Keane opens up about hitting ‘rock bottom’

Sunday, 24 May, 2020 53comments  |  Jump to last

Michael Keane has spoken of his struggles coping with poor form during his time at Everton, describing how he broke down in tears in front of his family when he reached his lowest point.

In an interview with BBC Sport, the defender explains that he had a hard time early in his time at Goodison Park when he battled a well-documented foot injury, one that almost cost him his foot given how badly a deep gash became infected.

Keane played through that injury for a time, often with odd-sized boots to accommodate the bandaging on his foot and his form suffered during what was a harrowing period for the club as a whole which eventually cost manager Ronald Koeman his job.

The former Manchester United and Burnley defender internalised his feelings at the time but eventually reached a point where he needed to release them and he describes how he turned to his family for help.

"At the time, I just wanted to be in there with my team-mates, we were going through a tough period," Keane said of that difficult spell in the autumn of 2017. "I didn't want to be seen to be throwing the towel in even though I had a valid injury, I just wanted to get out there, give it my best and try to turn things around; in hindsight it wasn't probably the best thing to do.

"I didn't want to go out, didn't want to see anyone. I felt a bit embarrassed with how things were going on the pitch so I didn't want to be seen anywhere, didn't want to do anything.

"I was keeping it in for a long time, working hard, turning things around on the football pitch but in the end it sort of got on top of me. I ended up not having a full breakdown but I was basically in tears telling my family how I felt.

"I think the main thing is learning from it and after that learning about my own mental health and how I can deal with that going forward."

Keane, a £30m signing under Koeman and then Director of Football, Steve Walsh, said that has benefitted from working on his mental health and is generally in a better frame of mind.

He spoke also about his excitement at finally being able to get back to Finch Farm this past where Everton's players took their first tentative steps back towards full training and a resumption of Premier League action following the suspension of the season in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"That was a big breakthrough moment where I sort of got to my 'rock bottom',” he continued. “From there on I've got better and better with the help of my family and my friends and I started speaking to a sports psychologist which I still do now regularly to just keep on top of it.

“[The shutdown] has been difficult, you're used to being around your team-mates every day — 20-30 lads who become good friends. When that stops for eight weeks, it does become difficult. You do what you can to keep in touch but we're just desperate to get back.

"We've been back now for two days, even though it's in small groups of around four and five. It's just great to be back around them and see how they're getting on.

"The night before we were first back a few days ago, I was so excited it felt like Christmas Eve. I was getting all my kit set out ready to go in the morning."

Full interview at BBC Sport

Reader Comments (53)

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Brian Murray
1 Posted 24/05/2020 at 16:46:55
Good on ya, Keano. Now let's see something like the real you that got you capped.
Alan J Thompson
2 Posted 24/05/2020 at 16:58:32
When it comes to the money, does common sense and decency just fly out of the window? It is not just the player and the Manager but how many medical staff are employed who must just stand back and let this go on, and under the all unseeing eyes of those responsible for overseeing the club's assets. There's none so blind...
Danny ONeill
3 Posted 24/05/2020 at 17:57:10
Very humbling to hear Michael Keane come out with this. I've thought for too long that it's easy for us fans to throw the "they're earning a shed load of money" tag at them.

I think we often forget the sacrifices a modern player makes from a very young age to succeed at the highest level. They can't lead a normal life and miss out on much of the normality that we take (or used to take) for granted.

They live in a bubble and their life can be turned upside down in a second if a club decides to transfer them. One day, they're in their home town of (hypothetically) Amsterdam; that evening, they're flown to Liverpool without warning. Let's not kid ourselves: the player always makes the decision.

However (apologies upfront), I said at the time and will say again, in Michael Keane, we succumbed to the Walsh era of believing that "Premier League experience" was paramount. We bought a 㿊M dud; victims of the desire to overate English players who are clearly not up to the standard of where we want to be.

I appreciate the lad's honesty and sympathise with him having to play through what sounds like a horrific injury and personal experience. But, he's not good enough if we want Everton to be where we want them to be.

Brian Murray
4 Posted 24/05/2020 at 18:09:36
The top central-halves we have had, like Labone or Watson, weren't pacy but were rarely caught out because they read the game with ease. Maybe keep him – he's handy to have and may have a point to prove. If only to himself.
John Boswell
5 Posted 24/05/2020 at 18:41:55
I find it incredible that clubs do not have a "counsellor" or three on call for staff to be referred to as and when needed. Good mental health is as important as good pysical health for elite athletes. I am not at all sure that a Sports Psychologist will be as effective as a good counsellor. COYB.
Mike Berry
6 Posted 24/05/2020 at 19:04:49
Have a lot of time for the lad. Hopefully EFC employ mental health counsellor. They after all throw millions at agents.
Mike Gaynes
7 Posted 24/05/2020 at 19:05:11
Danny #3, I agreed then and agree now that Keane was not a wise purchase, but he gets nothing but respect and admiration from me. Not only did he absorb a storm of criticism when he was playing on that festering foot -- never saying a word about it publicly until much later -- but the following season he fractured his skull, and a month later was back on the pitch and sticking his head straight back into the danger zone.

We always say we want players of courage and character in our shirt, and we've got one here. No, he's not a good enough player for a club with bigger ambitions, and I think Carlo will eventually move him on, but in my book he's one hell of a man.

"Dud"? Not for me.

David Thomas
8 Posted 24/05/2020 at 19:06:08
Danny 3,

I think your last paragraph sums it up very well.

Danny ONeill
9 Posted 24/05/2020 at 19:20:00

Agree, I admire the lad's courage and this is a very humbling outpouring from him that earns my utmost respect.

I say dud as in the sense we bought, at the time, the latest & greatest English hope. Apparently Man Utd were back in for a player they previously released etc. He was labelled as the next great defensive talent of English football. That he is not.

He's a decent centre-back and I wouldn't question his desire or intent. I'm just being brutally honest about his ability based on where I want Everton to be and I apologise if those standards are high.

Ray Robinson
10 Posted 24/05/2020 at 19:34:27
I think the lad's problem is that he was ideally suited to Burnley's style of play which was to sit deep. His lack of speed on the turn was camouflaged from me until Lukaku exposed him at Goodison one season.

Despite his flaws, he's a good Premier League defender, though maybe not at the level we aspire to.

But he does prove to me that not every Premier League player is a greedy, spoilt brat. He seems like a genuinely nice, brave, loyal individual.

Mike Gaynes
11 Posted 24/05/2020 at 19:48:01

I'll take your word for it, because I don't see UK newspapers, but I recall no claims here on TW that Keane was some great rising hope for England's defense. I'd seen him undressed by Lukaku at Goodison the previous April, when the rumors were already rampant that we would sign him, and personally I was vociferously campaigning here for Steve Cook as a better player at 1/3 the price.

But if you're right that the media-set expectations for Keane were that high, it does explain the price we paid.

Joe McMahon
12 Posted 24/05/2020 at 19:54:27
Nice Guy yes (aren't we all), but agree with many of the comments above, he ain't the standard what we require. Look how LFC have gone to an unreachable level since landing Virgil van Dijk.

As an aside, a City fan at work always rated Sylvain Distin; I fully agree. One of Moyes's best buys.

Tony Abrahams
13 Posted 24/05/2020 at 19:59:58
Brian @4, if you are not a quick centre-back, then it's imperative that you know how to read the game, and this is not one of Michael Keane's strong points.

I agree with Ray @10, that Burnley's defend deep style of play suited Michael because he's just not very alert to the danger in behind and often struggles to keep his eye on both the man and the ball.

Paul Birmingham
14 Posted 24/05/2020 at 20:00:45
Well summarised, Joe @12. Buzz was very good and, in my view, Bobby Martinez got rid of him at the wrong time, he was still capable of doing a job in the defence.

Danny ONeill
15 Posted 24/05/2020 at 20:21:54
That's my main concern with Michael, Tony – his levels of concentration. He watches the game and is always subsequently a yard or a second behind in important situations. Distin was mentioned above; he at least had pace and power of recovery to overcome that.

Michael unfortunately doesn't have that and suffers from that "Oh fuck" moment, when it's too late because he can't recover the situation.

Also, as alluded to above, and in honesty, what comes out in his general demeanour, he's a nice guy; too nice. He isn't nasty enough to be a winner.

John McFarlane Snr
16 Posted 24/05/2020 at 20:22:29
Hi all, while I plead guilty to criticising players at times and expressing frustration regarding Beagrie, McFadden, Barkley et al, I have never vilified any Everton player, and to be fair Michael Keane has had more than his share, both at the match and on this website.

I hope he is now more at ease in his mind and that it's reflected in his performances. The money he earns should not be used as a rod to beat him. He's not the best centre-half that I've seen in an Everton shirt, but he is after all an Everton player.

Tony Abrahams
17 Posted 24/05/2020 at 20:26:53
Danny, that's evident by playing on with such a horrendous injury mate. That's not bravery, it's being too nice and not standing up for himself, especially because he knew how poor he was playing, and was therefore not really any good for the team or for himself.
Danny ONeill
18 Posted 24/05/2020 at 20:41:24
Yes, one of the hardest but most important decisions you make as a player for the team; if you're not fit, you have to call it. Otherwise, you jeopardise the result. You have to be honest and tell the coach you are not right. Like you say, Tony, he should have said. Although, in honesty, if it was that bad, what were our medical / coaching staff thinking?
Jay Harris
19 Posted 24/05/2020 at 21:01:34
Tony #13 bang on the money.
Tony Abrahams
20 Posted 24/05/2020 at 21:15:08
I never understood the full story, to be honest, Danny. I'm sure I read that nobody knew, but then I'm sure I read another that he played in a bigger size boot, and I'm pretty sure it's not something you could hide from the team.

Maybe he was under pressure to play, because we were short of central defenders? Which is a different story altogether, even if it meant hanging one of our new signings out to dry. I'm sure, if this was the case, then surely one of the coaching staff would have been aware of this and then made everyone else aware of Keane's bravery, how he was playing with a very bad injury, and putting the team before himself.

Mark Dunford
21 Posted 24/05/2020 at 21:35:15
Very brave, very impressive to tackle such a difficult personal subject in such a straightforward, honest way. Fine example to the club. We should all wish him the best.
Don Alexander
22 Posted 24/05/2020 at 22:29:08
I applaud the young man's insight and honesty but how on earth is a player in a Premier League club able to repeatedly play in boots of different size without the knowledge of the medical/management staff?

Mike Gaynes
23 Posted 24/05/2020 at 22:49:53
Tony and Danny, of course the club knew. Koeman was renowned for his toughness in his playing days, and Keane is clearly a courageous player himself. He wouldn't have wanted to miss any games with a new club, and Koeman undoubtedly wanted him to play if he could, because even on one bad foot he was better than Ashley Williams.
Bob Parrington
24 Posted 25/05/2020 at 05:52:15
And, reading the game is not necessarily something that comes with experience but this might help. The player has to have this "in him/her" from the start IMO.
Jerome Shields
25 Posted 25/05/2020 at 08:07:42
Keane wasn't a good buy, as stated above he was okay at Burnley, where they defended deep and concentrate a static defensive shape. Not great on distribution except one great ball to Calvert Lewin, which he scored from. Once at Everton and things opened up, partly as a result of sieve defending, and he had to move forward or defend on the turn he had problems.

Everton paid too much for him and expected too much from him. He turned into a nervous wreck playing alongside Jagielka who provided little dependability, support or guidance. He really improved in confidence with Zouma, but still has his difficulties playing alongside Mina. Would be better alongside Holgate, but then so would Mina.

Keane is a confidence player and needs a lot of therapy and support, but will still have problems if those that play with him are not up to it.

Glad he has realised the importance of developing a coping strategy and got help. Most people at sometime in their lives have to address this, but he still has to keep working and developing his game.

Everton would still have difficulty getting what they paid for him, should they decide to transfer. Good luck to him and hope he learns the importance of continual remotivation.

Martin Mason
26 Posted 25/05/2020 at 08:30:05
Many castigate the clubs for wanting to return to training and playing just "for the money". Is that not a very valid reason to do so when the alternative could be bankruptcy or no new players?
Brian Murray
27 Posted 25/05/2020 at 08:40:11
With Gomes with his rent-a-hug. Seamus and Jagielka too nice before him and now poor Keano going through turmoil. Why are our players never mentally strong enough even to react to going a goal down??? Albeit Keane's is more serious for him personally.
Martin Mason
28 Posted 25/05/2020 at 08:52:53
As is often the case, we tend to remember the bad games he's had and perhaps forget the very good games that he's had. He's for sure had bad games but in a very vulnerable defence all round. A new season is coming and, if we can sort out the defence, then he still has a chance to become a very good player for us.
Eddie Dunn
29 Posted 25/05/2020 at 09:05:38
He is a decent Premier League centre-half. On his day, he wins a lot in the air and can hold his own on the deck. We all know he is slow on the turn and his touch can be heavy and his reading of the game is better when he is playing deeper and can see everything in front of him. As soon as he is exposed near halfway, he tends to panic.

The club did him no favours when he played on with that infected ankle, and we fans had no idea and were giving him a hard time without being aware of his impediment. Perhaps the club didn't want to alert opponents of any weakness.

Nonetheless, he seems a nice guy and as, others have said, he came back from the fractured skull to put his bonce on crosses. A brave lad.

Tony Abrahams
30 Posted 25/05/2020 at 09:44:49
Your opinion is fair enough, Mike G, but I thought Unsworth was in charge, when Keane was in tears on the pitch at Southampton, and then the story came out a few weeks later.

I know one player had to get out of his sick-bed to go and play against Atalanta in a dead rubber. These type of things normally only happens at a football club, when people are feeling the pressure or a team is challenging at the top and players are scared of missing a game in case they can't get back in the team.

Dave Abrahams
31 Posted 25/05/2020 at 10:25:47
I wish him well with his mental struggles. I hope he learns to overcome them and start enjoying enjoying life. Best of luck, Michael.
Karl Masters
32 Posted 25/05/2020 at 10:37:39
Let's hope he can nail down a place In the team. If he does, he will be playing at a level that we are all happy with.
Andrew Bentley
33 Posted 25/05/2020 at 11:41:54
I for one want him to succeed. He showed alongside Zouma that he can be a good centre-back for us, it all depends on the person alongside him to compliment his weaknesses.

This break, coupled with the team being in a better position under Ancelotti, should give him the environment to be successful for us. Worst case we get someone else in and he's relegated to the bench. I for one would be happy with that as it means that the competition for places will be much stronger than since he arrived.

He's only 27 so coming into his best years as a defender so we may just see the best of him yet...

Tony Abrahams
34 Posted 25/05/2020 at 12:02:25
Mountfield wasn't quick, but his partner was rapid, so you might have a point there, Andrew. I can't see it myself, I've seen Michael, get lost on a football field way to many times, and defending has definitely changed because with fullbacks constantly bombing on nowadays.

I sometimes feel that central defenders don't get enough cover, which makes good positional sense and pace an absolute necessity in today's game.

Kevin Molloy
35 Posted 25/05/2020 at 12:08:36
I feel he's been badly advised. He's in top level sport, operating in a bear pit. Any sign of vulnerability is seized upon.

By all means get counseliing if you've been through a bad patch, but he really shouldn't be publicising his battles while he is still hoping to be Everton's main centre-half.

Tony Everan
36 Posted 25/05/2020 at 12:42:45
Good on him for talking about it, I think it will help him.

He needs to knuckle down, concentrate on his game now and try to improve himself. Getting that weight off his shoulders will give him a new lease of life. Whether he is ultimately good enough is debatable, but if he puts his heart and soul into efc, and still falls short, he will have my respect for that.

Darren Hind
37 Posted 25/05/2020 at 13:13:07
Unsworth was in charge, Tony.

The defence had been ravaged by injury. We did not have a fit defender after Baines was forced to leave the pitch early at Southampton. Even at his very young age, Jonjoe Kenny was asked to play out of position. Jagielka could barely walk, and Keane's injury has since been well documented.

These players may not be world-class, but it was to their eternal credit that they were able quickly put the Southampton game behind them, to fight on through injury and reverse the slide towards the Championship. What a position Koeman had left us in.

As already stated, Burnley suited Keane. He was so much more comfortable when defending deep and simply clearing his lines.

I thought he handled the interview very well. He has my gratitude for putting the club before himself and playing on through severe pain... but, if we are going to improve, he is definitely one who will have to make way.

Conor McCourt
38 Posted 25/05/2020 at 13:39:42
I think Tony A and Darren summed him up perfectly. He should be decent for someone like Palace but hopefully this summer we are looking to trade him for a left-sided player with power and athleticism –like Umtiti, Upamecano or Zouma.
Paul Tran
39 Posted 25/05/2020 at 13:54:47
He's a good man, but a squad player at best.

Interesting that Koeman bought two centre-backs well versed in defending deep but not in a team that has more possession.

Paul Jones
40 Posted 25/05/2020 at 18:30:38
I commented at the time on this site that I thought there may be some underlying mental health issue following his serious head injury that might explain his poor form.

Maybe they should get Peter Reid to speak to him, a man who came back from a horrific injury to play at the top level and became an even more robust player following his injury.

John Boon
41 Posted 25/05/2020 at 21:10:38
I admire Michael Keane for being manly enough to admit that at one point in his life he had anxiety and depression. It is never easy to admit that you have any sort of weakness.

Football is a tough sport and he is very capable of demonstrating that he has all the physical attributes to be a good footballer. Whether he rises to excellence is unknown, but many centre-backs come to the forefront in their latter years.

He is an Everton footballer and expectations will always be high. Fans also need to realise that he is also a human being, complete with all the frailties that most men try desperately to hide. I now admire him far more for his modesty, honesty and integrity. I don't care how much money he makes. It just isn't a factor.

Players often have to put up with over-the-top vile abuse, usually from very frustrated supporters. It is doubly hard for younger players who may have been the shining light in their youth teams. Those bully fans with the loudest mouths are often the weakest in regard to mental strength and morals.

Paul Hewitt
42 Posted 25/05/2020 at 21:40:10
He ain't very good. Sell him.
John McFarlane Snr
43 Posted 25/05/2020 at 22:22:16
Hi John [41],

I echo your sentiments regarding vile abuse, I've witnessed abusive treatment to players, from fans who look as though they would struggle to get a game in the poorest Sunday League side. Some fans expect perfection from players based on the value placed on them by others, and the wage they receive from clubs.

If a player is transferred from club A, to club B for an astronomical fee, he's placed under immense pressure from fans demanding faultless performances on a weekly basis. I wish I had a pound for every time I've heard someone shouting, "You're crap" to a seasoned international player. I've learned over the years to control my disappointment, and to judge players by their talent and not their wage slip.

Billy Roberts
44 Posted 26/05/2020 at 00:36:53
Paul @43,

What a brilliant, thoughtful account of Michael Keane's honest and revealing interview you have given there. I have never really looked at it that way and you should be commended for bringing this to the attention of the club and fans.

Especially good given the current climate of mental health awareness week.

Jack Convery
45 Posted 26/05/2020 at 01:29:55
EFC ruined Mark Higgins by playing him when he wasn't fit. Keane has put his career and foot on the line when he should have been on the injured list and getting treatment. No wonder he was struggling mentally as well. Good on him for speaking out on how it affected him. Not weak but brave in my opinion.

I don't think he will be in Carlo's long term plans and I can't see him wanting to become a bench warmer. I wish him good luck whatever happens be it with EFC or A N Other.

John Boon
46 Posted 26/05/2020 at 04:45:46
Hi John (43)...I do know how you feel about the unnecessary and unfair abuse that players have to put up with. I don't think there is any other profession where abuse is so rampant. There will always be bullies but in most workplaces they are easily found and hopefully dealt with. Football Bullies can so easily hide in a crowd and NEVER have to face those who they are so willing to torment.

Paul (42). You sound more like an 18th century Slave Master than a football fan. Keane's message obviously went right over your head. The article was about serious mental health issues. It was NOTHING to do with being a good, bad or mediocre player. It was pointing out the difficulties that can affect SOME footballers. Read the article before providing your one line of "wisdom".

John McFarlane Snr
47 Posted 26/05/2020 at 12:20:14
Hi Billy [44],

I take it that your comments were directed at Paul Hewitt [42], and that [43] was the result of a typing error. I immediately sensed a hint of sarcasm and, to be truthful, it's something I have been compelled to resort to on occasion. I'm not an expert in the subject but, in my opinion, your response was a 'Put-down Masterpiece', it summed up everything that Paul Hewitt failed to acknowledge.

I don't think it's a generation issue, Billy, because I read somewhere along the line', that a 'Grumpy Old Man' was once a 'Grumpy Young Man' and I think that the description fits the bill in this instance.

Christy Ring
48 Posted 26/05/2020 at 14:50:29
It's good that Keane can now talk about his mental health issues and having to play when he was injured, and not do himself justice, especially with fans giving him abuse, took it's toll mentally and physically. He did make it back in the England side, so he must have been doing something right this season.

I believe our centre-backs are totally exposed, because we lack a strong defensive midfielder, with Gbamin, only on the way back from a serious injury, having missed the season, no-one else has stepped up to try and fill Gueye's shoes.

Bobby Mallon
49 Posted 27/05/2020 at 07:21:32
Well done for speaking out.
Dean Johnson
50 Posted 27/05/2020 at 08:02:24
As someone who has had his fair share of mental health issues, all this corporate psychology (even effing Lloyd's Bank) talking about mental health is discouraging in the extreme.

Basically I don't believe it is an issue if you talk about it in the media. All these over-privileged people telling us how to think. Frankly, they can all fuck off.

Michael Keane didn't hit rock bottom at all — I wonder how the homeless, unemployed Evertonians think of that comment.

I will never listen to a celebrity telling me how to think and I have no sympathy for those who use the media to tell us how tough they've had it when people in this country are starving and living on the streets.

Heartless I know, but corporate psychology can do one.

Billy Roberts
51 Posted 27/05/2020 at 09:22:28
John @47

Apologies for attaching your number to that post.

"Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit but the highest form of intelligence," said Oscar Wilde. I'm taking your post as a compliment!!

And I hope you weren't being sarcastic?

Jay Wood

52 Posted 27/05/2020 at 13:38:07
There are two aspects to this story.

In the first place, the question of mental health and how it affects ALL, regardless of wealth, fame or status.

Secondly, Michael Keane's ability as a footballer.

I'll start with the latter. Now quite clearly Michael has long had many detractors on TW. In his first season he started off very impressively. He looked a steady 7 or 8 out of 10 player every game. And then...he plummeted to looking a real liability, a 3-4 out of 10 player.

What we didn't know (and only learnt nearly a full year later when he came out and explained the seriousness of his foot injury) was there were considerable mitigating circumstances to his precipitous fall in form.

In his second season, together with Zouma at centre back, he was one of our better players. He got back to that 7-8 out of 10 player. And this was even after recovering from a fractured skull at Bournemouth.

The way on his return he never shirked out of any physical or aerial challenge, together with the very scary foot injury of the previous season, tells me there is a very resilient spirit that resides in Michael Keane.

Defensively, he is a solid header of the ball. Offensively, he could be doing better and have a higher goal return than he does given some of the opportunities that fall his way.

He is not the quickest, but nor is he a complete sloth. He can lose his man, as any defender does with the clever movement of opposition forwards given the quality of the PL. But he is very good at recovery and jockeying players to choke the opposition's attack. He is very composed on the ball. Comfortable in carrying out of defence and has a good range of crisp passing to move the ball forward.

As a footballer, he is not as hapless as some wish to portray him, IMO.

For him to come out publicly on his mental health struggles does further credit to the man - forget the footballer.

He always interviews well. Always seems jocular. I remember last season an interview ahead of a game v Man Utd together with a former team mate, Jesse Lingard. They are evidently close friends and it was a fun interview, with Michael ensuring he got the last word in: 'Be prepared for a few kicks at the weekend!"

Lingard's face was a picture.

I like Michael Keane, the footballer and the man. And I like him all the more for coming out publicly as he has on the subject of mental health.

Justin Doone
53 Posted 30/05/2020 at 11:42:25
Everton should be and should have been encouraging the use of mental health experts for many years. We have lacked behind in this compared to most top clubs for far to long.

Keane is a typical Everton player. He has good games and bad games. No consistency.

Some of this could be excused due to the change in managers, tactics, the high line, defensive and other partnerships on the pitch.

But in general he's a good player in a good team, a poor player in a poor team and a player I wouldn't miss if we sold him in the hope we bring in better players.

If we want to improve and achieve better than average league positions we need better players.

If we play a high line we need pace at the back or know more when to drop deep and not take risks attacking balls on the halfway line.

Keane hasn't improved. He needs a team that suits his abilities and style.

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