“What’s the difference between me and you?” David Meyler asked The Athletic's Adam Crafton. “Nothing. People have a pre-conception. Like every human being, we have good and bad experiences. But what I would say is this: the bad experiences were worse because I was a footballer.”
Crafton spoke to Meyler for an incredibly harrowing yet important piece about grief and how footballers - and indeed 'men' - deal with it.
For Meyler, his forced retirement through injury has been an obvious source of sorrow but his life away from football has also been challenging in recent years. His wife Cally experienced three miscarriages in 12 months before the birth of Brody, their second child, earlier this year.
One miscarriage happened on the day Ireland played Wales in a crucial World Cup qualifier at the Aviva Stadium - the match in which Seamus Coleman broke his leg.
Cally rang me. It had started to happen naturally, coming out of her. An ambulance took her to hospital and I was in a hotel room.
My manager, Martin O’Neill, just said, ‘Go. You need to go.’ Roy Keane, the same. My father, the same. But I didn’t. I played that night, the full 90 minutes. Cally kept saying she was OK and she knew how much it meant to me to play for my country.
His wife would grieve immediately after each miscarriage but Meyler struggled to deal with what was happening.
I felt helpless. I didn’t know what to say. It’s not, ‘Everything will be OK’ if she is thinking, ‘What happens if we can’t have more kids?’ Knowing my wife, it might have been better if I had broken down at the time and we grieved together. That’s not me. It took me a while to cry.
Meyler continues: "I told myself I needed to be there to support her. It took me months and months. Then I had a breakdown. Everything got on top of me and I exploded. I said to her, ‘I’m finished with football, I’m finished with everything. I just couldn’t deal with it."
Despite everything that was going on, when it came to his football life he tried to keep it to himself, only confiding in his Hull City teammate and fellow Corkman, Brian Lenihan. Hull's physio, Rob Price, felt something was wrong with David and asked his teammate about him:
"He knew Lenihan and I were close. Rob asked Brian, who said: ‘He’s not right.’ That’s when the club doctor, Mark Waller, came to me and got us help.”
Meyler received counselling but also struggled when he wasn't getting much game time after a move to Reading.
What me and my wife went through… we endured a year other couples won’t go through in 50 years. I imagine she questioned me. Doubt set in with football. I was training, giving everything and getting nothing back. If I’m not involved, what is it I am doing?
People thought I cared more about gaming, but I was desperate to play. All I ever dreamed of was being a footballer. Do you know how difficult that is? You are paid to be a footballer and not playing. It is a sense of worthlessness.
Meyler also talked to Crafton about having to deal with his retirement and the "What ifs?" that will forever follow his career, including the day Kenny Dalglish came to see him and Jordan Henderson play for Sunderland. Meyler tore his cruciate during that match and as he puts it himself: "Now Jordan’s lifting the European Cup and I’ve not got a job!"
However on a much brighter note, his son Brody is enoying the love of two doting parents. “When he came, amazing. Nothing compares. Everything I do now is for those two and Cally. I will never forget what Dad said when Brody was born. He said, ‘My job is done, it’s over to you now.'"
David's full story and those of Charlie Adam, Tony Mowbray, Jack Collison and Dean Brett are worth a read in their entirety on The Athletic. You can read the full article here.