Jesse Lingard: "My headspace is in a much better place and I’m positive about what’s to come.”
Alice Gee | 19/01/2022
Jesse takes a seat in the Manchester studio where we just shot his cover, still seemingly full of energy. Having wrapped our 4-hour shoot there’s an essence of calm in the air, something we embrace as we start to delve into Jesse’s experiences with mental health. We start with the topic I see best to tackle and almost put to bed, aware of the triggers that can come in tow talking about mental health. That being said, Jesse seems prepared, almost determined to be able to share his experiences and how he’s come out the other side a year on from first opening up about his mental health. With football having a chequered past when it comes to abuse both on and off the pitch, I question the factors that surround mental health in football such as toxic masculinity. I wondered about the moment Jesse found himself acknowledging he was slightly out of his depth and in need of support for his mental health and how sharing his experiences has encouraged others reach out for support.
“I was going through games with the craziest of feelings. It wasn’t me. It was almost an out-of-body experience. I was so low that during the games I wasn’t doing that well and I was getting so much stick from the press and fans. So, it was the right time to speak to the manager at the time, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, to get it off my chest, and to go to the doctor as well. I really got the support I needed, especially from my mum. Opening up was hard enough, I felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders, but as soon I opened up it was a breath of fresh air, I felt miles better. I would encourage people to open up. Since speaking about my experiences I’ve had a lot of other players reach out to me privately for advice. It’s something I’m glad I can help with. I think we’re in a time and a generation where a lot more people are starting to come forward and speak about it. Obviously, back in the day, there were a lot of mental health issues like you say to do with toxic masculinity, people didn’t want to come out and talk about it, but I think this generation nowadays is getting a lot better at it. It really does make it easier speaking to a family member, friend, or doctor to get things off your chest and I’ve seen that in those coming to me for advice and support.”
Having experienced racial abuse over moments in his career I can only imagine the brutality involved from the public and press. Since finding support for his mental health it’s apparent how strong Jesse has become in the last year alone in coping with the challenges that have presented themselves, it’s something I imagine he can partially put down to realising the negative triggers and factors that have impacted him at times.
“It’s a really important thing the environment around you. Especially where you live, where I lived when you went downstairs, I didn’t get a lot of light in the room. In the morning when I woke up I would always keep the curtains closed. It’s always the little things that have an effect on you. Since then I’ve learned so much about my mental health and what helps, for example when I get up in the morning I straightaway open the blinds for some light, I try to always be active and focus on the little things that can change your whole mood. I’ve always been on about positivity, I read a book called Good Vibes, Good Life by Vex King Who’s a good friend and it’s opened me up to so many different to do with positivity.”
Since having challenges with his mental health Jesse has shown such character in trying to manage how he’s feeling without it fully taking over his life. It’s something so important for his fans and loved ones to see not only from his point of view but by showing others the possibility that you can live life fullest in tandem whilst having wobbles with your mental health. It’s clear Jesse’s blossomed since and has adopted a whole host of positive habits with his previous move to Westham making way to some healthy coping mechanisms, one I’m keen to ask about being whiteboards.
“One of the boards are the games we have and how many shots, goals or assists and another of the boards are things or words that have meant things to me in the past, be it from growing up or things that I can see every day before I walk out the door, that I can log into, it’s all positive or things that can help my confidence which was useful especially when I was on my loan at Westham, it helped massively.”
Being a father, I ask Jesse if it’s nice or even a silver lining knowing that through his experiences he feels comfortable in his understanding of mental health when it comes to not only supporting his daughter but also the positive effect she has had on him.
“She’s a huge comfort. Every time I’m with her I forget about everything else. I love spending time with her, she takes my mind away from football and everything else that surrounds it. So, you know, she’s obviously helped. And, as you say from my experiences god forbid I have to but I know I’ll be able to support her through anything.”
There’s no question about Jesse’s dedication when it comes to Hope his daughter, he is clearly the doting dad keen to install positivity and good energy in not just her but next generation.
“It’s so important to me to be positive and energetic. Especially for the younger generation who look up to me, I’m a role model for a lot of people. It’s important for the future and obviously for the next generation especially my daughter. I want her to feel like she can be anything she wants to be. Obviously, I will try and give her all the tools In the world but I still want her work hard, not just everything on a plate, you have to earn and work hard for certain things. But I want her to believe she can do anything she wants in the future.”
With everyone having their go to outlets which are key to staying well I ask Jesse what’s been his version of kryptonite in terms of keeping busy, taking his mind off his worries, and building a positive outlook and energy.
“I do yoga once a week. I think yoga’s been important, having to put your phone away and to go and relax, not for all positions (he chuckles) but it’s nice to relax and take your mind off other things. Especially the mindset change towards certain things, where I’m always looking for a positive outcome. I’ve got good people around me who I can always have a laugh and a joke with and feed off that good energy off. I like to have people around me that have good positive energy.”
With Jesse keen to highlight the effects of having positive energy around him, having close friends and loved ones to lean on in times of need, I can’t help but wonder what the clubs in which so many players spend time could do to support their players when it comes to mental health.
“I’d say having someone specifically trained in mental health at a club is really important. Someone who you can speak to whether it be a doctor or psychiatrist, and if you don’t want to do it in the club then obviously, someone or thing to help you go private and speak to but I think someone in the club who can help you deal with some of these issues would be good as at the end of the day we’re human, we’re not robots. We all go through things that aren’t easy. So I feel someone who can be at the club to chat to regularly where everything is confidential would be what I’d say and I do think from it a lot more people would start talking about how they feel.”
It’s a poignant idea that once applied could really change the dynamics in the sporting industry, allowing more footballers to come forward whilst encouraging more fans to accept that it’s ok not to be ok. As we sit opposite each other I can sense the relief that has come with speaking about his experiences, but even more so a desire and readiness to move on with his life, onwards and upwards to bigger and better things.
“I’m feeling good and excited about the future. I’m at a point where I feel the best that I can. I’m always looking forward to new challenges. My headspace is in a much better place and I’m positive for what’s to come.”
With the conversation being on a slightly lighter note, I check in he’s still ok from being so open about his mental health and change the direction of conversation as I ask about Jesse’s brand JLingz, where it started and where he’s hoping to take it.
“I’ve always been into fashion. I knew one day that I’d make a brand. It was always just when and where. Especially when you’re playing football it can be difficult, because obviously with the games you can get a bit restricted time-wise where you’re not pushing your brand as much as you’d want to. I’ve gotten to a stage now where I like to do a lot of different things outside of football. Obviously, football is my number one hobby and I love it but for me, I’ve always wanted to be unique in what I’m doing, trying new things, whether it be my brand, on YouTube, and doing commercials outside of football. I always like to keep my mind active.”
“So we started afresh recently with the band which I’m so excited about. The products we’ve got have been good for us to keep ticking over but I think the new stuff is going to be more premium. Alongside that I’ve got a media company now which means I’ll be able to do my own stuff and own shows with anyone whether celebrities, footballers or other creatives. The plan is we can do a variety different things, whether it be you know, podcasts about life, football, just anything that’s going on in the world. I’m looking forward to that. I like to dive into things are a bit different, I love to learn about things, the way they work. Fashion is one of them and then esports which I’ve been into since a young boy. I’ve always been unique and wanted to start new things and set trends. I’ve got so much energy here. I just want to find the next best thing that I can do and use champion mindset I have.”
I’m not wholly surprised by the determination I see in front of me with Jesse so clearly passionate about his brand. I love that he’s dedicated to the product being right with so much integrity attached. Having started HATC a couple years ago I can relate to the amount of work that goes into creating a brand as Jesse explains the difficulties, he’s experienced within the process all whilst balancing a successful career in football and home life.
“I used to get stick for it because they thought it would take too much time away from concentrating on football. Obviously, I’m aware of it but I love doing my brand. So we recently had a fresh drop for Black Friday and a run of special editions for Christmas. I’ve always wanted to do everything right and not just drop in drips and drabs so we’ve got a lot of stuff to get out. Hopefully, by the time spring comes, there will be a spring collection and then a summer collection. And eventually, then cycle orders. So to have something on the side is always a positive for me. At the end of the day, you want to leave a legacy behind and that’s what I’m striving for.”
With his legacy in motion I wonder what else Jesse has up his sleeve alongside JLingz, football and a new media company. I wanted to know what’s next for 2022 and if there’s anything to come that fans may not have expected.
“My focus is to get the podcast up and running. But owning the media company means we can explore more options. I’d love to do a little show or a Netflix episode. I’m really enjoying being in control and doing whatever I want with it. As for what I’d love to try my hand at, I’ve always been a big film fanatic so it would be great to see if I could venture into that side of things. Obviously, you got to start somewhere and I’d love to look into acting for sure.”
As we come to the end of the interview Jesse concludes that he really is enjoying himself right now, he’s training hard and ready to play whilst finding moments of happiness in his brand and those he has around him. And there is no doubt he’s leaving a legacy both with his brand and through the conversations he’s so openly having about his experiences with mental health. Having others reach out for support thanks to his openness is a real testament to his character and perseverance to not only find balance but manage his mental health. To hear the positive change in his journey going from what could be said quite a difficult time to finding himself coming out the other side and excelling in everything he sets his hand to is what so many of his followers may need to hear for themselves. It’s the perfect time for him to look forward and make strides in everything he does. Say hello to JLingz the legacy that’s only getting bigger.