Manchester United winger Jesse Lingard, who is currently on loan at West Ham, considered taking a break from football last year for mental health reasons.
The 28-year-old has hit the ground running at the London Stadium this season, after being frozen out of the Red Devils’ squad by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
“I was going into games happy sitting on the bench and that’s not me. I was telling my brother the other day: ‘Remember when I was happy sitting on the bench and all this?’
“I didn’t want to play because my mind wasn’t there, I wasn’t focused at all. I was thinking about other things and obviously bottling it all up; trying to play football, you can’t do it.”
It’s brave of Lingard to speak up about his mental health woes – even in 2021, although now widely more appreciated, athletes are expected by some to just toughen up and get on with it.
But life at home can’t simply be fixed by a desirable job, as the 28-year-old explained his mother has struggled with mental health for many years.
“Through the years we had the help for her, but even just for me it’s hard to bottle things up,” Lingard said.
“It feels like you’re not the same person. I felt like I wasn’t Jesse Lingard. Even in football matches, I felt like the game was just passing me by, like I just didn’t want to be there – it was crazy … So, I opened up to United and told them what I was going through, what my mum was going through and they’re always there to help.”