'I have to admit that I never really enjoyed playing' - Ryan Giggs opens up after Aaron Lennon revelations
Former Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs has revealed that he never really actually enjoyed playing football matches following revelations earlier this week that Everton winger Aaron Lennon is being treated for a stress-related illness.
Giggs, who was at Manchester United from the age of 14 to 42, as a player first and then as an assistant manager, revealed that he struggled with life after Old Trafford and that the unpredictability of professional football caused him great stress and anxiety as a player.
"I have to admit that I never really enjoyed the games," Giggs wrote in his column in The Telegraph on Saturday.
"There was too much at stake playing for United. Unless you were 3-0 up with 10 minutes to go you learned that football had a habit of tripping you up. It was never wise to look around and relax and to enjoy the moment.
"I do not know what has affected Aaron, but I always struggled in the periods I was out the team or playing badly.
"I had a feeling of worthlessness. As a footballer you wonder if your team-mates are looking at you and asking the questions you are asking of yourself. Why can’t he hit a decent pass? Why’s he always injured? What’s wrong with him?
"The one thing I felt was unique to a footballer’s stress was that every day when I left my house I never knew what I would encounter.
"There might be 30 autograph requests over the course of the day, or 30 selfies. There might be none. There might just be nice things said. Or there might be aggro, and a harsh comment. It was the uncertainty about what the day held that got to me."
Despite the fact he won 13 Premier League titles and two Champions League medals with United, Giggs said that he used to take defeat personally, and that he wouldn't leave the house sometimes for a couple days after a loss.
"Institutionalised is a description I would apply to my life as a footballer at Manchester United," added the former Wales international.
"I took defeat personally, and there were times after we lost a big game that - if we were not required at the training ground - I would not come out the house for two days. I know now that it is not helpful or normal – but it is hard to know what is normal when you are in that environment."
The 43-year-old also said that he's been able to enjoy other parts of his life since his retirement, and that he's been able to spend more time watching his kids play football, but that ultimately, he considers himself lucky in comparison to some other former players.
"I know that with some players, the end of their career has been a relief," added Giggs.
"Stress is something I learned to take seriously as a player and I can say that I struggled with the pressure at times, just as I worried about what it would be like when I final stopped playing. And I guess, looking back, I have been one of the lucky ones."