As the third-highest goal-scorer in Premier League history, Andrew Cole’s tenure in top-flight football included lifting FA Cups, collecting titles and the incredible feat of winning the Champions League final to secure the treble with Manchester United in 1999.
With 15 caps for England under his belt too, Andrew has openly talked about his journey navigating physical and mental health challenges in recent years. At this years Injured Conference, he shares his thoughts on mental health with PFA Director of Player Welfare, Michael Bennett.
What Is Mental Health To You?
An even keel. 100% for me I’ve got to be level I think it’s a bit like my star sign Libra. I can’t be unbalanced I’ve got to be even.
When I’m ticking over nicely and I’m smiling a lot and laughing. I think same kind of thing I know when I’m imbalanced.
Was there a moment in your career when stress had a negative impact?
When I was at Newcastle, I just played everything off the cuff and I never really thought about football, and then when I moved to Manchester United, I didn’t know the magnitude of just how big the move was. When it wasn’t going too well at the start at Manchester United, that’s when I realised how tough it was mentally. I couldn’t really reach out to anybody because I didn’t know what to say to anyone. So internally I’m tearing myself up, because all I wanted was the best, and at that time I didn’t believe anyone could help me.
What was the lowest moment you had in football?
Unfortunately we lost the league to Blackburn in 1995. For me emotionally it was low, physically it was low. Because I genuinely thought I’d let everyone down. At that time my ex-partner was having my son, and I missed the birth to play in the game that I believed, was going to take us on and win the championship. It didn’t work out that way, naturally the punters aren’t happy and they get on your case as well, so for me personally that was the lowest part of my career, because whatever way I turned, there was no help.
What’s the highest moment you’ve had?
Completing the treble, I don’t think anything is ever going to surpass that. No two days in football are the same, no two weekends are the same - you can get a hat-trick one week, in my case as a centre forward, and then the week after you could be absolutely shocking. The emotions you go through as a professional footballer, especially when you’re a kid growing up, to get into the first team, to be left out of the team and then get yourself back in the team, to being injured - you go through many, many different things.
If you could sum it up, what would your key message be?
You’ve got to talk man, that’s what everyone keeps saying. You’ve got to talk about it and if you don’t talk, the problem becomes more of a problem, so you’ve just got to keep communicating. I find you’ve got to have someone who’s prepared to listen, so you’ve got to look beyond his eyes, and read into what he’s saying.