A FORMER Sunderland AFC player is today behind bars after a street robbery and staging a bomb hoax on a bookies.
Daniel Staples played alongside Jordan Henderson and Jack Colback during his time at the Black Cats’ Academy.
But while his ex-teammates are shining in the Premier League, the 21-year-old goalkeeper can only look forward to starring for his prison side.
At Durham Crown Court yesterday, Staples was jailed for more than six years after the court heard the gambling addiction he developed at the age of 15 spiralled out of control.
He demanded £10,000 and placed a fake bomb in a betting shop, which brought Annfield Plain to a standstill on July 5.
Shops, a GP surgery, schools and the main routes through the village were affected as police drafted in Army bomb disposal experts.
They were alerted by bookmaker Coral, after a customer found betting slips bearing the demand and instructions for staff to leave the cash at a drop-off point, warning a package in the gents would go off if police were called.
Although the device looked genuine, analysis after a controlled explosion found it would not have detonated.
Richard Bennett, prosecuting, said Staples was taken to a police station by his uncle, who called his nephew to ask if he was involved when he heard about the bomb scare.
Staples admitted blackmail, and placing the imitation explosive device with intent to induce another to believe it would ignite or explode. The incident happened while he was on bail for a robbery in Newcastle, when he punched a man in the street after a night at the Circus Casino, on February 6.
Staples and two mates believed the victim had taken his gambling chips.
He pleaded guilty on the basis that one of the others snatched the wallet.
The court heard about the demise of Staples’ career.
He signed for Newcastle United at the age of 11, but was dismissed in 2002 for drink- driving,
Andrew Finlay, mitigating, said the stopper played for Wrexham after being released from the North East Premier League clubs, then took up with lower league sides after returning to the region because he was homesick.
“His career began to decline and it seems things began to break down in October 2010.
“He rubbed shoulders with these people who have done extremely well and achieved at the top of the football profession, as he did at Newcastle and Sunderland.
“To have tasted it himself and then to have lost it is more than most people will have strained under.”
Judge Esmond Faulks sentenced Staples, of Harelaw Gardens, Catchgate, to 16 months for the robbery.
He was also given a five-year term for blackmail and four years for the explosive device, to run concurrently.