The Secret Footballer: I want to 'out' myself - but fear I'll be sued

Lightning
The Secret Footballer thought about taking his life during a thunderstorm

He is the former Premier League footballer behind four anonymous books which give behind the scenes insight into the game.

But the self-styled Secret Footballer says people are desperate to "out him".

He admits he would even quite like to do it himself - but the fear of legal action and bankruptcy are the things keeping the Secret Footballer's identity a secret.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 live's At Home With Colin Murray, he discusses the time he tried to be hit by lightning, and breaking his five-year abstinence to share a drink with famous chef Keith Floyd.

'If I stand under that, that will be it'

The Secret Footballer was still playing as late as 2011. He is English, has played for at least two Premier League clubs and was relegated from the top flight on the final day of the season. He once booked out the top floor of a hotel in Paris because he heard that someone he didn't like was staying there.

After he stopped playing, he started a column, and wrote four books. In 2010 he was diagnosed with depression and at one stage he considered taking his own life after struggling with mental health.

I was really low. We lived next to a farmers' field and there was a power cable that runs across the field with a big power box in one corner.

My wife was out and I remember walking out of the house in just my football shorts and there was all this thunder and lightning around me. I had no top on and I was barefoot. There was one beautiful oak tree in the middle of this field and I remember walking towards that thinking "if I stand under that, that will be it".

As I was walking towards it, this bolt of lightning hit the power box and it exploded. It was spectacular. It knocked all the power out in the houses and that snapped me out of it and I went back inside.

I told my wife a year later what happened but by then I was kind of coming out of it. If I had got to that tree and that was that, at that moment I would not have cared.

'The more money around, the more anxious it makes you'

The former Premier League footballer believes his writing saved his life and steered him away from the temptations of alcohol following his career. He talks about the difficulties faced by those who leave the game, be it alcoholism, divorce, or mental health issues.

What you should consider is that when you retire on the Sunday, by the Monday you lose all your mates and all the admiration of the fans. Everything goes off the cliff. Football is completely irreplaceable.

The moment you stopped, all the temptation was there. I didn't drink for five years but one of my heroes, Keith Floyd, was doing a show at a theatre and I couldn't not have a glass of wine with Keith Floyd so that was what broke my ban.

The more money around the more anxious it made you, and you get paranoid about everything because if you don't have anything you have nothing to lose.

You have got to try and keep yourself stimulated. I was lucky that the writing actually gave me something to do.

Keith Floyd
Keith Floyd shared a glass of wine with The Secret Footballer

'They are going to make a TV drama on the books'

The Secret Footballer grew up on a council estate in rural England and only began playing organised football relatively late. He signed his first professional terms at the age of 21 and had what he describes as a lucrative career. Since retiring, though, he has become more prominent - albeit anonymously - with a column in the Guardian, the publication of his books and, potentially, a television drama.

Some of the most interesting ex-players I have met do not have a profile.

I think that the secret footballer was a good idea and one that was well worth exploring. There was an explosion in help for mental illness after the first book and the Football Association and the Professional Footballers' Association decided to act on it, so I'm kind of proud of it. But I think I ran away with it without thinking where I wanted to take it.

Everyone wants to out me but only I'm going to do that. The issue would be a legal one and I would probably have to bankrupt myself in order to survive. You have to prepare for the worst and, while there are no names in the books, there's a lot of money in football and a lot of people with a lot of money. They don't even have to be proved right they just have to put a case on.

My autobiography will sell on the back of me outing myself but I can't do it at the moment even though I want to.

If you or someone you know are feeling emotionally distressed, find organisations that offer advice and support here.

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