‘I was happy sitting on the bench and that’s not me. I wasn’t focused’

How Lingard battled through difficult times, and family depression to become an inspiration

It’s no wonder that Jesse Lingard has found himself liberated in a David Moyes built West Ham squad where graft, courage, and endurance are the key attribute to success. 

With a manager in David Moyes who’s had to prove himself twice by battling relegation with minimal resources, and a identity-lacking West Ham wreathed in relegation struggle every season, it takes sheer will power, hard work, and community to escape a lowly situation. 

These shared circumstances are what brought Lingard to West Ham as a recent Man United outcast and he’s found simultaneous success with West Ham because of them.

Lingard’s free flowing counter attacking, confident long range goal scoring, and celebratory dances haven’t come without weights of adversity building his endurance, and the soaring freedom we see now in his game is the direct outcome of pushing through what people affected by adverse mental health describe as the heaviness of depression.

Lingard recently shared the cloud he was in at Manchester United that saw him drop from both Man United’s starting lineup and the England international team which he had once played for in the World Cup 2018.

‘It feels like you’re not the same person, I feel like I wasn’t Jesse Lingard,’ he said in an interview for Blowing Bubbles. ‘Even in football matches, I felt like the game was just passing me by, like I just didn’t want to be there – it was crazy. I could see myself playing but watching the game back I just think that’s not me, that’s not how I play.’

‘I was going into games happy sitting on the bench and that’s not me. My mind wasn’t there, I wasn’t focused at all. I was thinking about other things and obviously bottling it all up trying to play football, you’re tense, you’re stressed and you can’t do it.’

It took the 2020 Coronavirus Lockdown for Jesse to start honestly reflecting what was happening with him.

‘Lockdown has kind of transitioned me in a way. I watched my old games back and watched the World Cup games back and the old games I used to play and I think, “yeah that’s the real Jesse Lingard”. 

‘The time that I had going a couple seasons back or last season, it just wasn’t me at all and you can see that.

‘My brother who lives with me, he could see that and he’s got a video of me literally laying on the couch and I’m just staring for three minutes into thin air and he’s just thinking: “What is he going through? He’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders”.’

Jesse realised that he had been internalising his mother’s depression, and making it his own and that it had come to a destructive, career ending moment.

‘When you’re young, seeing your mum going through something like that, you don’t understand it logically, you don’t know what she’s going through.

‘She’d say “I’m depressed, I’m depressed” but me, as a kid, you don’t know what that means.

‘You’re just going out, playing out, playing football, doing your thing, but mum was in bed most of the time, curtains closed, she’s going through it. This is when I was young, like 12.’

Reflecting on the Lingard family depression wasn’t what helped him out of it, nor was it keeping his head down and picking himself up in silent boot strap self-help that brought on a rejuvenated Lingard; it was reflecting and sharing with the community that helped Lingard start to see light at the end of the tunnel and back onto the pitch:

‘I opened up to United and told them what I was going through, what my mum was going through and they’re always there to help. 

‘I’ve had doctors that have helped which has been brilliant and during the lockdown I got my head together. I want to change people’s lives and inspire others to start opening up, because I’ve been through it and I know what it’s like to bottle things up, so if I can pass on the information to anyone who’s going through mental health issues, it’ll make me smile.’

Having scored nine goals and three assists in 11 matches for West Ham United – Lingard has been transformed.

‘When you open up, you feel like a butterfly. You’re in a cocoon, you just open up, you can spread your wings and fly. It’s an amazing feeling and now I’ve got all that behind me, I can concentrate on football and my family.’

Jesse was speaking as a guest on the new Gen Z entertainment show “Presenting”, hosted by Kehn Ajayi Coker and Emily Abbott.

The show is designed to connect an audience to inspiring figures who share their struggles, stories, and what has made them who they are.

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