Imagine the scenario: You’ve left school at 16, and walked into your dream job. You only have to work for half a day, get free entry into a football match every weekend, and you get paid a very handsome salary for the trouble. This job is the only thing you’ve ever wanted to do, and it becomes all you live for. However, by the time you reach the age of 35, you’re no longer able to this job, and you have to give it up. This job is all you’ve ever known, so what are you going to do now?

This scenario is a very sombre reality for thousands of former professional footballers and for a long time has simply existed, with barely a thought for how the last generation of footballing idols are now filling their time. That is, until recently, when former Bradford City and Hull City star Dean Windass dramatically confessed to the world that he has suffered from depression ever since hanging up his boots two years ago, and has twice attempted to commit suicide since the start of the year as he struggles to come to terms with life after football.

In an incredibly candid interview with The People, the 42-year-old, who had a reputation of being something of a hard man during his career, confessed to “crying every day for two years since retiring” and feeling “in a hole that I honestly didn’t know how to get out of.” In the interview, Windass also confessed to turning to alcohol and having a fling with ‘a girl from the pub’ which ultimately ended his 18-year marriage. He also admitted the sudden death of his father last April and the death of fellow professional Gary Speed in November had also affected him and left him feeling he had no way out.

Windass says there are hundreds of footballers in the same boat, and wants the Football Association and the Professional Footballers Association to do more to help, and also highlights the fact that because professional footballers commit their futures to the game at such a young age, many retire and have a hard time finding work due to a lack of qualifications and other working skills. “There is nothing to get up for in the morning. I do my run in the morning but at midday, what do you do? I think fuck it; I’m going to go for a pint.”

As a fan myself, I have the utmost respect for Windass for being so open and honest about the struggles that he has been facing. For him to open up like this shows a real strength of character, and I think it is fantastic that he is being so candid about how is he feeling. He was an inspirational character for whatever club he was at in his playing days, and I genuinely hope that his strength and courage in speaking out about his depression will open the door so that both he and other former professionals facing similar struggles are able to get the help they need to get their lives back on track.

 

Words by Bruce Halling

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