Former Manchester United youngster Luke Chadwick has opened up on the difficulties he had with his mental health after his appearance was mocked.
The midfielder made his debut for the Red Devils in 1999 and had loan spells at Royal Antwerp, Reading and Burnley before permanently moving away from the club in 2004 to West Ham, having turned out on 25 occasions in the Premier League under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Chadwick never settled at a club until moving to MK Dons in 2009, and he admitted that he found it mentally difficult having become a figure of fun due to his looks.
“You get abuse as a footballer. It’s an issue when it was all people would talk about. It was always about my appearance and the way I looked,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“I didn’t realise it at the time but looking back it affected me more in terms of being really anxious. I didn’t like talking to people. I was quite a shy boy at the time anyway, so I wouldn’t go tell people what I was feeling. So it was a difficult time. It affected the way I lived my life off the pitch – not so much on it – but certainly off it.”
“It was quite childish things. Spots on my face, teeth sticking out, that sort of thing. I think it was more the repetition of being said over and over again more than one specific thing. In the end it lowers your self-esteem and all I’m known for, or spoken about, is the way that I looked, which is definitely not right.”
The former England Under-21 star explained the impact it had on his life.
“Just being anxious, I wouldn’t want to go out,” he said. “People knew who I was because I played for Man Utd and I always assumed that they’d be saying horrible things about me. Potentially they weren’t all the time. But being a quiet, shy, nervous boy anyway, it intensified that.
“It stunted my growth as a person at the time to move forward. Getting past that, it’s given me more resilience, but at the time it probably wasn’t right for a young boy of 19 or 20, even though I’m an adult, to have to deal with that.
“I never would have asked for help because of the type of person I was. It was swept under the carpet. Looking back, I should have opened up.”
Chadwick was particularly targeted by the show ‘They Think It’s All Over’, with presenter Nick Hancock offering his apologies in response to hearing the former player’s story.
“I’m appalled, really. For him, and at myself,” he said. “When I hear him speaking I’m full of admiration for the present Luke Chadwick and full of sympathy for the young Luke Chadwick. I feel a great deal of responsibility and shame, which I do have to hold my hands up to.”