Dean Windass on depression fight and his hopes for son Josh

By Martin DowdenBBC Scotland
Dean Windass celebrates a goal with Aberdeen
Dean Windass spent three years with Aberdeen

Sometimes as a journalist, you encounter a current or former footballer and depart with a feeling of disappointment; a sense that they're not really telling you what they think or feel.

There's a mask. The conversation can lack substance or value.

Dean Windass, the former Aberdeen, Bradford and Hull striker, is different.

There are topical reasons to seek out the 47-year-old. His son, Josh, recently signed for Rangers. Dean was, and remains, something of a cult hero at Pittodrie, where he played 20 years ago.

He's also a character; sure to have tales aplenty of japery, dressing room banter and on-pitch battles to delight. He does, but there's a lot more to his story.

Interview - Dean Windass

Windass has battled severe depression for much of his life, mostly under the radar. It started when he was 12, with his parents divorcing. He couldn't cope.

With Aberdeen, only manager, Roy Aitken, and fitness trainer Stuart Hogg, in whom Windass confided, had any idea.

"Nobody knew," Windass told BBC Radio Scotland's Sportsound programme. "I didn't tell anybody. Going into the changing-rooms, I should've been an actor really. That's how it escalated.

"When I'd go out and have a drink, I'd cry all the time. I remember seeing a councillor when I played for Aberdeen. Stuart Hogg took me because I'd never expressed my feelings to anybody.

"When I was on the pitch, everything was all right.

"I never spoke about it. I was always the Jack the Lad in changing-rooms, but then when I was coming home, I was crying. I didn't know how to express my feelings."

Saved by Sporting Chance

There's a large photograph on his kitchen wall looking over his shoulder as he stands on a city balcony, admittedly drunk, lapping up the adoration of Hull supporters.

His goal in 2008, at the age of 39 in front of 86,000 fans, sent the Tigers into England's top flight via the play-off final at Wembley.

A local hero, he was living the dream, or at least you'd expect that to be the case.

Dean Windass celebrates promotion with Hull City
Dean Windass helped Hull City win promotion to England's top flight

The years that followed were tinged with depression, alcohol and attempts to take his own life after divorcing from his wife and losing his father suddenly.

"I was trying to block everything out and was drinking quite heavily then," he said.

"I tried to commit suicide with tablets and tried to hang myself. I'm not proud of that today as I've got two great kids.

"I asked for help and ended up in Tony Adams' Sporting Chance clinic for 26 days.

"It was scary, I was scared stiff. Every time I spoke to a counsellor, I cried, every day.

"It got better and better the more I spoke about it. I got through it. It's the best 26 days of my life, because it saved my life."

Approach by Scotland

The move to Aberdeen over a decade earlier came about with Hull, during his first spell at the club, facing closure over an Inland Revenue bill.

Windass was the main asset and had to go or the gates to the stadium would shut.

Martin O'Neill resigned as manager of Norwich City after he was denied the funds to sign Windass. Roy Aitken secured him shortly after.

"The deal was done by Friday afternoon," recalled Windass. "I'm sub for Aberdeen on the Saturday against Partick Thistle. The fans were unbelievable.

"I wasn't the best player in the world, I admit that, but I knew what I was good at.

"All the supporters have probably recognised that and that's why I've probably become a bit of a cult hero. They just took to me."

He smiles warmly, recounting relationships with Aberdeen team-mates, Billy Dodds in particular. It reminds him that Dodds might owe him.

"I got asked to play for Scotland, but I didn't have any Scottish grandparents," he explained. "I got asked the question from Craig Brown and then Doddsy got in the squad after that. Doddsy can thank me for that."

Is Josh really my lad?

As he recounts some of the opposition he faced in Scotland, his mind drifts to what awaits son Josh at Ibrox when he arrives this summer, having signed a pre-contract agreement while with Accrington Stanley.

Josh Windass scores for Accrington Stanley
Josh Windass' penalty was not enough to lead Accrington Stanley to play-off success against AFC Wimbledon

"If it hadn't been Rangers, Celtic or Aberdeen, I'd have said to Josh 'don't bother'," said Windass. "No disrespect to other clubs.

"He's a player. He's that laid back he'll fall over. He's very shy, not a big-head.

"He'll get better as he plays with better players. I don't want to put too much pressure on the kid.

"He's got pace, a great football brain, his range of passing is very good and he's starting to score goals.

"It's even harder for Josh because he's my son. He's got added pressure because everyone thinks he's like me. He's not.

"He's 6ft 2, good looking, quick, doesn't drink. I'm trying to question if he's my lad or not!"

Windass believes his son will prove to have substance, bring value.

His fatherly advice is simple and loaded with humour. "Don't get divorced" is his message.

Dean Windass in conversation with Kenny Macintyre will air on Sportsound on BBC Radio Scotland 92-95 FM & 810 MW on Sat 28 May at 15:00 BST.

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