Fabian Delph has revealed how he rebooted his career with Manchester City and England by practising Tai Chi meditation and becoming a vegan.
When Pep Guardiola arrived at the Etihad two seasons ago, there were doubts whether Delph would fit in.
Was he the kind of player the Spaniard wanted as he shaped his vision for the club —especially with the midfielder beset by injuries.
But following a title-winning season and a call-up to Gareth Southgate’s 23-man England World Cup squad, the 28-year-old former Aston Villa and Leeds star is flying.
At the end of Mental Health Awareness week, a forthcoming book features Delph’s personal battles, and how mindfulness exercises have helped him create a positive mindset that has revitalised his well-being.
“I’ve had a lot of injuries and a lot of setbacks, starting with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament, lateral meniscus tear and medial ligament damage,” says Delph in Soccology: Inside The Hearts And Minds Of The Professionals On The Pitch .
“At that point, I heard people saying my career was over or my performances would not be as good.
“Not being in the team and only being spoken about in terms of my injury was hard. Being injured massively affected my mental state — self-doubt crept in.
“I began to question whether I would ever play again and, if I were to play again, whether my performances would be as good.
“When I began to train again, it took a while for me to adjust to my body’s changes as a result of the injury, find my confidence and get over my fear of breaking down.
“I decided to ignore my doubts and began to look at my body objectively, as if it were detached from me.
“I studied its weak parts, researched my injuries, began to strengthen my body and moved from rehab into pre-hab. I carried out mindfulness exercises like the moving meditation of Tai Chi.
“I changed the fuel I put into my body and switched to a vegan diet.”
Those changes have helped Delph, an £8million capture from Villa in 2015, work wonders.
Guardiola has been impressed to such an extent he made 30 appearances in City’s star-studded team as they won the Premier League and Carabao Cup.
The book, by former West Ham and Charlton midfielder Kevin George, charts the struggles of players such as former France, Arsenal and City star Gael Clichy as well as Wimbledon’s Marcus Gayle, former Spurs defender Anthony Gardner and Crystal Palace striker and boxer Leon McKenzie.
Delph said: “Football doesn’t teach players how to handle these situations, leaving players in a place that affects their well-being.
“My previous clubs didn’t have anyone we could see to get help when we felt down.
“At Manchester City, we have a sports psychiatrist the players go to see when they have problems. I don’t see him personally, but the lads find him very helpful.
“I feel that my new lifestyle is key to my state and my overall outlook on life, strengthening how I view things on the whole.”
And George said: “Seeking help with football-related, mental health problems is now becoming the norm.
“Understanding mental health helps players to manage themselves. Understanding creates knowledge and knowledge is empowerment.”
* Kevin George is a former West Ham and Charlton Athletic midfielder who left the game to study Counselling and Psychotherapy.
Today he works as a Human Performance Specialist, helping academy players at Premier League clubs to prepare for the mental and emotional challenges of the game.
His new book , Soccology: Inside The Hearts And Minds Of The Professionals On The Pitch , is due to be published on 31 May, priced £17.99. www.soccology.com
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