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Lingard contemplated break over mental health concerns

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 22 Apr 2021

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Jesse Lingard has opened up on how he pondered taking a break from football due to his struggles with mental health.

The attacking midfielder endured a difficult 2020 having fallen down the pecking order at Manchester United.

Off the pitch, Lingard’s cared for his brother and sister while his mother – who has suffered with depression – received treatment in London.

Lingard spoke to entertainment show “Presenting” back in January, with the video released on Thursday, and he was asked if his personal struggles and those of his mother left him contemplating quitting football.

“Not quit football, just have a time out really,” he said.

“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.

“Through the years we had the help for her, but even just for me it’s hard to bottle things up. 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 [Manchester] United and told them what I was going through, what my mum was going through and they’re always there to help.”

Lingard departed Old Trafford for West Ham on loan in January and he has flourished for David Moyes’ Champions League hopefuls.

The 28-year-old has scored nine goals in 10 league games since joining West Ham, equalling his best return for a top-flight season set back in 2017-18.

Lingard also has three assists to his name, making him the quickest Hammers player in history to reach double figures for direct goal involvements, form that has seen him earn an England recall with the rescheduled Euro 2020 on the horizon.

He spoke about how the first national lockdown in the United Kingdom in March 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic helped to change his outlook.

“I could have easily quit in lockdown, been like: ‘Nah I don’t want to do it,'” he added.

“I could have easily given up but the fight in me always brings me back to life and in lockdown I was just smashing gym, doing runs. I wanted to get back to training fitter and faster than anyone else and I did that.

“I feel like lockdown has kind of transitioned me in a way. I watched my old games back and watched the World Cup games back and I thought: ‘Yeah, that’s the real Jesse Lingard.’

“The time that I had going a couple seasons back or last season, it just wasn’t me at all and you can see that. My brother who lives with me, he could see that and he’s got a video of me literally laying on the couch and I’m just staring for three minutes into thin air and he’s just thinking: ‘What is he going through? He’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders.’ And even he didn’t know what I was going through at the time.

“I feel like with my mum and me I’ve learnt that when you open up you feel like a butterfly – you’re in a cocoon and then you can spread your wings, you can fly. It’s an amazing feeling and now I’ve got all that behind me and I can concentrate on football and my family.”

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