WEST HAM’s Michail Antonio has revealed how he broke down in tears in bed as he considered quitting football while battling depression.
The 32-year-old forward has enjoyed an epic rise from non-league at Tooting & Mitcham United up the pyramid to being a Premier League and international star.
Since his arrival at the Hammers in 2015, the Jamaican forward has gone on to become the club’s all-time leading scorer in the Prem.
However, despite living out his football dream, he has now bravely revealed that his fairytale has not always been plain sailing.
Speaking on the Original Penguin X Campaign Against Living Miserably Under The Surface podcast, Antonio said: “I’m a person that normally bounces back from things, quite positive and never let much hold me down. There was one time where it really affected me.
“I’m a person that likes to control things – if I feel that I can control things then I’ll deal with things. But this time where it did hit me, I felt like I fell into a depression.
“I started the very first game of the season. The next game, I wasn’t in the squad. The next game, I started. The next game, I wasn’t in the squad. Then I came off the bench. The next game I started and got pulled off at half-time. And that just kept happening.
“Even if I was playing well, it just kept happening to me. No matter what I was doing, I wasn’t good enough. If I was having a great game, it wasn’t good enough.
“So I just felt powerless, and there was nothing I could do.
“I’m a person that if I’m playing well, then I expect to play because I’m doing the job that you’re putting me out there to do. If I’m not, then it’s not a problem, I’ll be on the bench and wait for the opportunity and then I’ll take it and be back in the team.
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“But the fact they were putting me in and pulling me out and just basically running me around the shops; I couldn’t deal with that because it was alien to me.”
Antonio continued: “There was one day where that kept happening to me, and I was just laying in bed and tears started streaming from my eyes and I couldn’t control them.
“I don’t like showing emotion and I like dealing with things, but tears were just falling from my eyes in bed.
“My Mrs was laying next to me in bed and I didn’t say anything, just tears falling – she looked up and said ‘Are you alright?’ and I said yeah, I’m fine, but she said ‘You can’t be fine, you’re crying’, and I just said ‘I don’t know if I want to play football anymore’.
“I’m a very positive person and if something is not making me happy but making me sad, then change it.
“Look for something that is going to make you happy, that is going to make you feel better – don’t keep rotting away in something that is pulling you down, because at the end of the day, life is short.
“It doesn’t matter how well that job is doing for you, it doesn’t matter how well things are for other people. If it’s not for you, it’s not for you.
“If it’s really affecting you and pulling you down, and it’s something that you can change, then change it.
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“I said to her ‘I don’t know if I want to play anymore, I’m thinking about retiring’, because I knew if I went to West Ham and said I want to leave, they weren’t going to want to sell me.
“So I was honestly just thinking about leaving football and retiring.”
On why he did not decide to hang up his boots, Antonio said: “Me talking to my Mrs, my brother and my agent took a bit of the weight off me, enough for me to keep going to training and stuff like that, but what really made a difference for me was being able to go out there and play, and kept playing consistently.
“It became more of a norm as a footballer – when you’re playing well you get your opportunity and you keep playing.
“When life and football became more normal, then I dealt with it and that’s how I managed to pull myself out. The football put me into depression, but the football also pulled me out.
“That one time, I needed to talk. Even though I didn’t want to because my wife had to say to me ‘no, you’re not okay’, but as soon as I spoke to her, the next day I spoke to my agent and that same day I spoke to my brother and it did help me massively.”
The former Reading, Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest ace also advised: “Always have someone to speak to, because as soon as you lay it out, the majority of times it will feel like a weight lifted from you.
“Speaking to someone is massive, so don’t always keep it in, your mind will be running in circles.
“Having someone else’s opinion on how to feel; sometimes just getting that perspective might just change that little thought that you have in your mind.”