Danny Rose and Peter Crouch have opened up about their personal experiences for Mental Health Awareness Week as part of a BBC One documentary to be broadcast this weekend, ‘A Royal Team Talk: Tackling Mental Health’.
In it, Tottenham and England defender Rose reveals he had been labelled as “crazy” by a potential new club because of his depression, while former Liverpool and England striker Crouch admits he used to cry at night after experiencing issues with his body image.
The two were speaking as part of a revealing conversation alongside HRH the Duke of Cambridge, England manager Gareth Southgate, former Arsenal and France striker Thierry Henry, ex-Spurs and England midfielder Jermaine Jenas and presenter Dan Walker.
‘A Royal Team Talk: Tackling Mental Health’ will be shown on BBC One on Sunday, 19 May at 22.30 BST.
‘Angry and embarrassed’
Rose was part of the England squad that reached the World Cup semi-finals last summer, before helping guide Spurs to the Champions League final earlier this month.
However, the left-back believes football still has “a long way to go” with how it treats mental health.
Rose revealed he has had depression on the eve of last year’s World Cup, which he says was triggered by a combination of injury and family tragedy.
He disclosed his illness in a frank interview and was later praised by Prince William for his honesty and bravery in speaking out.
However, Rose claims his revelation was brought up during discussions later that summer.
“I was speaking to another club in the summer and they said, ‘the club would like to meet you, just to check that you’re not crazy,’ because of what I’d said and what I’d been through,” said Rose.
“I was embarrassed, as whatever I’ve been through I like to think it doesn’t affect me doing my job.
“I still know I’ll always give a hundred percent.”
The move never materialised but the 28-year-old says he remains “angry” and “embarrassed” to think that people “assume I might be crazy”.
He added: “If that opportunity came around again I’d definitely say no now.”
‘It was a big problem for me growing up’
Well-travelled striker Crouch is a Premier League veteran, having scored 108 goals in 468 top-flight appearances.
At 6ft 7in, Crouch is renowned for his tall, slim build, but the 38-year-old says it was a “big problem growing up”.
“When I first broke into the first team at QPR people judged me on my appearance,” said Crouch. “I’m the same size, and probably even skinnier than I am now.
“Although I make light of those things now, no teenager wants to go through these things.
“I had these hang-ups and I always used to cry. I used to cry at night when I was a kid of 14/15, [saying] ‘dad, why am I not the same as everyone else?’
“Football fans can be very ruthless.”
Crouch made his England debut against Colombia in 2005 but he says he could have “gone under” after receiving abuse for his appearance from the stands.
“One of my first England games at Old Trafford I was booed coming on, and my family were in the crowd,” said Crouch.
“It was horrible, and I thought of my mum as I was coming on thinking she’s going to be crying her eyes out. Thankfully I did all right.
“But when I was playing for England, because I was different, I felt I had to score at every single game and thankfully I did well.
“I thought that because of the way I look there was definitely a stigma against me and I was never Plan A, I was always Plan B.”
‘I didn’t want to do anything’
Southgate last summer became the most successful England manager since 1990, when he guided his country to their first World Cup semi-final in 28 years.
The former Aston Villa and Middlesbrough defender also represented his country as a player.
With a place in the final of Euro ’96 at stake, Southgate stepped up to take a penalty in the semi-final with Germany. He missed and hosts England went out of the tournament.
Following his miss in the shootout, the current England boss says he “buried” himself in his house to avoid the attention of media.
“The process afterwards was amateur really, through nobody’s fault other than what was in place,” said Southgate. “All the nation’s press are outside our house, so we’re dealing with that on our own.
“Every 15-20 minutes people [are] knocking at the door [asking] can you speak to this paper – I didn’t want to do anything.
“The immediate aftermath was that feeling of everywhere you go, ‘yeah, it was me, I was the one who got us knocked out’.
“For years, people with young kids would introduce me, ‘this is Gareth. He was the bloke – do you remember that?’
“That’s the narrative that goes around your life. I played 700 games but I’m that bloke.”
Having taken over as England manager in 2016, Southgate set about changing the approach to mental health to prevent the squad from being “inhibited”.
“I had a belief that English players could play in a different way,” he said. “I’d seen teams worried, not enjoying the experience anymore and I felt it was important that an environment was created where players could try things and show the skills they’ve got.
“So the starting point was trying to build relationships and build an environment that people can be themselves.
“I played with guys who had come in the dressing room that had problems and I knew straight away, and I could talk to them.
“I think everybody thinks it’s only them, and yet the dressing room is full of people with difficult experiences.”
A Royal Team Talk: Tackling Mental Health, BBC One, Sunday 22.30