Chris Kirkland was identified at an early age as a goalkeeper with an uncommon blend of height, agility and bravery. His father Eddie, a crane driver, was so convinced of his son’s raw ability at 14, when Chris towered above his school mates, that he and a group of friends placed a bet of £100 at 100-1 that he would win an England cap by the time he was 30. Kirkland claimed his one and only senior cap as a second-half substitute against Greece in August 2006.


Indeed, when Coventry City had transferred Kirkland to Liverpool five years earlier, at the time his £6million fee was the most expensive for a goalkeeper in British history, Sven Goran Eriksson had described him as the future of English goalkeeping. But it was at Wigan where Kirkland enjoyed the happiest moments from 2006 to 2009, under the supervision of Paul Jewell and then Steve Bruce.


“I never wanted to leave Wigan, I had the best time of my football life there, and it was a big shock when they sold me to Sheffield Wednesday,” said Kirkland. “Latics were in the Premier League, playing great football, and I was very happy at the JJB.”


Dealing with a harrowing depression and leaving the game...


“I had a bad weekend just gone, not good at all, and if you sit there it can destroy you,” he said. “I got help, but without that, then that’s the scary thing, isn’t it? I’d say to my wife, Leeona, who is my rock, that I couldn’t wait to go to sleep at night and just be clear. But then, I didn’t want to wake up in the morning because it just starts again. When you go out and feel like that then you just put on an act.”


Then aid and assistance came from the Professional Footballers’ Association, when he contacted Michael Bennett, the head of player welfare at the PFA, after announcing his retirement in 2016. “They were brilliant,” he said. “The lady I see has worked wonders and I want other people and other players to know that you’ve just got to talk. She’s given me coping mechanisms, such as breathing techniques, but I struggle a lot with anxiety; I still do. I just want other people and other players to know that you’ve just got to talk. I never saw a way out of it until I started to talk about it."