Kevin Kyle opened the newspaper and his heart sunk.

The former Rangers striker saw a picture of himself working away on former ferry Regina Baltica with the headline: 'Former £10k-a-week striker now working 12 hr shifts'. A story, from 2004, he describes nowadays as 'like a dagger to the heart'. Earning an honest living, Kyle believes, was portrayed as though he was committing a crime. 

The towering retired frontman did not have his troubles to seek during his playing career. His off-field issues with gambling were well documented at the time, and he recalls them during an hour-long conversation with regret in his voice. The anxiety and sadness he felt when he read the article, he still remembers. He thinks back to the tears as he phoned his wife Lynn, questioning what he was doing wrong.

It's the same feeling he gets when he's asked, 'Why is Kevin Kyle driving a taxi?' It's not the honest work he is concerned with, it's the perception. "I was losing my mind," he recalled to Herald and Times Sport. "Football became secondary because my mind was so fixated on other things. I could never focus and that's probably why my career was so up and down.

"When I was at Kilmarnock in the second season, all I was thinking was, 'By the time this game is finished will be five, I'll get home at six and I'll get back on the computer and start gambling'. That's the way it was. So how was my mind 100 percent focused on football if I was thinking about that?

"After football I couldn't retire, I couldn't live off what I'd earned in football. I didn't squander everything I had, I invested in some good things and some not so good, but I didn't earn enough. I maybe had five really good years at my level in the English Championship, but it wasn't what the players are earning now. I had to go out and work and I was brought up with good values.

"I thought I didn't have any particular skills to go into any roles so I just applied for every job possible. I was trying to get into the offshore or gas industry and I got a job working in the catering side of that at the Shetland Islands. They were building a massive gas plant and I thought that was a good stepping stone to get offshore.

"It was basically working on a hotel barge, catering for the guys working on the plant. That was fine but I was really anxious about going out to work. I had worked before football but this was for real, having to provide for my family. It was 18 days on, 10 days off. I would do the laundry or kitchen so I could be away and not see anyone. I was anxious about what people thought of me.

"One trip, one of my colleagues took some pictures of me and sold a story to a paper. I woke up and here was the headline, 'Kevin Kyle, from 10 grand a week footballer to £800 a fortnight baggage handler' or whatever it was. That was like a knife to the heart, probably one of the lowest moments I've ever felt in my life because I felt like I was doing something wrong. I felt horrendous but the amount of people who messaged me that I had done the right thing. What hurt me most was the lies, '£10,000 per week', at no point in my footballing life did I ever earn that.

"Now I'm classed as the 10 grand a week footballer who worked on the ships and is a taxi driver. I'm now labelled that and it's not how it was, so it felt really bad. As time went by I had to keep working, it was the right thing to do. Now I've got other ambitions but I never thought giving up football would be difficult. I don't miss playing football but I find it difficult to adjust to the feelings of people judging you for what you do. When you leave football you tell people you're a taxi driver and people say, 'What the f*** are you doing that for?' When really, if I'd turned round and said I was a coach at Hearts' youth team, people would say, 'Superb'. But that coach might only be earning £12,000 a year, training the kids one night a week. That won't pay the bills in my life."

Kyle, in our honest and heartfelt chat, admits the article did start off his distrust in the media. A dislike, somewhat, that he has carried for years. But he is beginning to allow the incident to pass under the bridge. Especially given his recent success both in the media as well as back in football.

YouTube and podcast sensation Open Goal with ex-Celtic midfielders Simon Ferry and Paul Slane has given Kyle a new lease of life. The bi-weekly broadcast which provides opinion and punditry from the trio as well as the likes of Andy Halliday, Frank McAvennie and Derek Ferguson is a smash-hit.

And Kyle, while he still understands the scrutiny that comes with being a personality in Scottish football, is enjoying his time back in the spotlight - this time for the right reasons. "I think Open Goal has given me that confidence in myself again. I just become anxious about making that next step into something else and I think that's something most footballers feel when they finish, the anxiety of a different environment. Sometimes you feel that wee bit of shame that you should still be in football but it's not like that anymore.

"Because you're on the TV or a professional on the pitch on a Saturday, people think because they pay their money to watch, they're entitled to their opinion. And they are, but when it's a personal attack, that's something football needs to try and eradicate. But how do you? It's always going to be there. You shouldn't be scrutinised for a bad day.

"I look back now and can say that it wasn't wrong, what I did. I got a lot of support and it took a while to get over it. I wouldn't wish it on anyone because it really wasn't a nice feeling. I remember phoning my wife in tears, crying about it and saying, 'What am I doing wrong? I'm just trying to get a job to make things easier'. Before that I was playing at Ayr United for £250 a week. I had a good career but the wages in Scottish football's lower leagues just weren't paying the bills."

Kyle has, of course, turned out for Rangers and Hearts among other clubs, which comes with its own issues in Scotland. An instant hatred from Celtic and Hibs supporters, for one. But the former goal-scorer insists he has had great fun proving people wrong on Open Goal.

He is extremely popular for his dry sense of humour and his honesty. Almost the perfect foil for the crazy character portrayed by Slane and the joker Ferry. He's just 'big Kev from Stranraer', he always has been. But it's only now that former rival fans are starting to realise - and love it. "The way I am on the show is the way I've been my whole life," he added. "I've never really been anything different. Some people have never been able to see that side of me. I don't have a filter, sometimes I'll say things and think, 'Aw s*** why did I say that?' But that's my thinking, I can't help that. I've got to say it and whatever the consequences of that, I deal with. I don't mean any malice by things, it's just my opinion and I'm entitled to that.

"The fact that some people who support other clubs think, 'Big Kevin Kyle, I didn't used to like him but he comes across as sound'. You didn't like me because I was probably playing football against your club or I was a rival. You didn't know me. But because you see me talking about my family on the show or having a joke about my career, you can see that I enjoy what I do and you see the real person. It's not just myself either it's the guests, too. The best example is probably Andy Halliday, he played with Rangers and would have Celtic fans who didn't like him as a player, but they'll see he's a sound guy with some funny stories about a good career.

"It's great for footballers that they're able to show that not everyone is who you think they are. That's a good analogy for life in general, you should never judge somebody because you think that's what they are. Wait until you get to know them, then make your judgment. Football is quick to judge.

"If you look at guys like Willie Collum. For a long time we had Slaney joking about it all. But he was sound, he's just a human being and will make mistakes as a referee, he's not a bad guy. Willie will hopefully come on at some point if we can twist his arm! But it's good to see people aren't what or who they think they are, and I think that's been the case with myself.

"I've said things in the media in the past, some ridiculous things, and I regret them. I wasn't media trained, I'm Kevin Kyle from Stranraer and whatever comes out my mouth is what's going to be. It's just how I think, if I don't act like that I'm putting out a false personality and I think it's better to be me than somebody I'm not."