be worked on at an earlier age in boys’ careers, just showing them how much of a problem gambling can lead to.

“Although it might be small bets boys are putting on when they’re younger, it can lead to bigger issues in the future and I think the responsibility you need to have with it should be emphasised.

“Obviously, you wouldn’t advise people to bet at all but, if people are, they need to be sure they’re doing it responsibly, they need to know the consequences – that they could find themselves in a wee bit of a trap.

“Before they know it they’ve lost more than they think they can lose. It’s important it’s spoken about.”

How fatherhood changed Lawrence Shankland

With a three-month-old daughter, Eva, now in his life, Shankland admits he feels more of a duty to do the right thing and support schemes like Gamtalk UK.

Fatherhood is changing him – and he wants to do the best he can for his little girl.

“You find yourself growing up pretty fast. You’re responsible for a wee human so you need to bring them up in the best way possible,” he said.

“All those things come into it. You would never want your own child to lead a life where they have problems like addiction.

“As she gets older I’ll look to educate her on everything that I can, but it would be good if there was stuff out there educating them from elsewhere so they know the consequences of addictions.

“People in every walk of life can find themselves addicted to all kinds of different things.

“When she grows up I hope there are more programmes in place like Paul’s.

“He’s targeting football right now but I’m sure if the scheme grows he can go wider, within schools.

“If that was something my child was going into school to do, as a parent, I’d be quite happy.”

For the here and now, little Eva is presenting Shankland and partner Nicole with different problems as she starts teething.

However, the former Ayr United and Aberdeen striker believes they’re coping well, despite some kitchen gadget-related teething problems of his own.

“I’ve just bought a coffee machine so that’ll come in handy soon enough,” he laughed.

“I’ve been putting the milk all up the walls, burnt my finger, dropped it, milk everywhere!

‘I’m enjoying it so far and I’m hearing it only gets better’

“I’ve been fine, though. We’re adapting and so far Eva has been sleeping well. Nicole does a lot of the work when I’m at training, so no complaints!

“Her teeth are coming in right enough, but she’s been good.

“Of course, it is life-changing and, at times, it can be difficult when you find yourself a wee bit more tired than usual, but there are more good times than bad.

“I’m enjoying it so far and I’m hearing it only gets better so I’m looking forward to the madness that awaits.”

As much as the current situation in lockdown isn’t ideal, Shankland, ever the doting dad, is taking the positives of more time spent at home with the ladies in his life.

He continued: “It’s only us up in Dundee so whenever I’d come home from training I’d have just been with Nicole before. Now we have the wean, so it has been good.

“We’ve got to spend a lot of time together. Of course, we’d like to see more of the family but the time will come for that.

“We’re just getting on with it like everyone else.”