A FORMER Bradford (Park Avenue) player has revealed his own past gambling addiction as he tackles a charity trek to help others.

Ben McKenna, who had two spells with Avenue, will walk 80km, including all of the Yorkshire Three Peaks and then back to his home in Burnley all on this Saturday, in aid of the Gambling With Lives charity, which aims to raise awareness of the dangerous effects of gambling on mental health and high suicide risk.

The left-winger, 27, says gambling gripped his life for four years from 21 until he had a 'lightbulb moment' and placed his final bet almost two years ago.

He estimates he lost between £15,000 and £20,000 through online betting alone on roulette, football matches and horse racing in addition to losing money in bookies.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Ben McKenna says he is a happier man after ditching his betting past Ben McKenna says he is a happier man after ditching his betting past

McKenna, who made 41 appearances for Avenue, scoring eight goals in 2016 and then in the 2018-19 season, said: "It's a long way, I'm going to give it a go. I will be doing it on my own.

"I'll pace myself when I do it. I wanted to set myself something that's a bit of challenge. I want to push myself.

"Between 21 and 25, the betting was becoming a problem. They call gambling a hidden addiction. The signs are not visible like they are with drinking or drugs.

"I had about 10 online betting accounts at one point.

"I don't know what I spent at the bookies over the years. I was taking out loans, pawning jewellery.

I thought I was betting to win money, but it gave me a buzz. It was a rush.

"I thought if I wasn't prepared to help myself no-one else would help me.

"My biggest lessons was taking responsibility and accountability for my actions. Life has just got better now. I'm human, we all make mistakes.

"I had a bit of a lightbulb moment with the gambling on July 22, 2018.

"I remember driving to work one morning, parking up my car and thinking 'I'm better than that, I'm not having it'.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Ben McKenna's 'lightbulb moment' tattoo he had after placing his last bet in 2018Ben McKenna's 'lightbulb moment' tattoo he had after placing his last bet in 2018

"The last time I placed a bet was on September 5, 2018. I would say I have overcome my gambling.

"Having my problems with gambling was the best thing that could have happened to me as I would not be the man I am today without that bad experience.

I am not ashamed of anything, I am proud of who I am now.

"People message me all of the time about their gambling and I go above and beyond to help people out. I want to try to turn my negative into a positive."

McKenna, who now plays for National League North side Spennymoor Town, says he looks back fondly at his time at the Horsfall Stadium and remains in touch with Avenue's current manager, Mark Bower.

He added: "It just stopped when I joined Avenue for the second time. That was coming towards the end of it.

I loved it at Avenue. I will always have a soft spot for Bradford. I still speak to the manager.

"I feel like I have created a new life for myself. I love walking now, it clears my head."

Go to justgiving.com/crowdfunding/bmckenna to make a donation or for more information.