It is a sad thing when one of football’s most promising talents slips into obscurity because of injury – and that is exactly what happened to Matt Jansen.
It is a dangerous world for the talented to enter – the dazzling lights of the Premier League, the stardom, the expectations, the highs and lows, rejection and jubilation.
And former forward Matt Jansen’s career encompasses them all, and some.
It really is a tragic tale to analyse. The story of the man who had it all cruelly ripped away by one of sports most unwanted events.
Jansen had just made his £4 million move from Crystal Palace when the reality hit him – the very conscious moment that he was about to take his inaugural leap into stardom, the pivotal moment of his life, under the watchful guidance of Premier League winning side Blackburn Rovers.
Ok – it did not quite turn out as planned, with Blackburn suffering relegation soon after, but 24 goals in 48 matches on the road back to the topflight really showed that he meant business, as did the 16 he netted when he finally made it to the sacred land of Premier League football.
Ironically, it was being on the cusp of something so special that brought down a special career.
The World Cup squad selection was looming, and Jansen was touted as one of the obvious selections, given his form and ability.
He recounted his experience.
“Sven Goran Eriksson was at our game at Liverpool the day before the squad was announced and he told Graeme Souness that I should try not to get injured because I was going to the World Cup,” Jansen recalled (as per the Independent).
“It was quite a shock,” he said.
“But apparently, Sven and Tord Grip decided they should have an extra defender and so, at the 11th hour, they took Martin Keown instead of me.”
Like the proverbial flap of the butterflies wings, the decision to leave Jansen out of the squad would kickstart a chain of events that would irreversibly change the course of his life.
During an extended break from the game, spent with his girlfriend, and now wife, Jansen was involved in a serious crash that left him with a brain haemorrhage and in a coma for six days.
“I recovered physically, but not mentally. Before the accident I was on fire, I was on the verge of an England call-up. I was high on confidence – but I could never regain that,” Jansen recounted years later after returning to the game (Independent).
“The psychologists and psychiatrists and brain surgeons said I shouldn’t have played for 18 months – if at all,” says Jansen. “But I felt ready. However, though I might have been physically ready, I wasn’t mentally ready. I had psychological problems. I was playing, but I was my own worst critic after the accident.”
He then went on to discuss the mental effects of not feeling good enough – the depressing slumps in professional football after falling from the limelight, the challenges of recovery and the constant pressures he could never overcome.
Despite returning to Premier League football, Jansen freely admits he was never the same, and after some brief stints in the top divisions, he eventually succumbed to his fate, dropping down to play in the lowest tiers for Wrexham, Leigh Genesis FC and Chorley before giving the game up together – immortalised as one of the most profound cases of ‘what if?’Like what the TT have on offer? Sign up for more notifications!
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