Brighton star Anthony Knockaert admits battle with depression last season
Brighton winger Anthony Knockaert has admitted he battled depression last season during the club's debut Premier League campaign.
The 26-year-old starred as Albion were promoted from the Championship in the 2016/17 season. However he admitted he was not himself last year and has now said he went through depression after a divorce just months after his father passed away.
Knockaert said there were moments on the pitch last season when he was not focused on the game.
Speaking to BBC Sussex, the French winger said: “I went through depression last season, which people obviously didn’t know about. It was really tough and mentally impossible for me to go and perform on the pitch.
“I went through a divorce last year during the pre-season, so it was really tough to take, especially after my dad [passing away].
“I wasn’t able to do what I should have been doing on the pitch. The club helped me and now I’m ready to talk about it. I’m happy again and everything is going well in my life.
“It’s important in my eyes to leave this message, to help other people who are going through something like this.
“It’s not something to be ashamed of, you have to talk to someone because you never know what can happen in your life.
“One day you can be successful and another day you can become no one. Life can turn like this.
“That’s what happened to me and I just didn’t see it coming. It was important for me to give this message - you shouldn’t be ashamed to go and speak to someone.
"At times on the pitch I was not even focused or thinking about the game - I was trying to not show it to people and keep it to myself.
"The club was there for me and we kept it a secret. Even some close people in my family did not know about it until recently.
"Now I am back happy and I think you can see it on the pitch again."
Knockaert added talking about things helped him and he encourages anyone in a similar position to do the same.
He said: "I said to Bruno last December that I couldn’t keep going like this and he went to see the gaffer. He [Chris Hughton] then sorted me out.
“The manager came to speak to me and said ‘we’re not giving you the choice, we’re getting you a counsellor’.
“Since that happened, I’ve got better and better. There was a combination between her and the club and that has helped me a lot.
“Depression is a really bad thing. A few years ago when people talked to me about depression, I was like ‘what is this?’ You don’t really take it seriously until it happens to you.
“But then you realise what it’s like because you’re going through the worst period in your life.
“So I just want to leave a message to footballers and people in general, that as soon as they go through this, it’s really important to talk to someone and not be scared.”