Steven Caulker has revealed how a spiral of addiction and depression almost led him to suicide.
Caulker, 25, broke into the Tottenham team at a young age and was called up by England in 2012, scoring on his debut against Sweden, but the defender’s battles with alcohol and gambling have led to mental health issues and being signed off by current club QPR.
In an interview with The Guardian, Caulker recalls how gambling was his way of dealing with the pressure of being “chucked in the first team as a teenager”, leading to a cycle of self-destruction at the four Premier League clubs he has played for before one last big loss in December became all too much.
“I contemplated suicide a lot in that period,” Caulker told The Guardian. “A dark time. Everything I’d gone through in football, where had it taken me? All the guilt, the embarrassment, the shame, the public humiliation in the papers … and for what?
“I reckon I’ve lost 70 per cent of what I’ve earned. When you lose that amount of money, the guilt … that’s so many lives you could have changed. There was no escape, no way out, other than to ‘leave’.”
Caulker says current QPR boss Ian Holloway has urged him to stay at Loftus Road, where he still has one year remaining on his contract.
Spurs had sent Caulker to Sporting Chance in an attempt to tackle his demons earlier in his career, but anxiety over not being good enough led the centre-back to drinking problems and chairman Daniel Levy giving him an ultimatum to either clean up or leave.
Tottenham – 2009-13 Yeovil (loan) – 2009-10 Bristol City (loan) – 2010-11 Swansea (loan) – 2011-12 Cardiff – 2013-14 QPR – 2014-present Southampton (loan) – 2015-16 Liverpool (loan) – 2016
Caulker’s problems continued at Cardiff, despite the help of then manager Malky Mackay, as well as at Southampton, Liverpool and QPR, and he believes football is still avoiding the issues he has faced.
“Football does not deal well with mental illness,” Caulker added. “Maybe it’s changing but the support mechanisms are so often not there.
“I’ve spoken to so many players who have been told to go to the Sporting Chance clinic and they’ve refused because they know, if they take time off, they’ll lose their place in the team. Someone steps in and does well, so you’re gone.”
Caulker has been training with the former league player Drewe Broughton at Goals centre in Hayes all summer.
The defender is adamant he “still has 10 years left in the game” and wants to show what he is “truly capable of”.Soccer Accumulator Bonus
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