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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1 Posted 24/05/2020 at 16:46:55
2 Posted 24/05/2020 at 16:58:32
3 Posted 24/05/2020 at 17:57:10
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 £30M 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.
4 Posted 24/05/2020 at 18:09:36
5 Posted 24/05/2020 at 18:41:55
6 Posted 24/05/2020 at 19:04:49
7 Posted 24/05/2020 at 19:05:11
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.
8 Posted 24/05/2020 at 19:06:08
I think your last paragraph sums it up very well.
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.
10 Posted 24/05/2020 at 19:34:27
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.
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.
12 Posted 24/05/2020 at 19:54:27
As an aside, a City fan at work always rated Sylvain Distin; I fully agree. One of Moyes's best buys.
13 Posted 24/05/2020 at 19:59:58
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.
14 Posted 24/05/2020 at 20:00:45
15 Posted 24/05/2020 at 20:21:54
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.
16 Posted 24/05/2020 at 20:22:29
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.
17 Posted 24/05/2020 at 20:26:53
18 Posted 24/05/2020 at 20:41:24
19 Posted 24/05/2020 at 21:01:34
20 Posted 24/05/2020 at 21:15:08
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.
21 Posted 24/05/2020 at 21:35:15
22 Posted 24/05/2020 at 22:29:08
23 Posted 24/05/2020 at 22:49:53
24 Posted 25/05/2020 at 05:52:15
25 Posted 25/05/2020 at 08:07:42
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.
26 Posted 25/05/2020 at 08:30:05
27 Posted 25/05/2020 at 08:40:11
28 Posted 25/05/2020 at 08:52:53
29 Posted 25/05/2020 at 09:05:38
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.
30 Posted 25/05/2020 at 09:44:49
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.
31 Posted 25/05/2020 at 10:25:47
32 Posted 25/05/2020 at 10:37:39
33 Posted 25/05/2020 at 11:41:54
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...
34 Posted 25/05/2020 at 12:02:25
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.
35 Posted 25/05/2020 at 12:08:36
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.
36 Posted 25/05/2020 at 12:42:45
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.
37 Posted 25/05/2020 at 13:13:07
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.
38 Posted 25/05/2020 at 13:39:42
39 Posted 25/05/2020 at 13:54:47
Interesting that Koeman bought two centre-backs well versed in defending deep but not in a team that has more possession.
40 Posted 25/05/2020 at 18:30:38
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.
41 Posted 25/05/2020 at 21:10:38
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.
42 Posted 25/05/2020 at 21:40:10
43 Posted 25/05/2020 at 22:22:16
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.
44 Posted 26/05/2020 at 00:36:53
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.
45 Posted 26/05/2020 at 01:29:55
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.
46 Posted 26/05/2020 at 04:45:46
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".
47 Posted 26/05/2020 at 12:20:14
I take it that your comments were directed at Paul Hewitt , and that  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.
48 Posted 26/05/2020 at 14:50:29
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.
49 Posted 27/05/2020 at 07:21:32
50 Posted 27/05/2020 at 08:02:24
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.
51 Posted 27/05/2020 at 09:22:28
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?
52 Posted 27/05/2020 at 13:38:07
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.
53 Posted 30/05/2020 at 11:42:25
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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