Former England captain Wayne Rooney has described his abuse of alcohol early in his football career as a “release”.
The Birmingham manager appeared on the new podcast of ex-rugby league star and Motor Neurone Disease campaigner Rob Burrow, and opened up on the difficulties he faced in finding a way to deal with the pressure of fame as a young man.
Rooney first broke into Everton’s senior side at the age of 16, became an England international at 17, and joined Manchester United at 20, but has said his high profile came with a cost.
The 38-year-old told Burrow: “My release was alcohol when I was in my early 20s. I’d go home, and spend a couple of days at home and not leave the house. I’d drink almost until I’d pass out.
“I didn’t want to be around people, because sometimes you feel embarrassed. Sometimes you feel like you’ve let people down and ultimately I didn’t know how else to deal with it.
“When you don’t take the help and guidance of others, you can be really in a low place, and I was for a few years with that. Thankfully, now I’m not afraid to go and speak to people about issues.”
Former Leeds Rhinos star Burrow and his wife Lindsey have launched a new series called Seven on the BBC’s The Total Sport podcast, in which they interview seven sporting greats and ask seven questions, with Rooney the first guest.
Burrow uses AI technology and a computerised voice with a Yorkshire accent to communicate.
Rooney said Burrow’s approach to the disease had inspired others.
“I know first-hand the impact this (illness) can have on yourself and people around you,” he said.
“Everyone must change the way of living and I had that with my sister-in-law, who suffered not the same illness but something as severe.
“But your energy and positivity helps everyone else around you. I can see the money you have raised for charity and to help others – it’s really inspiring.”
If you are affected by issues related to mental wellbeing or want to talk, please contact the Samaritans on the free helpline 116 123, or visit the website.