Charlie Mulgrew reveals Celtic annihilation of Dundee United left him 'spiralling into depression'

-Credit: (Image: SNS Group)
-Credit: (Image: SNS Group)

Charlie Mulgrew has lifted the lid on the crushing fear and anxiety of top-level football. And the former Celtic hero insists not enough is spoken about the excruciating strain.

Mulgrew savoured highs over almost two decades winning major honours, Player of Year accolades and 44 Scotland caps. But fear of failure was always there and worry at being constantly judged. Mulgrew retired last September after a final full season at Dundee United which left him bordering on depression and not once regretted it. In a frank admission, he said: “Listen, being a football player is huge pressure. It’s not spoken about enough. There is so much fear and anxiety involved. You live your life in a glass bowl, you are constantly judged. It’s difficult. It’s something you need to deal with and learn to live with, but I don’t miss that side of it. The pressure games were bringing me was outweighing my motivation for actually playing.”

Mulgrew’s last full season was at Dundee United and he revealed: “That was horrendous. It was always going to take a season like that to see me out. The season before, we finished fourth and got into Europe, and the only highs in that season were winning 1-0 and scrapping through the game.

“A lot of the games, you didn’t really enjoy, but you won and you could go: Yes, we can drive down the road and we’ve won. We won games and were in Europe, so I thought I’d continue playing. Then we win 1-0 (against AZ in the Europa Conference League), and we are buzzing, then we go away and lose seven, and from there on it was just a downwards spiral.

“I didn’t play against Celtic, but to lose 9-0, you were just spiralling into depression then. The fear and everything is coming, and then you are just getting beat and getting beat.

“Before you know it, you are on the pitch and you are lower than a snake’s belly confidence-wise and you get accused of downing tools. The last thing you want to do as a human being is down tools, but you are gone. You are emotionally drained, you have no confidence, you are bordering on depression. But the fans are judging you, saying you are downing tools and booing you every time you get the ball.

“There’s a thought. You’re in front of 12,000 fans who are accusing you of not fighting for the club. Of course you are, every single thing you are doing behind the scenes is to get this club to stay in the league, because who does it benefit for the club to go down? It doesn’t benefit me.

“I want to end on a high and stay up, but you are almost playing with a 50-kilo backpack on mentally, and that is how it looks. You end up trying too hard, you’re overthinking it, everything.”