Darren Fletcher has given a fascinating insight into his battle with ulcerative colitis and how football helped him on the road to recovery.
In part one of the interview with the West Brom and Scotland captain, Fletcher focused on his 20-year career with Manchester United – but he was limited to just 10 games between November 2011 and December 2013 due to a debilitating illness.
“Yeah, it was difficult,” Fletcher told Mantality Magazine when asked about how he tried to come to terms with the condition.
“Because I was battling my health. Everyone was telling me to forget about football, but deep down, I couldn’t let it go. Everyone I spoke to – my doctors, my wife, Sir Alex Ferguson – they were telling me that football didn’t matter, and that I had to get well first.
“But I could never accept that. It’s probably stupid looking back but I had to get back playing football… because that was me.”
Fletcher also admitted that he was initially reluctant to admit to himself and others about suffering from his illness.
“I hid it and didn’t tell people about it for a while, but you know you’re not yourself,” Fletcher conceded.
“I always felt I was living in my own little bubble though, and that I was fighting more battles just to get training, just to get out and play.
“I always found myself in my own little world, and eventually, that has it’s own consequences in a team.
“Once I managed to tell the others, it was such a big relief for me. I know people are worried how others react to such admissions out of embarrassment, but for me, it was just a release.”
However, Fletcher has now found he is much more appreciative of the career he has and soaks up every second of when he is out on the playing field.
“At the time I got ill, I was flying,” he said. “It probably took away my peak years from me – I was looking really powerful on the pitch and then the illness wiped that out.
“But at the same time, I was always one who appreciated the position I was in, and I try to enjoy it a bit more now. After all this, I try and enjoy every moment. I love training all week, I love games – that’s what it’s all about for me.
“Going out on that pitch and playing, putting yourself against fellow players on a weekend for ninety minutes – that’s what I love.
“It hits home how much I missed it and I just try to keep on enjoying it as much as I can.”
Mantality Magazine is an online platform created by Leeds Rhinos star Stevie Ward. Its main focus is to provide content encouraging millennial males to get the most from life. The niche of the magazine is the section of ‘Mind’.
It has a big push for awareness of mental health, expansion of the comfort zone through travel, vigour, mind and lifestyle content.