After discussing his playing career Chorley boss Matt Jansen speaks to Mark Carruthers about the accident that changed his life and his hopes for his career in the dugout.
Part One of the two-part interview can be read here
After missing out on a place in England’s 2002 World Cup squad, Matt Jansen experienced a summer that would change his life and his football career forever.
After being widely tipped to make Sven Goran-Eriksson’s Three Lions squad for the World Cup in Japan and South Korea, the Blackburn Rovers forward missed out on a warm-up game due to an illness.
The ever-pragmatic Swedish manager chose to take a defender, with Arsenal’s Martin Keown getting the nod over an in-form Jansen.
England’s ‘Golden Generation’ failed to live up to expectations once again at a major tournament, with eventual winners Brazil sending them home in the quarter finals.
As a Ronaldinho-inspired Brazil sent England packing, Jansen lay in a Rome hospital bed following a moped accident.
With his wife on the back, he waited at a crossroads in the middle of Rome, when a taxi hit them.
The accident left Jansen in a coma for a week.
As we stand in the Tyneside sunshine, Jansen is visibly delighted with his side’s FA Cup win over Northern League club Dunston but he shows a stern looking face as he recalls the true impact of the accident some fourteen years ago.
Jansen admitted that the effects of the crash went far beyond the physical injuries suffered, as he revealed that the events in Rome had “killed” his career and sent him into depression.
“It was massive, it killed my playing career I think,” he said
“I was in a coma for six or seven days and as a player I couldn’t get back to the same level.
“It was a horrible time, I suffered with depression and it takes time to realise you aren’t really in that bad of a situation.”
Support came from those closest to Jansen, at a time when depression was a taboo in the uber-macho world of football.
Even now it is still seen as a sore subject, but fourteen years ago it was almost unheard of for a top-flight footballer to admit to suffering from depression.
At the time, Jansen spoke to Professional Footballers Association (PFA) Chairman Gordon Taylor, as well as key figures at Blackburn Rovers and believes that they did “all that they could without really understanding the situation”.
“I spoke to Gordon Taylor at the PFA and to Blackburn and I think now, with depression, it’s more broadcast, it’s easier to talk about it.
“Back then I think they did all that they could without really understanding the situation.
“More people understand it now, the club [Blackburn] managed it well [at the time].
“I spoke to psychologists that the club brought in and I also found support from friends and family.
“The PFA and the club supported me at a time when they maybe didn’t know how to deal with it at that point because there wasn’t a lot of players experiencing it in the open.”
Jansen made a comeback, scoring for Rovers just over five months after the accident.
However, he always felt he wasn’t at the same level.
A loan spell followed in 2003 as he joined Coventry City for a short spell.
Rovers released Jansen in 2006, joining their North West rivals Bolton Wanderers days later.
His stay at Wanderers was brief and he departed the club after only five months.
Trials with MLS clubs led to nothing and he had spells training with former clubs Bolton, Blackburn and Carlisle United.
A trial with Huddersfield Town saw Jansen score in a reserve game against Rotherham United, but no deal was forthcoming.
Jansen eventually moved into non-league with Wrexham, joining the Welsh club in March 2011, on a deal lasting until the end of the season.
In non-league Jansen found solace and a new purpose.
He said: “You’ve got to realise that in a short space of time I went from a highest of highs to a lowest of lows, that is tough to take.
“Eventually, six or seven years later it just hit me, out of nowhere almost.
“I knew I had to do all I could to put it behind me and that is why I focused on non-league and now my managerial career.”
One source of support came from his former Blackburn Rovers captain Garry Flitcroft.
Flitcroft was at Leigh Gensis and asked Jansen to join him at the Magpies as a player-assistant manager.
Despite walking away from the game that he loved, Jansen was ready to get back in.
A move to Chorley followed for Flitcroft and Jansen followed him to Victory Park.
He had “itchy feet” joked Jansen, as he paid tribute to the man that led him into his coaching career, as he eventually succeeded Flitcroft in the dugout with the Magpies.
“Garry was great for me.
“Flitty was captain of Blackburn when I was there under Souness and he was at the heart of everything that the manager fostered in the changing room.
“He was a leader, an organiser on and off the pitch.
“He asked me to join him at Chorley when he became manager and I jumped at the chance.
“But I had walked away from the game, I was done with it, it had destroyed me.
“I don’t mind saying I got itchy feet, I wanted back in and I am grateful that Flitty allowed me to do that.
“He had to step down to focus on his business and he asked me to take over his realm. I have done my [UEFA] A and B licences and I felt ready to take it on.”
Jansen is a rarity in non-league football.
The sight of a former top flight player standing in the dugout at a non-league club are all-too-rare.
Former Chelsea and Leicester City defender Frank Sinclair had spells as manager of Hednesford Town and Colwyn Bay, whilst former Fulham full back Rufus Brevett is currently manager of Combined Counties League club Hanworth Villa.
John Eustace, once of Derby County and Coventry City, was named as new manager of Vanarama National League North club Kidderminster Harriers in June 2016.
But Jansen believes that more former Premier League players should take on the “steep learning curve” that non-league football offers.
“I think more Premier League players should take a chance and move into non-league playing and management.
“It’s a totally different game but it offers a steep learning curve for anyone, even if they have played at the top level.
“Last season I inherited the team and I have made a lot of changes.
“We are doing ok this season in a very tough league.
“I have learnt so much in my time in non-league and especially since I came to Chorley.
“I don’t want to stop learning, I want to develop my skills and I have the perfect platform to do that.
“It is good experience and I hope to use it to progress in my managerial career.”
But what qualifies as progress for Jansen and his Chorley side?
The Magpies currently sit in the final play-off position in the Vanarama National League North, just five points behind leaders AFC Fylde.
They are surrounded by some of non-league football’s most famous names.
Stockport County, Kidderminster Harriers, Boston United; this year’s National League North is not for the feint hearted.
The likes of an upwardly mobile Darlington and Class of 92 owned Salford City have been thrown into an already competitive league.
The challenges facing Jansen are obvious, “finances aren’t massive” he admits, but from the determined look on his face you can see this isn’t an issue.
His squad has been put together with a sense of evolution from Flitcroft’s tenure, rather than revolution many may have expected.
The target is National League football, and Jansen revealed that he is taking inspiration from one of the Premier League’s greatest ever title wins.
“I would love to take Chorley as far as I can possibly take them,” said Jansen.
“Finances aren’t massive, we are probably in the bottom five budgets in a very, very tough league.
“It is all ifs and buts with us.
“If we progress, will there be investment?
“You look at Leicester City, it’s a well-used example.
“They spent money but it wasn’t at the same level as some clubs.
“They won the Premier League, nobody thought they would do that. We can get promoted, I think we can anyway because we have some quality but I understand when people say we can’t do that.
“They look at some clubs in the division and they put them first, I know why they do that and I don’t blame them.”
When asked of his own personal targets for his managerial career Jansen gives a purposeful answer, although a mask of determination did slip for once as he joked that the English football’s top job may be a step too far.
“I am ambitious, I was as a player and I am maybe even more ambitious now.
“I’d love to manage at a higher level and ideally that would be with Chorley because I have learnt so much here.
“I played in the Premier League, I got international recognition for it and that came by being ambitious.
“That doesn’t mean I want to be England manager, I think they are well covered in that now!
“But I want to go as far as I can in management.
“But first I want to get the club up into the National League and then who knows from there?”
Matt Jansen has taken his first steps into football management, if the bravery shown throughout his career are anything to go by then many more steps will follow.
Interview: Mark Carruthers (@marknldaily)
Images: www.actionimages.com / Chorley FC