Michail Antonio says Premier League stress can affect mental health
By Aidan Magee
Last Updated: 27/12/18 7:45am
Michail Antonio believes the stress of playing in the Premier League can have a negative impact on the mental health of footballers.
The West Ham forward is enjoying a resurgence in form after missing the latter stages of last season to undergo surgery on his hamstring.
Antonio says the constant highs and lows that players experience at the top level of the game are the reason football is now taking mental health more seriously.
"Imagine you had a bad day and then you have thousands of people telling you you're terrible. You need to give up, blah, blah, blah," he said.
"Some fans will say 'Oh come on Michail, we want you back to where you were' and there are some who just 'cane' you constantly.
"If I wasn't playing well and we were winning, no one would say anything. Right now, I'm feeling sharp. The team is doing well, everything is fine.
"There is massive stress in the game where you constantly have to be your best. When you are not at your best, people will tell you 'you're not this, you're not that.'
"You have to pull yourself up from that or have people around you that are there to help you get out of your hole.
"Those are the [reasons] why mental health in football is key. The PFA are starting to realise the steps they need to take to help professional footballers."
The one-time Tooting and Mitcham player rose up through the Non-League and even had a loan spell at Thursday's opponents Southampton before settling at West Ham.
A persistent hamstring problem caused Antonio to leave the pitch in tears against Southampton last March, prompting him to go under the knife in the summer.
It meant he faced a struggle to reclaim a first-team place in pre-season, with West Ham having spent around £100m on players while he was in recovery.
But a goal from Antonio in each of the wins over Cardiff and Fulham earlier this month has pushed Manuel Pellegrini's side into the top ten and given the 28-year-old renewed vigour, even if his road back to form was tough.
"It's part and parcel of the game. Fans are happy when you're winning, they're not happy when you're losing," he said.
"One thing in football is that everything in the past gets quickly forgotten - it's week-by-week. You can be one of the best players one week and the next you can be the worst.
"That's exactly how it is. I wasn't playing at the beginning of the season - wasn't playing, wasn't scoring. Now I'm playing and I've got two (goals) in two (games).
"People are thinking 'oh, he's a player again'. It's part of the game, you have to make sure you turn up week in, week out."