When one’s life has revolved around a sport for so long, the prospect of punditry or retirement must pail in comparison. For those at the top, especially, there is always a long way to fall, and all good things must come to an end. Yet lower league stars seem to be equally as effected by their own personal demons as any premiership player.
Take Clark Carlisle, for example; a high achiever at school who was hotly tipped to attend Oxbridge, the now P.N.E Centre Back chose a life of football instead. Playing alongside the likes of Ashley Cole and John Terry for the England U21s, his decision to enter professional sports seemed vindicated. But in early 2001, his life changed dramatically. Following a potentially career-ending cruciate ligament injury, he was told that he may never walk properly again. Initial prognoses ranged from 12-20 months in estimated healing time, thus spiralling the former England hopeful in to an alcohol-fuelled depression.
…made a complete recovery…
Now Chairman of the Management Committee of the Professional Footballers’ Association, he has made a complete recovery from his former ailment. Yet such an account stands as testimony to the incredible highs and lows of professional football. Clark Carlisle, however, is a success story, fortunately finding the help he needed through family members and his old mentor Ian Holloway.
Thus, with mental illness still widely unaddressed, the FA has recently sent over 50,000 depression guides to former topflight players. Their desperate attempt to address what is arguably the sport’s biggest taboo comes unfortunately too late for some. Yet perhaps the death of Gary Speed will change the way we view mental illness in sports for the better, thereby preventing any more tragedy from befalling some of the world’s most talented athletes.