JESSE LINGARD has opened up on his battle with depression at Manchester United and revealed he used to drink to take away the pain.
The fun-loving 29-year-old usually lights up a room with his smile or his light-hearted nature.
But there was a point at United where he hit rock bottom with fan abuse leaving him not wanting to play.
How big a pay cheque is, or what car they drive, what watch or clothes they wear is often used to dismiss the simple fact that footballer’s are human too.
Speaking in The Jesse Lingard Story, which airs on Tuesday on Channel 4, the now Nottingham Forest ace said: “I just felt so much scrutiny, especially after the Derby game and I was getting abuse as I got on the bus.
“I can normally take it but sometimes it gets to a point where it’s like: ‘Ahh, I can’t even be arsed doing this any more.’
“Nobody really knew about my struggles off the pitch so they think: ‘You’re a footballer, you live in a nice house, you’ve got money, you can deal with anything.’
“But when it’s someone’s health and well being – it’s a different situation. We’re all human.
“It was difficult around that moment in time. It was probably [for] months.
“I didn’t want to play in case I did badly and there was more scrutiny. Football is my happy place but at that time, I couldn’t really put myself in that situation.
“I was playing and I felt like I was nonexistent. The games were just passing me by.
“When it’s not working out on the pitch, you try to work that bit harder to do well in the next match but my mind wasn’t there to do that.
“I wanted to stop completely and have a break and just be at home. I didn’t want to be on the pitch and have all that scrutiny. You lose a ball and it’s more pressure.”
Lingard resorted to drinking and going into “autopilot” mode to “take the pain away”.
The England international said he resorted to drinking as he felt no-one cared and that he didn’t have “anyone to bounce off or feed off”.
There’s a scene in the upcoming doc where brother Louie videoed Lingard spaced out on the sofa, completely still and his eyes blank.
On that, Lingard said: “Just autopilot.
“Coming home, lying on the sofa and staring. When I look at that now, I don’t know what was in my mind but it must have been racing.
“Literally, I just wanted to sit at home and drink a little bit – try and take the pain away. I don’t do that, normally.
“I’m not really a big drinker. Of course, here and there on nights out, whatever. But sitting at home and drinking before bed … that’s when I knew I was in a bad situation.
“It wasn’t drinking to excess. It was just little bits through the week and stuff like that. I look back and think: ‘What was I doing?’
“It was probably just to be in a mind frame where I’ve got no pain, no cares. Because I didn’t have anyone to bounce off or feed off, I resorted to that.”
Lingard also struggled to deal with his mum’s depression and was forced to seek help from United doctors.
His mum’s struggles with mental health took a toll on him both on and off the pitch.
Lockdown gave Lingard a much-needed chance to take a look at himself and “reignite that fire in my belly”.
And lockdown Lingard, on loan at West Ham, was arguably the best version of the midfielder the Premier League has seen.
He continued: “If lockdown didn’t happen, I don’t know what situation I’d be in because I needed that rest to really look at myself again, to reignite that fire in my belly and work out what was wrong with me.
“It was a turning point. I watched those videos and thought: ‘I should never doubt myself.’
“I started training every day, going for runs and making sure that I was one of the fittest going back to United after lockdown.”
He scored nine and assisted four in 16 league games with the Hammers, earning an England recall before Euro 2020.
Sadly, Lingard just missed out on a tournament which saw England reach their first final since the 1966 World Cup win.
Lingard then returned to United, hoping to play his way into first-team contention – but that didn’t happen.
And in the summer, instead of returning to West Ham, he joined Forest on a free transfer.
But his start to life at the Prem new boys hasn’t gone exactly to plan.
He scored his first goal for the club in last week’s 2-0 Carabao Cup win over Tottenham.
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