“I thought if I crashed my car I wouldn’t have to play”

Marcus Maddison officially retired from professional football in the locker room at the Macron Stadium at half-time, shattered by the sport that had given him a living but at the same time had taken so much from him.

The breaking point came at Bolton in April, replaced by his losing side to Harrogate Town in front of an empty stadium. It was his third club in less than a year, the pressure of confinement and a career battling the conformism that football expects from its players forcing it finally – finally – to face its demons head-on.

“I struggled for a long time with everything, but I just put it in the back of my mind and got there,” he said. I.

“To be honest, I used to think every morning, ‘If I crash my car, I won’t have to practice.’ Even when I was playing well [former club] Peterborough was going through my head.

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“I lived on a Saturday or Tuesday where I could play. But the rest … “It goes out.

“All the bullshit that comes with the game doesn’t interest me. These are the managers who tell you what to eat, they tell you when to do this or that. The fans criticize you if you have a bad game – it’s tough. People think footballers are robots, but they’re not.

“I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks it, but the players don’t say it because they know the managers don’t want to hear it and the fans don’t want it. It’s a job.

Maddison is not your average footballer. Born in County Durham, he was at Newcastle United academy before being released – along with the rest of his age group – as the squad thrived at the top of the Premier League pecking order.

A gifted forward who played out of the blue, he got a first glimpse of how the sport can sometimes treat its Mavericks. “Alan Pardew was the manager and he sent Hatem Ben Arfa to train with us [the under-23s]. Supposedly he was overweight but I didn’t see him. The guy was amazing, overtaking people for the fun of it, ”he said.

“Guess that shows you what sports can do if you’re a little different.”

Maddison freely admits that he is. His family urged him to find another job, but he “supported” himself to make a living from the sport. Raised by Gary Mills at Gateshead in the National League, he moved to Peterborough where he spent six years.

He earned a reputation as a big-goal scorer and thrived under Darren Ferguson, who got him to play in his first spell. He had less fun with Steve Evans and Graham Westley who – in Maddison’s words – were prone to “texting at 11pm with motivational nonsense that I just deleted.”

“A lot of managers just want robots,” he admits.

“They just want players who will perform exactly what they want, but if I didn’t agree with what the manager wanted me to do, I wouldn’t.

“Let’s say we had a game plan and it didn’t work, I would try to do something that I thought I could do. I had a few issues with managers because of this but I would say over the years more often than not it has worked.

Continually linked with an estrangement from Peterborough, he became frustrated that Boy Scouts and Managers could not see past his reputation. And behind the scenes, he was battling the anxiety and depression that came from “living in tiny apartments in places where I didn’t know anyone.”

It peaked in the Northwest. He says I: “Everything about this move to Bolton was wrong. The TV fell off the wall as soon as I got there, I crashed my car the first week, I was kicked out in my first game. It’s full of little things that made me believe: it’s not good.

“The last straw for me was getting ripped off at half-time. I just thought, ‘I don’t want to be here. I don’t need to do that, I don’t need to be here and I don’t need to feel like this ”. I packed my bags and went home.

“They won the game, they were partying and I was literally sitting there hating my life. My mental health was affected. I felt left out, I felt so lonely, no one liked me and I had had enough. I took my decision.

“I called my agent, told him to tell Bolton. I needed to go. Fortunately, the manager understood my situation, as did the owner. I appreciated their support but I was going home.

Desperate to regain some control, he decided to swap football for full-time games and started his own “Official Mad Gamer” Twitch channel, showing his Fifa and other games.

His sanity has recovered, he feels “more relaxed than ever” and is hopeful that his new life develops to the point where she starts playing the bills.

“I was looking for things that I could do. I used to play seven or eight hours a day when I was a footballer so it seems like the natural thing to do, ”he said. He currently has just over 2,000 followers on Twitch.

“The game takes years and years to build community and make money, so at the moment my feed only includes a few people. Hope this pays off in the long run, otherwise I will have to find a job!

“I don’t have a lot of money, I’ve only played in League One my whole career, so my money could run out soon. The talent for football is still there so I think I can come back and play in League One if I need to.

Lately, the desire to play has returned. He began to recover from the meniscus injury that kept him from kicking a ball for months. The 2022-23 season could however see him return.

“It won’t be for a while and if I do, it will be on my own terms,” he says.

“I just want to be judged by the way I play the game, not other things. And I support myself to be able to do it well.

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