BBC BLOGS - Chris Bevan

Archives for December 2011

Andy Morrison's biggest battle

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Chris Bevan | 15:43 UK time, Friday, 2 December 2011

I am halfway through my interview with Andy Morrison when I notice the mass of scars on his knuckles for the first time, testimony to the scrapes he was involved in during his colourful career.

"I had too many fights to put into my book," the former Manchester City, Huddersfield, Blackpool and Plymouth centre-back tells me of some of the brutal off-pitch tales which litter his new autobiography. "So I just mentioned the ones which helped shape my career for better or worse."

An unashamed bruiser he may be, but Morrison does not glorify his violent past. In any case, his biggest battles have been psychological, not physical.

In a week during which footballers' mental health has been in the spotlight following Gary Speed's death, Morrison's story, which was published last month, makes poignant reading.

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How Simon Downer found his feet on football's fringes

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Chris Bevan | 09:43 UK time, Friday, 2 December 2011

Seven years ago, Simon Downer threw his football boots into the sea and vowed never to play the game he loved again.

You could hardly blame him either. Crippled by persistent injuries, his dreams of a top-flight career with Newcastle United had long since disappeared. He was also without a club and outside the professional ranks for the first time after being released by Leyton Orient.

His first attempt at a non-league comeback ended in agony when he broke down doing sprints in the unglamorous surroundings of a Canvey Island beach. After disposing of his boots into the Thames Estuary, Downer, a speedy centre-back, was in so much pain he could not even get in his car to drive home.

Thankfully, life is a lot happier these days.

At 30, the proud father of nine-month-old daughter Cydney is planning a career behind the wheel of a black cab, and he is back in football too. In fact, you can see him in action yourselves on Sunday when he lines up for Sutton United in their televised FA Cup tie with Notts County.

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