Macclesfield Town's Adriano Moke on depression in football

By Eleanor ThomasonBBC Sport
Adriano Moke celebrates scoring against Barnet
Adriano Moke celebrates scoring against Barnet

At 10-years-old, Adriano Moke was living the dream after signing for Manchester United.

He fell by the wayside at Old Trafford, but his desire to become a professional footballer remained and he moved on to the youth ranks at both Leeds United and Nottingham Forest.

Ultimately, they too proved unsuccessful and Moke began to struggle with being "himself".

As an adult, there were further setbacks after playing for clubs including York and Halifax, and it was not until later that he was told by the Professional Footballers' Association that he was suffering from depression.

"Not being offered a scholarship at Leeds United was tough," he told BBC Sport. "At that time I thought I would never be a footballer.

"Then after all those years it hit me harder because I always worked towards it. When you are at a club and you see another player that doesn't work hard, but gets a contract, you think 'what's the point?'.

"Things like that were getting into my head and I thought 'what more do I need to do to get a contract somewhere?'.

"People were telling me to stick at it and if I kept working hard I would get where I wanted but that is when it really started. I wasn't interested in anything. I wasn't myself.

"I couldn't be bothered going to football or doing anything. At one point I was in bed all day. I woke up at 5pm and my head was all over the place."

Adriano Moke celebrates York's promotion into the Football League
Moke was part of York City's side that enjoyed two Wembley wins in 2012

Moke signed for York City in the summer of 2011 and made 28 appearances in the following season as they completed an FA Trophy and promotion double.

He moved on to Cambridge United for an undisclosed fee, but had limited opportunities and went to Tamworth on loan before dropping into the Conference North with Halifax.

The 2012-13 season brought another medal when the Shaymen beat Brackley Town in the play-off final to return to the Conference Premier after a five-year absence.

But after what he describes as the "highlight" of his career, Moke, whose father played for Sporting Lisbon, reached rock bottom when Halifax decided not to offer him a new deal.

His depression remained a secret from all but a few people close to him. He felt embarrassed by it and his team-mates were none the wiser - even his brother only found out earlier this year.

Adriano Moke's senior career
2011-2012York City
2012-2013Cambridge United
2012Tamworth (loan)
2013-2014Stockport County
2014-2015Macclesfield Town

Moke was desperate to avoid a move further down the leagues, but signed non-contract terms with Stockport County.

The story of Jamie Vardy's big move from Fleetwood Town to Leicester City, inspired Moke, who once played against the striker during his time with York.

He hoped game-time with Stockport would attract the attention of a full-time club, and he joined Macclesfield Town last summer.

At the start of the 2014-15 campaign, John Askey's side were among the favourites to be relegated from the Conference.

Following a summer of uncertainty and little investment, they had been all but written off with the odds of promotion back to the Football League stacked against them at 66/1.external-link

But the Silkmen proved to be a surprise package and were an unexpected success story, managing 21 consecutive weeks in the play-off positions - until the crunch came.

Their season petered out at the wrong time and as a result of winning just two of their final 10 matches, they finished sixth and missed out on the play-offs by just one point.

Adriano Moke celebrates a goal for Macclesfield Town
Adriano Moke scored three league goals for Macclesfield Town in the 2014-15 season

In the midst of such disappointment, however, Moke found a silver lining as playing 39 times during the season helped him to control his depression.

"It has been difficult but as team we know we have messed up," he told BBC Sport. "When I signed for Macclesfield my friends told me we were going to get relegated. Everyone was saying it.

"We tried our best and it's been a great achievement. This year I haven't suffered at all. It's the people around me that have helped me. People like my agent and the manager- he has helped a lot."

The 25-year-old says he will forever cherish the chance he was given by Askey, a man he described as '"like a dad" to him after discovering his history with depression.

"We have a really good bunch of lads. I've played for clubs where there is team spirit but the Macclesfield team are more like my brothers. They're like family to me," he said.

"I have a manager who really believes in me and has given me this chance. The fans never get on my back and anything anyone says is positive. That's a first for me and it has really helped."

Scott Barrow consoles Adriano Moke as Macclesfield Town miss out on the play-offs
Moke said he had tears in his eyes when the final whistle on the season blew

Moke agrees that talking about his mental health issues has helped, and encourages others to follow suit.

"Depression is a massive thing. I never thought it was but people shouldn't be embarrassed or scared to talk about it. I used to be but anyone can beat it if you really work hard and focus," he added.

"Don't be scared. Come out and say how you feel and what's inside. There is always someone that will come out and help and anyone can beat it.

"Keep focusing on wearing that shirt because it is the best feeling in the world."