Danny Rose has just shared something he has not told his parents, never mind Gareth Southgate.
He wanted to explain why England and his selection for this summer’s World Cup has been his salvation, and why the national football centre at St George’s Park has become his sanctuary. But what followed was astonishing; perhaps the most moving interview with a footballer you will read this summer.
Rose opened up for the first time about his battle with depression and the dreadful events that triggered his illness. ‘You are the only people who know about a lot of this stuff,’ he said. ‘I haven’t told my mum or my dad, and they are probably going to be really angry reading this, but I’ve kept it to myself until now.’
This smart, articulate young man talked about his uncle’s suicide and two shocking incidents at his parents’ home in Doncaster. On one occasion his mother suffered horrific racial abuse. On another a gun was fired, with his brother almost shot in the face. What originally set it off, he suggests, was Tottenham’s management of a knee injury he suffered in January 2017, and the fact, he claims, that he was taking painkillers and injections in a bid to play when he actually required surgery, which eventually he had.
But it was because all these things happened at once that he ended up being referred to a ‘doctor’ (a psychiatrist) and a psychologist and being prescribed anti-depressants. He said he became ‘angry’, ‘snappy’, reluctant to do his rehab or engage with family, friends or even his football. Eventually he felt it necessary to leave Tottenham and continue his rehab at St George’s Park under the care of the Football Association. Why he has chosen to discuss this now might have something to do with the sheer joy and relief of being among 23 England players heading for Russia.
Clearly he wanted to explain exactly why he feels so indebted to Southgate and the England medical staff. In particular, to the England physio-therapist Steve Kemp. A season blighted by injury was one he feared would not end with a place on the plane to Russia.
‘It’s fair to say I’m the luckiest player to be in the squad, given the number of minutes I’ve had on the pitch and the year I’ve had,’ he said. ‘I thought it would be taken away from me, but fortunately I have a strong relationship with the physio here, Steve Kemp. And I played two or three games at the end of the season, which helped.
‘But had I been in Ryan Bertrand’s shoes, and missed out, I would have been very angry. I know I’ve been very lucky and I’m going to do everything I can to repay the manager.’
Rose would occasionally have dinner with Southgate when he was in Burton and appreciates the contact he had with the England coach when he was facing his difficulties. ‘He’s one of the nicest men I’ve come across in football,’ he said.
But he did not tell Southgate everything.
‘It’s no secret that I’ve been through a testing time at Tottenham this season,’ he said. ‘It led to me seeing a psychologist, and I was diagnosed with depression, which nobody knows about, and I had to get away from the club.
‘I’m lucky that England gave me that opportunity to get away, refresh my mind and I’ll always be grateful to them for that.
‘I was on medication for a few months — again, nobody knows about that apart from my agent — but I’m off the medication now. I’m good now and looking forward to how far we can go in Russia.’
He was then asked how the depression manifested itself. ‘I was getting very angry, very easily,’ he said. ‘I didn’t want to go into football, I didn’t want to do my rehab, I was snapping when I got home, I wouldn’t want to go out. I would come home and go straight to bed.
‘It all stemmed from my injury in January last year when I was advised I didn’t need an operation. I don’t know how many tablets I took to try to get fit for Tottenham, how many injections trying to get fit for Tottenham.’
‘I had cortisone, PRP (platelet rich plasma) injections, trying to get fit for my club, and I had to have an op four months down the line. After all that football I missed . . . I was playing really well, the team were playing really well, seeing the lads beat Arsenal comfortably, seeing them beat Man U comfortably, it was hard. I’m not saying I’ve had worse treatment than anyone else. That’s football. But it was difficult. That was the start of it.’
It was a situation that was compounded, however, by those deeply upsetting events in his personal life.‘Nobody knows this, either, but my uncle hanged himself in the middle of my rehab, and that triggered it (the depression) as well,’ he said.
‘Off the field there have been other incidents. In August my mum was racially abused back home in Doncaster. She was very angry and upset about it, and then someone came to the house and nearly shot my brother in the face.A gun was fired at my house. So, like I said, England has been my salvation, one million per cent, and I can’t thank the manager and the medical staff enough.’
He moved to St George’s Park for treatment on his injury at the start of the season, which coincided with an interview when he was particularly critical of his club. He accused them not only of underpaying him but of lacking ambition in the transfer market.
But he now says there were other issues. ‘Things were said and things happened behind the scenes at my club, but I don’t want to go into any detail because I’ll end up being fined again,’ he said.
Rose now wants to look forward — to playing on the left side of England’s defence against Costa Rica this evening and to the World Cup. Although he does have some concerns about that too, not least the potential for racist abuse. ‘I’ve had to tell my family I don’t want them coming out to Russia because I’m worried about their safety,’ he said.
‘It’s a sad state of affairs but that’s going to affect my preparation for games if I’m worrying about them.
‘And it’s tough on my dad (Nigel). From the age of 11, when I had training three or four times a week, my dad would make sure I was there and he’s come to Wembley to watch me play for Spurs this season, even though he doesn’t get home until 3am and he’s up at 7am to go to work in Doncaster.
‘He’s followed me all over my career, and I had to tell him last week I didn’t want him to come to Russia, and I could tell he was really upset. Knowing him, he’ll probably turn up and just not tell me.’
Rose also said racism, and how they might deal with it, was something that had been discussed by England’s players. He once endured such abuse in Serbia when representing England Under 21s and he said: ‘We’ve had a group discussion about what we might do a few days ago and whether we would support each other.
‘Personally, if it happened to me at club level, I would walk off the pitch and I’d retaliate. But doing that on the world stage, where it could cost us three points or going through to the next round . . . even though it’s not right you should not have to think about these things.
‘If it happens, I will go to Harry as captain first, and he will deal with it.’
Rose has already dealt with quite enough.