Danny Rose readily admits what many have been saying, that he is “the luckiest player” in England’s World Cup squad – but there’s so much more to that than the reason many people think, or that he initially puts forward, and the low number of minutes he’s played for Tottenham Hotspur in the last year. That football talk suddenly feels so mundane when the 27-year-old starts to so admirably open up about the very serious human problems he has come through in that time.
In an astonishingly forthright interview at St George’s Park, Rose takes the opportunity to reveal he has been diagnosed with depression, has undergone therapy and taken medication for it, with that initially brought on by his long-term knee injury and further affected by his uncle’s suicide, his mother suffering racial abuse and his brother being shot at in the family home.
Rose even makes the otherwise startling admission for a professional that it was difficult to watch Spurs do so well without him, and hints at disagreements about his recovery.
“Things were said and things happened behind the scenes at my club, and I don’t want to go into any detail because I’ll end up being fined again.”
Rose thereby describes England as his “salvation, one million per cent ... I can’t thank the manager and the medical staff enough.”
That makes his decision to publicly reveal all of this here, at a media day specifically organised for one of the proudest moments of his career and a big step forward, all the more fitting… but there’s still another remarkable element to that.
“You are the only people who know about a lot of this stuff – 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.”
Rose has referenced difficulties before, but never to this extent. To only add another layer to all of this, there is the fact he has actually told his family not to travel to Russia, out of concerns for racism and safety.
“It’s sad that we are going into a World Cup in 2018 and I’m having to field this question,” Rose explains.
That he is so willing to confront such a controversial issue head on is so admirable in itself, but even that pales next to the bravery in openly discussing his depression, in a hugely instructive story that feels like it will only grow in importance for football. Such candidness is so creditable, and it’s really only Rose himself that can do the telling. You can only sit and raise your eyebrows, as well as marvel at his courage, as he starts to talk.
“It’s no secret that I’ve been through a testing time at Tottenham this season, which led to me seeing a psychologist, and I was diagnosed with depression, which nobody knows about, and I had to get away from Tottenham,” Rose begins.
“I’m lucky that England gave me that opportunity to get away, refresh my mind and I’ll always be grateful to them.
“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.”
Rose had initially noted a change in his mood, having suffered an injury to his left knee in January 2017.
“I was getting very angry, very easily. I didn’t want to go into football, I didn’t want to do my rehab, I was snapping when I got home, friends were asking me to do things and I wouldn’t want to go out, and 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 and get fit for Tottenham, how many injections trying to get fit for Tottenham.
“I had cortisone/PRP [platelet rich plasma] injections trying to be fit for my club, and I had to have an op four months down the line – after all that football I missed, when the team was flying and I was playing well, I was playing really well, the team were playing really well. Seeing the lads beat Arsenal comfortably, seeing them beat Man United 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.
“Nobody knows this, either, but my uncle hung himself in the middle of my rehab, and that triggered it [depression] as well. It was really hard, and being referred to a doctor and psychologist [by the Spurs doctor] helped me massively to cope.
“I’ve been through a lot, and England has been my salvation. One million per cent.
“Things were said and things happened behind the scenes at my club, and I don’t want to go into any detail because I’ll end up being fined again.
“But 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.
“Stuff like that was happening throughout my rehab and it was a testing time. A gun was fired at my house, yeah. So like I said, England has been my salvation and I can’t thank the manager and the medical staff enough.”
A mere football concern like making the World Cup seems so trivial because of all that but, as tends to happen in such circumstances, it assumed even more importance for Rose. The fact England had given him the chance to get away only deepened the desire to stay with the squad for the big trip to Russia, and he admits to “panicking” about making it, given that he had only played 22 games for club and country in 2017-18.
“I think it’s fair to say I’m the luckiest player to be in the squad – that’s not down to ability but the number of minutes I’ve had on the pitch and the year I’ve had. I thought it would be taken away from me, but fortunately I have a strong relationship with the physio here, Steve Kemp. I texted him every now and then asking, ‘Do you think I’ll be in the squad?’ – and he would tell me he didn’t know, and to concentrate on getting fit.
“I did some of my rehab here with him, and I used to badger him to try and get some info out of him, but he couldn’t tell me anything and I was genuinely worried.
“After the March camp, when we played Stoke [City], I was in the team, I played well and we had a lot of games coming up where the full-backs would have got rotated and I would have played quite a few more games.
“Then I missed three or four weeks with a calf injury and I was panicking, but I managed to squeeze two or three games in at the end and I think that helped me.”
Rose can’t express his gratitude to Gareth Southgate enough, but not just for picking him.
“Had I been in Ryan Bertrand’s shoes, and I missed out, I would have been very angry, so I know I’ve been very lucky and I’m going to do everything I can to repay the manager. He’s based up here at George’s Park quite a lot so I would bump into him during my rehab and I would occasionally have dinner with him.
“Even away from here I’ve had the odd text message or phone call – one of his best qualities is that he’s one of the nicest men I’ve come across in football.”
It is then even a greater pity that Rose feels he and his family can’t throw themselves into the experience of his first World Cup. With Russian football having been blighted by racist incidents for years, the left-back admits he would instantly walk off the pitch if he endured anything in a club game, but that it might have to be different at the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity a World Cup represents.
“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 it.
“But it’s sad that we are going into a World Cup in 2018 and I’m having to field this question. Obviously I hope nothing like that will happen out there, but I’ve had to tell the family I don’t want them coming out to Russia because I’m worried about their safety.
“That’s going to affect my preparation for games if I’m worrying about them and that’s such a sad state of affairs. 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.
“That’s my decision, but knowing him he’ll probably turn up and not tell me!”
It’s a decision that will likely become all the more understandable once his parents realise the full extent of his difficulties of the past year and a half, with these remarkable revelations.
Rose has come through so much to just get this far. He considers himself lucky, and now wants to make the very best of that luck, but really he has already been making the best of himself. He’s already a positive example for so many professionals.
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