The Dark Side to the Beautiful Game

By Calum Brown

Liverpool-born midfielder Greg Tansey started his career at Stockport County, before a move up north came about with Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

Whilst in the Highlands with the Caley Jags, Tansey impressed as John Hughes’ side shocked Scottish football in 2015 by finishing 3rd in the Premiership, qualifying for the Europa League, and lifting the Scottish Cup. He was a key player in a golden generation for the club, making 190 appearances and scoring 32 times.

Greg Tansey lifts the Scottish Cup as Inverness defeat Falkirk 2-1 at Hampden Park. Image courtesy of Press & Journal

The midfielder’s performances for Inverness landed him a move to a much bigger and wealthier club in Aberdeen, where it was expected he would shine. But, it wasn’t to be as Tansey suffered a career-threatening injury, which he first felt on a pre-season trip to Cork with the Dons.

He said: “I had never been injury prone. At times, I was struggling to get out of bed, to get out the car, and walk around Tesco, and if I’m struggling doing that, there was no way I was ever going to be the same player on the pitch.”

Tansey made just 14 appearances for Aberdeen. Image courtesy of Aberdeen FC

After struggling to get through matches on painkillers, and some frustrating talks with boss Derek McInnes, Tansey was told his Aberdeen career was over after failing to hit the heights shown with Inverness.

A loan move to Ross County followed, but subsequently didn’t work out. Then, fellow Premiership side St Mirren came knocking, looking to take the talented midfielder permanently and get him back to his best. However, after more injury frustration, it wasn’t to be.

Tansey commented: “In the winter break in 2019, St Mirren came in for me. At this point I was amazed that I could still get a transfer because I haven’t got off a physio bed in a year and a half.”

Tansey’s last professional match came at Tynecastle in February 2019 as St Mirren drew 1-1 with Hearts. Image courtesy of Daily Record

“The physio Alex McQueen said to me ‘you need to look at packing this in because it’s just going to get worse.’ So that was hard to hear.”

After the Paisley club refused to pay for Tansey to have another operation, he forked out the money himself, but the attempt to re-correct the injury with surgery was again unsuccessful. The playmaker was forced to retire, two years before his 30th birthday.

He explained: “I decided to call it a day. It was a bad, bad way to retire to be honest. I felt that it was taken away from me. I was still in my prime, I was 28 when it happened – it’s not like I was 33 or 34 and it was time to call it a day anyway. So that’s what made it harder.”

Throughout all this, Tansey admitted he had been suffering from depression, which goes to show that footballers don’t always live luxury lives – they suffer too. They’re human.

“You’re a commodity to the club. If you can’t do your job, and they know you can’t do your job, then you’re pretty worthless.”

“I was eating like the monk. I lost all kinds of weight trying to be heart-stricken with myself. To be honest it would have been the depression as well. Only now looking back I’ll go ‘I was in a bad, bad place. People don’t see this part of it.”

Greg Tansey nets a penalty at Hampden to equalise for Inverness against Celtic in the Scottish Cup Semi Final.

Despite all Greg Tansey has gone through, he’s overcome it, and still manages to have a positive outlook on life. Whilst looking back on his career with more pride than disappointment, the Inverness legend believes that speaking out about his problems has helped him become stronger, and encourages others to follow suit.

He said: “It still hurts now, I won’t lie, but you become a stronger person for it. As a kid if you’d have said ‘you’ll win the Scottish Cup and play in the Europa League’, I wouldn’t have turned it down.”

“Mental health is a massive thing in football. It’s something that I’d say to anyone to speak out about because we’ve all probably suffered with it at some stage. Especially with the times we’re in now, it’s really important to think about mental health and talk about it.”

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