Has James Maddison’s naïvety caused needless aggro for the casino industry?

By Nathan Joyes

Leicester City footballer James Maddison received his first England call-up from Gareth Southgate to potentially pull on the famous white shirt against the Czech Republic or Bulgaria in the recent European Qualifiers.

But the 22-year-old pulled out of the squad due to illness and didn’t travel with his teammates to Prague on Thursday. Despite not being fit enough to play, the future England star was pictured playing poker in a casino the same evening, sporting a cap and hoody, in an attempt to hide his identity.

The Guardian was quick to announce his timing was poor and it was not a good look for the midfielder, allowing people to criticise and question his professional focus. It’s hard to argue with this, in all honesty, and it is a decision the Leicester player is probably regretting.

Maddison is without a doubt under a new spotlight since coming into the England side, which Southgate announced during his press conference, stating the youngster may have been naïve with his decision to head out to his local casino.

"That goes with the territory. It's a high-profile position," Southgate said. "Once a player has been released from the squad, then it's up to them how they spend their individual time.

"I guess what James has learned is that if you have an involvement with England, then there's an increased spotlight on you and increased interest in your personal and private life as well."

But the question has to be asked: would Maddison’s decision to be out in public have been questioned just as much if he had, let’s say, went to a restaurant? Or was, in fact, the decision he made to go to a casino and gamble brought to the public’s attention more so?

A poor England performance in Prague which ended in a 2-1 defeat has seen the media circle the Three Lions’ camp and, with the team crying out for a creative player such as Maddison, it has simply provided them with more ammunition to attack the team.

The gambling industry is always under a magnifying glass and there is little to no doubt those within the sector will have their heads in their hands at Maddison’s decision to gamble when supposedly ill. It isn’t strengthening their image and it certainly hasn’t helped Maddison’s.

But let’s get this straight. There’s nothing wrong with Maddison gambling in a casino, even if his timing could have been better. To be honest, if Maddison had left the house at all, he would have been "papped" considering he was meant to be resting, which would have been reported back to Southgate.

England face Bulgaria on Monday night and a victory will see the team qualify for the next Euros – and arguably all will be forgotten in what has been a poor few days for everyone involved with the national squad.

My advice to Maddison would be to recuperate in the comfort of his own home and potentially look into online poker tournaments for the time being.

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