Darren Eadie in Mental Illness Initiative
Former Norwich City winger Darren Eadie has revealed his plans to set up a retreat based in Norfolk for players and ex-players to recover from mental illness.
The diminutive Eadie played for Norwich between from 1993 until 1999, before moving on to Leicester City where he stayed until he retired aged 28, in 2003.
Eadie`s journey was perhaps an accentuated version of that of a typical young footballer. Originally from Wiltshire he was brought into the same youth team as other future professionals around the time, Ade Akinbiyi, Jamie Cureton and then Craig Bellamy. It was a productive time for City`s youth policy, as local-lad Chris Sutton was also making a name for himself, scoring 25 league goals in the season Eadie broke through.
He made his debut in that European season at home against Vitesse Arnhem, before also appearing in the home tie against Bayern Munich.
After those first couple of seasons in which Eadie was settling into his first-team role, gaining in confidence, he went on to shine in 1996/1997, becoming the clubs leading scorer under Mike Walker`s stewardship, and being called up for England.
After Eadie`s move to Leicester City to work with Martin O'Neil, his career never quite saw the heights of those initial years at Norwich, and after 40 appearances in three-and-a-half-years his contract expired and he was forced to retire from the game.
Eadie`s problems are probably difficult to understand for most fans. Success on the pitch and the move to Leicester had made Eadie a well-off young man. He had the model-wife and young family to go with the financial security. He didn`t really have the everyday worries that most of us have about money, and he was still young, famous and successful.
However, evidently Eadie struggled to fill this void in his life following a rapid fall from grace. Openly talking to the press today about his new venture Eadie says, "I was 18, and lining up against Lothar Matthaus — a World Cup-winner!
"One day, I got a call on my mobile, and this person said: 'It`s Glenn Hoddle`. I said: 'Yeah, all right! Who is it really?` And I put the phone down. Then Hoddle rang back, saying 'it really is Glenn Hoddle and I want you in the England squad for the Tournoi (in 1997)`. I got injured in training, the story of my career, and had to pull out. I put all that frustration to the back of my mind but it was always there. People always talked about the left-sided problems England had and could I have been the answer. In the first edition of FourFourTwo, I was described as the best left-winger since Arthur Scargill! That was fantastic!``
Eadie had had previous problems with his knee, but a tackle by Scott Parker in April 2001 left him side-lined and facing the last roll of the dice - pioneering surgery in Sweden, the same surgery that helped prolong the career of Ole Gunnar Solksjaer.
For Eadie, the news wasn`t so good. A further tweak resulted in a meeting with the Leicester City physio and the earth shattering words, "I'd advise you that it would be in your best interests to give football up".
Eadie`s reason for living, the talent he had built his whole life and his families` life around had suddenly gone in those few seconds.
Eadie continued, "Shortly after that the panic attacks started and it was completely debilitating. I'd end up having to call my wife to come and get me. It was really scary and it paralysed me at times. It would happen up to three times a day, and cause pain in my arms and other places in my body.
"My little daughter was looking at me and saying: 'Daddy, why are you crying?` I had no answer.
"I can remember driving one day in the country lanes around Norfolk and not being able to go any further. I had to phone up Kelly again to come and get me.
'I saw doctors. Everybody was really good with me, especially Leon McKenzie, the former player, who had been through a similar experience.'
Eadie`s recent experiences show just how important work is to people. He`s clearly had a difficult time coming to terms with life after football, which was made even more difficult as his retirement was totally out of his control.
Eadie speaks passionately about trying to make a difference to footballer`s lives, and he has put together a proposal for the PFA, which they will discuss tomorrow.
Put simply, "it will save lives", says Eadie.
It seems a really important initiative, and everyone at Vital Norwich wishes Darren the best of luck in this worthwhile venture, and let`s hope he is able to help footballers in their struggles against mental illness.