Bellamy reveals depression battle followed his tough start at City and injury problems
- Credit: Eastern Counties Newspapers
Craig Bellamy has opened up about his long battle against depression, which started with sometimes crying himself to sleep during the early stages of his career at Norwich City and was exacerbated by his injury problems.
The former Wales striker, who scored 34 goals in 91 games for the Canaries between 1997 and 2000, is now under-21s coach at Belgian side Anderlecht and relishing the chance to help young players develop using the extensive experience of his playing days.
The 40-year-old played at the top level consistently, for clubs including Liverpool, Newcastle and Manchester City, earning 78 international caps but being hindered by injuries throughout his career, retiring at 34 after a stint with hometown club Cardiff City.
It all started after making the breakthrough as a 17-year-old at Norwich though, scoring 13 goals in his first full season in the second tier and 19 during his second, despite missing almost two months after a knee injury from a nasty tackle from Wolves defender Kevin Muscat which angered City players and fans.
He then missed most of the 1999-00 season with a knee injury picked up in pre-season, when Tottenham Hotspur were close to signing him, only making another five appearances before being sold to top-flight Coventry for £6.3million at the start of the next campaign - to wide disappointment among supporters.
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“I was 15 when I moved away from home and can you imagine a lot of 15-year-old boys moving to the other end of the country, away from everyone, away from family and the loneliness, being homesick, was the hardest I ever had to deal with,” Bellamy explained.
“There were nights you were crying yourself to sleep, you can’t speak to anyone really, it’s just football. Your friends were able to go away on the weekend and you think of a 15 or 16-year-old kid stuck in his digs on a weekend, all on your own, waiting for people to come back.
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“When you get older you understand a lot more, that’s just natural, and I have a look back at how I was and the anger I had, even with my parents now - I was really close with my father, we haven’t really bridged that gap, because I sort of held him responsible for making me go there.
“There were times that I would come back home and I didn’t want to go back but he would make me go back, and he was right, it was the best thing for me, but I held a lot of resentment towards him for that. I still haven’t really recovered from that.”
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It wasn’t until his second spell at Liverpool when Bellamy really started to realise he needed professional help though, talking to sports psychologists about his dark moods after training and games, and eventually getting the help he needed after retirement.
“The last three or four years I’ve been diagnosed with depression, I’m a manic depressant, I can’t get away from that,” he revealed, speaking to Sky Sports News. “I have ridiculous highs, massive lows. I’m medicated, have been for three years and this is the first time I’ve ever spoken about it.
“I think a lot of that was, injuries didn’t help, because they were so, so difficult to try and overcome. The self-doubt you have within in yourself, which is normal because you want to come back a better player - but you get a lot of people saying you can’t make it, you’re never going to be the same.
“So the level of trying to prove yourself on a consistent basis, that I am going to be better, I am going to prove everyone wrong. Going back to being a kid and moving away, I’m going to make this work, because I’ve missed out on my childhood and my friends. If I’ve moved to the other side of the country I’m going to make this work, I don’t care who gets in my way.
“I just sort of went that way with, this is my demeanour, I didn’t care about anyone, I’ll train harder than anyone, that was my mindset, I’m not saying I did, but if I’m going to do this, I’m going to go all the way with it.
“I’m really proud of what I was able to achieve, my drive was huge, due to my ability. My ability wasn’t the same (after injuries), we played with the likes of Stevie (Gerrard) and all that, I wasn’t that level.
“People say I could have won titles - I wasn’t good enough, I’m telling you now, I knew I wasn’t good enough. For me to have got to where I did was a huge achievement. I got the best out of everything I had.”
Thankfully, the former Canaries forward looks to be in a better place now though, speaking passionately about his challenges and about how he is trying to use his experience positively at Anderlecht.
“There’s so much enjoyment this game can give you, so much satisfaction, but also it can give you the right tools in life as well - and that’s all sports, it can give you great discipline and work ethic,” he added.
“Being around the people who have been in those positions and who have seen it before can give you the best advice going. That’s why I like dealing with young players because what you say to them in those moments hopefully will stick to them through their careers, like it did with my coaches when I was young.
“There were some good habits, there were some really bad habits, that I got taught but I never blame them, it wasn’t their fault.
“I’ve been there, I’ve seen every situation you can imagine, so for a young player who’s going through a certain problem, I can say ‘come see me, come speak to me’.”
- You can watch Bellamy’s full Sky Sports interview in the video above