The most decorated player of the English Premier League reveals he didn’t enjoy playing
Former Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs has revealed that he never really actually enjoyed playing football in his column earlier this week. After Everton player Aaron Lennon was detained under the Mental Health Act.
Giggs points out that despite the wealth and fame that comes with being a successful football, it does not necessarily make them immune from mental health problems.
Giggs is Manchester United all-time leading appearance holder after turning out a staggering 963 times for the Red Devils. Over that time he won an incredible 13 Premier League titles, 4 FA Cup and 2 Champions League titles among many other trophies.
He was at Manchester United from the age of 14 to 42, and revealed the unpredictability of professional football caused him great stress and anxiety as a player. He also struggled with life after Old Trafford and saw a psychiatrist in order to learn how to cope with his playing days coming to an end.
“I have to admit that I never really enjoyed the games,” Giggs revealed in his Telegraph column.
“There was too much at stake playing for United. Unless you were 3-0 up with 10 minutes to go you learned that football had a habit of tripping you up. It was never wise to look around and relax and to enjoy the moment.
“I do not know what has affected Aaron, but I always struggled in the periods I was out the team or playing badly.
“I had a feeling of worthlessness. As a footballer you wonder if your team-mates are looking at you and asking the questions you are asking of yourself. Why can’t he hit a decent pass? Why’s he always injured? What’s wrong with him?
“The one thing I felt was unique to a footballer’s stress was that every day when I left my house I never knew what I would encounter.
“There might be 30 autograph requests over the course of the day, or 30 selfies. There might be none. There might just be nice things said. Or there might be aggro, and a harsh comment. It was the uncertainty about what the day held that got to me.”
Despite all the sucesss
Despite the fact he won 13 Premier League titles and two Champions League medals with United, Giggs said that he used to take defeat personally.
“I took defeat personally, and there were times after we lost a big game that – if we were not required at the training ground – I would not come out the house for two days. I know now that it is not helpful or normal – but it is hard to know what is normal when you are in that environment.”
He also went on to mention mental health in football –
“During my playing career I saw a psychiatrist once, when my hamstring injuries got bad. When I started playing no one did that. There was a mentality that you had to get on with it. That one bad result changed nothing, that the cream would always rise to the top. That was one way of dealing with the pressure I suppose, and then gradually speaking to psychiatrists or experts became more commonplace.
I have seen team-mates changed by their experiences: David Beckham after the 1998 World Cup, Phil Neville after Euro 2000. They had to distance themselves from events around them. They had to become stronger. At times you have to put on a face for the world. Fame – notoriety if you can call it that – is a strange thing, and you have to handle it as best you can.”
He also added –
“I know that with some players, the end of their career has been a relief,”
“Stress is something I learned to take seriously as a player and I can say that I struggled with the pressure at times, just as I worried about what it would be like when I final stopped playing. And I guess, looking back, I have been one of the lucky ones.”
Giggs also pointed out
That “Aaron Lennon’s story has made mental health of footballers an issue again and I think that for his sake and everyone else in the game it is important to be open about how we feel as professionals, and how we cope with stress.”