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Author Topic: The Ex Swindon Town Player Where Are They Now Thread  (Read 2268833 times)
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« Reply #11850 on: Saturday, March 21, 2020, 20:11:50 »

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« Reply #11851 on: Sunday, March 22, 2020, 18:44:53 »

Good interview on The Athletic with Dean Hooper and journo (Ex-STFC) Stuart James. Copied for those who are interested and dont subscribe.

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“I don’t know whether I was actually insane or whether it was the drug, or whether it was a combination of everything that was going on and I just shut down. But they didn’t know I was tripping, they didn’t know I’d taken LSD at the time.”

Dean Hooper is speaking in a small coffee shop in Harefield, on the western outskirts of London, on a Friday afternoon. We’ve not met up for 25 years, ever since we shared a dressing room as players at Swindon Town. By the time we finish talking, in a pub across the road about three hours later, I walk away thinking I knew never him in the first place.

Now aged 48, Hooper has an extraordinary life story that he is “unlocking” step by step and telling for the benefit of others. As a footballer, he was a journeyman who represented a long list of non-League clubs either side of signing for Swindon and playing more than 100 games for Peterborough United. As a person, it is hard to know where to start.

Hooper was left feeling as though “someone had cut my legs off” after he was sexually abused at the age of 15. Within two years, he was a regular drug user. By the time he turned 19, he was detained in a secure unit at Ealing Hospital after being sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

Shortly after signing for Peterborough in 1998, Hooper was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and five years ago he walked out of his house with the intention of taking his own life. A chance meeting with a homeless man saved him.

Probably the most important thing to say after all of that is that Hooper is smiling now, in an extremely positive frame of mind about the future and probably more comfortable in his own skin than ever before. “I think I’m in the best place I’ve ever been,” he says, “and that’s why I feel comfortable talking about everything now.”

Luciano Pavarotti. Nessun Dorma.

Hooper was a patient at Ealing Hospital’s psychiatric unit during Italia 90. He watched David Platt’s volley, Paul Gascoigne’s tears and England’s World Cup semi-final heartache surrounded by anyone and everyone, from heroin addicts to murderers, and whenever he hears that Pavarotti song it takes him back there in an instant.

“I can’t remember this but one of my mates said that he came in and watched one of the games with me,” Hooper says. “The trouble is, with trauma, you block out so much. I’ve been through quite high levels of psychology and that’s deep in itself. But I still think there’s so much that I’ve locked up, just for my own protection. But that World Cup, that music is the most powerful thing for me. If I hear that, it does tingle.”

His life had started to unravel a few years earlier, partly through drug use. The rave scene was in full flow in the late Eighties but Hooper didn’t need to be dancing in a field, somewhere off the M25, to be popping pills. “I was smoking dope a lot. Predominantly socially, but I’d have drugs on me most days,” he says. “Not heavy, but certainly marijuana — I smoked ridiculous amounts of it in that sort of period, at about 17.

“It got a little bit harder — ecstasy and LSD. I’d take it casually. I’d just pop a pill. I was trying to cover up that trauma from what happened when I was a kid, I suppose. Is that an excuse? I don’t honestly know. Sometimes I think… I think I was lost.”

The trauma Hooper is referring to involved a youth worker who sexually abused him and, understandably, it is still an extremely difficult subject for him to talk about now. “It was a one-off occasion, where he drugged me and whatever else, it was bad. I didn’t know. The curtains were drawn, a glimmer of light… I can see it now. Not good, mate. And I just felt weak.

“I suppose that’s why I was so aggressive throughout my life. To be honest, that’s what it is really. I’m not that person. I was happy-go-lucky, talk to anybody, smile on my face all the time. Then the shutters came down and that’s it.”

Asked whether he reported the incident at the time, Hooper replies: “No. Never have. I wanted to go back and kill him, had all those thoughts. One of my mates put a baseball bat in my hand and said, ‘Let’s go. Let’s do it.’ I don’t honestly know why I didn’t report it. But he’s dead now.”

Does he think he would have ended up in Ealing Hospital had he not been sexually abused? “That’s a fucking good question. And I admire the thought method involved in that,” Hooper says. “It’s really, really hard to answer because, what with the broken heart as well, the two happened so quickly.”

Hooper was in love with a 22-year-old model at the age of 17. She was a neighbour and fell pregnant with his child, which she ended up losing. Hooper wasn’t ready to be a father but wasn’t prepared for life without his girlfriend either. When she left him, he was devastated. “With the two going on (the sexual abuse before) it just threw me. A man with a broken heart… the toughest, strongest person in the world can’t handle that. I’ve seen that.”

After being expelled from a bricklaying course at college following an incident with a spirit level — Hooper says the teacher hit him first — he joined non-League Hendon’s youth team. Hooper enjoyed played football — he trained with Watford when he was younger — but liked going out even more and admits there was a two-year period when he was “heavy on the drugs”.

Hooper shrugs. “The rave scene was happening then, everybody was doing it. I just wanted to dance and listen to the music. There was a group called Spiral Tribe. I remember on New Year’s Eve we went to a place called the Roundhouse, in Camden, which was derelict then, set fire to crates in the middle of it to keep warm, had a generator going, and got kicked out at about four in the morning. Mad times… but good times as well.”

Hooper’s behaviour had started to become more and more irrational. The drugs were taking their toll and he was suffering from paranoia but there were wider concerns about his mental health too. Everything was spiralling out of control, so much so that his mum and dad picked up the phone one day and decided to act. Little did they know that their son was high on LSD at the time.

“Three doctors turned up,” Hooper says. “They were like three wise men — and at the time I was thinking exactly that. I was thinking, ‘I’m Godly in some way’, because I was tripping off my head. It was quite frightening. I thought they’d come to see the son of God almost. Heavy stuff. When you get that mindset, that you actually believe it as well… that’s what I think a lot of people with bipolar will talk about, you go to that high of self-confidence, spiritually as well.

“I haven’t spoken to my sisters about that day, both of them were there at that time. But I can remember the three doctors and I can remember I was ushered out of the door, into an ambulance. Two male nurses came to take me into Ealing mental hospital, which is now luxury flats. I didn’t really know what was going on.

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« Reply #11852 on: Sunday, March 22, 2020, 18:45:15 »

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went in and then I started to get a bit fearful because they were restraining me a lot. I was just flipping out a bit. I can remember the doctor saying something, we got closer and I headbutted him and did his nose. I can’t remember a lot then. I was face down, body to the floor.”

Hooper picks up on the look of surprise on my face. “I was a wild man then,” he explains. “They gave me an injection in the arse, which fucking hurt and then they put a straitjacket on me — that’s a horrible thing.”

Everything about that hospital is ingrained in Hooper’s mind. He can still hear the sound of its secure metal gates sliding open and shut, smell the polish they used on the floor and picture the male nurse who would kick a ball about in the gym at a time when it was as much as he could do to shuffle. “Under medication, once they sedate you, you’ve got no strength, your limbs and muscles are limp, so my legs wouldn’t allow me to do anything,” he says.

Hooper smiles as another snapshot from the past suddenly comes into his head. “We used to watch films,” he says. “And we watched Dead Calm, I’ll always remember it. Research Dead Calm. Fucking mental. He’s (the lead character) a psychopath, goes around killing people on a ship. It’s a good film as it goes. But it freaked me out.”

Where did you watch that? “Inside! What’s going on there?” Hooper says, shaking his head and laughing. “Sometimes you thought, ‘Are they playing mind games with us for their own fun?’ I’ve seen the film again and it didn’t bother me as much. But obviously in there — he’s a psychopath and I’m in with psychopaths. I’m thinking, ‘What the…’”

Hooper spent six months inside that secure unit and believes it would have been a lot longer but for the intervention of his father. In a scene he compares to Morgan Freeman’s parole board hearings in The Shawshank Redemption, Hooper recalls appearing in front of a panel on a regular basis and quickly realising that he was wasting his time. “You’d sit there and you’d get pissed off with them in the end.”

Essentially, he was trying to prove his sanity in order to be released. “Yeah,” Hooper says, smiling, “and how do you do that? Imagine saying to everyone in here (in the coffee shop), ‘Who is the most sane?’ I guarantee it wouldn’t be me!”

Ultimately, Hooper regards himself as one of the fortunate ones. He doesn’t know the full ins and out of exactly what happened, but he was later told that his father parted with “serious money to pay this top psychiatrist” to assess him and get him out.

“If I wasn’t lucky enough to have the parents that I had, I’d probably be institutionalised,” Hooper says. “Mental health has changed so much over that period — we’re going back over 30 years. But certainly for a 10-year period I know people that were stuck in there.”

“Honest, brave, vulnerable, caring, courageous and inspirational. Didn’t know this about Hoops when we played together for a short time, wish I did as I would have given him a big cuddle and listened. We have now reconnected and what a man…it’s OK to not be OK, and so important to talk”

“That’s a great tweet,” Hooper says, listening as I read out the message that Kevin Horlock, the former Swindon and Manchester City player, posted after he learned about parts of his former team-mate’s life story via a podcast.

It seems remarkable to think that Hooper was signing for Swindon, a professional football club in the second tier, four years after being sectioned, put in a straitjacket and thrown into a padded cell.

Adapting to life outside certainly wasn’t easy. Hooper admits to feeling a mixture of shame and embarrassment upon his release. He started to rebuild his life by bricklaying with his dad and playing football for a local pub in Harefield called The Swan, before moving on to Yeading reserves and then Hayes, two more clubs in the area.

Off the field, though, little had changed. “I went back onto the drug scene, straight back on the ecstasy. Coke was quite big back then as well. And when you take coke it gives you that outer confidence, it’s not an inner confidence. I wouldn’t say I was addicted. But every now and then I dabbled. You’d think you’d learn your lesson. Was I trying to kill myself? I don’t know.”

At Hayes, Hooper had what he describes as a slice of luck after Swindon were drawn to face non-League Marlow in the FA Cup in 1995. Swindon, who had been relegated from the Premier League the previous season, sent a scout to watch Marlow. They were playing Hayes that day, and Hooper caught the eye.

Swindon set up a trial game and then invited him in for a week’s training, which anybody who came across Hooper during that seven days won’t forget. Hooper, who played on the right wing at the time, was quite a handful. “We were training in a gym and I was proper flying around, smashing people into the wall and all sorts,” he says. “Ty Gooden said, ‘Calm down!’ I told him to fuck off. I thought what I was doing was normal. I was an idiot.”

Hooper ruffled feathers but also did enough to impress Steve McMahon, Swindon’s player-manager at the time, to sign him for a fee of about £15,000. He made his debut away against Grimsby Town, on March 4, 1995, and appeared in a League Cup semi-final second leg at Bolton Wanderers four days later.

There was a rawness about Hooper that stood out, but nobody at Swindon knew anything about his backstory — and that was the way it stayed right up to the day he left. “I didn’t want any of that coming out,” he says. “That was my worst fear. It would have been deemed as a weakness. My personal space would have been interrupted too much.”

Because of the lack of understanding around mental health back then? “Absolutely.”

That said, Hooper now realises that his psychological problems had a direct impact on his performances at Swindon and his ability to cope in that environment. Before one game, for example, he had a panic attack but didn’t tell anybody.

“Whatever was locked in the back of my head from what had gone on was still flying around in there,” he says. “And by that I mean the abuse and the hospital aspect as well — the embarrassment, what I’d gone through in there. It’s fucking tough, mate. That’s proper survival stuff, that is. If you clocked the geezer wrong in the eyes it would… it was fiery in there, massively. And I was scarred.

“I sort of locked that up I suppose and just got on with stuff but I was lost a bit with the football. I thought I was out of my depth. I wasn’t helped in that respect because I hadn’t been through what you boys (young professionals who had joined as apprentices) had been through, so I hadn’t had that day-to-day training. I went in there 23 years old but I was probably an 18-year-old in terms of football.

“I think McMahon just thought I’d hit the ground running. And I couldn’t, really. But then I wasn’t really given a chance either. The one full game I played I got man of the match. Then I got dropped right out the squad the next game.”

Hooper made eight appearances in total for Swindon. He upset McMahon early on by calling him “mate” when he wanted the ball in training — “He told me off. What am I supposed to do, get on my knees and fucking kiss his boots?” — and the two never really saw eye to eye.

McMahon, Hooper says, was one of the last people he would have considered talking to about his mental health issues and it was perhaps inevitable the two would end up falling out. The straw that broke the camel’s back was a running session on a Sunday morning, following a poor result the day before. Hooper wasn’t involved in the first-team defeat and had gone back to London for a night out but was ordered to report like everyone else.

“The physio said what we were doing, something like 8 x 400m, 6 x 200m, and everyone has gone, ‘Fucking hell’. I did the same and tutted. Then he was in my face. So I hit him. He fell over and I got on top of him. It was like a mass bundle of people. McMahon called me that afternoon. He said, ‘You’re fucking sacked.’ He was hammering me down the phone. But I’d already spoken to the PFA, so I knew I was alright.”

Although Swindon eventually agreed to pay up the remainder of his contract, finding another club proved difficult for Hooper and after several unsuccessful trials he was back in the non-League game, laying bricks and occasionally taking drugs.

“Was I thinking about trying to get back into professional football after Swindon? No. I lost my dad and then I think I had a clear mind. Maybe that was because of (stopping) the drugs as well.”

Hooper returned to Hayes and also went on to play for Stevenage and Kingstonian. He was performing well and could more than hold his own at the highest level of the non-League game. Drink and drugs remained a problem, however, until fate intervened one evening.

“The last time I took drugs I was 27,” Hooper says. “I was playing for Kingstonian, my dad had just died, I got wankered, tried to lose myself again, heavy on the coke. We came out of a nightclub and I said to the lads I’d had enough. My head space wasn’t good. I sat in the front of the cab and we’ve all done it, you just start talking. The driver was a Rasta geezer. He was coming at me biblically.

“I’d obviously mentioned my dad and what had gone on — sometimes you use people like that as your therapy because you know you aren’t going to see them again. So I did. I got out at the end and he said, ‘Don’t ever touch drugs again.’ It was one of those moments in your life where someone looks you right in the eye and it almost jolts you. It massively resonated with me. He had a strong Jamaican accent — I can hear the voice now. I went back home and I’ve honestly never taken drugs since. Explain that? Was that him? He was preaching, he said, ‘God’s there for you Dean.’”

Hooper had renewed focus. He switched from right wing to right-wing back at Kingstonian, broke into the England non-League team — “That put my shoulders back” — and got a second opportunity to make it in the pro game at an age when most people would have given up on the dream. This time he wasn’t going to let it slip through his grasp.

“I joined Peterborough and had new confidence, really. I went in the changing room and stamped my authority without being as aggressive as Swindon. At Peterborough, I think I was a nicer person. I was starting to find myself a little bit at the age of 27. And there were some good players in there — Matty Etherington, Simon Davies, Adam Drury…”

Across four seasons, Hooper made 136 appearances for Peterborough and proved plenty of people wrong. Maybe he proved something to himself too. “I’m very proud of that,” he says. “I wanted to nail it. And I felt like I’d done it then.”

Yet there was also something else that happened while he was at Peterborough that felt every bit as significant. Following his father’s death and the trauma that caused him, Hooper went to see a psychiatrist and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a mental health condition that affects moods. The diagnosis arguably came a decade too late.

“I actually think it was there all my life,” Hooper says. “I always thought that I was special in one way or another. If you look into bipolar, it’s like a grandiosity thing, where you believe that you’re better and bigger than anybody else. And I think it’s a bloodline too. But that’s a deeper story.”

Hooper pauses for a moment. “Have you ever seen Shutter Island? If you watch that, you’ll understand what bipolar means. You’ve got to watch that film.”

One Christmas, during a break at a golf club with Peterborough, Hooper decided to tell someone in football the story that he had kept secret throughout his career. Steve Castle was Peterborough’s player-coach and Hooper had a lot of respect for him. More than anything, he trusted Castle.

“He sort of took me under his wing. And it just felt alright to tell him,” Hooper says. “But it broke me. I was crying.”

There is no real explanation for what Hooper was planning to do when he left home one morning five years ago and it is certainly not an easy story to tell. That Hooper wants to address it publicly, though, is a message in itself: it’s so important to talk.

For Hooper, it is also his greatest source of pride that he is still here now, living his life to the full, enjoying watching his son and daughter grow up and taking huge pleasure from helping others, whether that be finding a couple of seconds to be courteous to someone on the high street or trying to help a professional footballer who is going through the sort of mental health problems that threatened to overwhelm him.

Hooper puffs out his cheeks as he thinks back. “There’s a place called the Nine Arches, near Denham station, and I go down there quite regularly,” he says. “I remember that day a mate of mine was fishing. He had no idea what was coming. I even had a cup of tea with him and a little smoke.

“I’ve got two beautiful kids, so everything seemed fine. But I just decided, ‘I can’t be doing this.’ And I think now, looking at what I’ve dealt with on the suicide aspect, that is quite common in the ones that actually carry it through — they don’t say fuck all.

“I was so lucky that that homeless guy stopped me in my tracks. I was on my way. I would have gone over. The mindset I was in, that’s it. I was going up on the train track — 100 per cent. It was from here to there (six yards away). But the homeless guy threw me. He was startled. And I was too.

“I had a guilt trip of what was racing through my head at that time. We got into conversation and I think I said, ‘Thank you.’ I had a few tears. I explained that I had two kids. And he said, ‘Why? What are you doing?’ We just sat and talked. We talked about his life, I talked about my life. An hour, two hours, passed. Stupidly, I remember doing this — I went back the next day with a load of cash. And he didn’t take it. He didn’t want it. It almost insulted him.”

That homeless man was called Paul and the two still occasionally bump into one another now. Hooper left a beanie hat “on his bench” a little while ago and, through the work that he has done since to help people with mental health issues, he knows exactly how Paul must have felt after their first meeting.

“If you have suffered anything, or something has been detrimental to you, and you can pull someone out of that, that’s got to be the best thing in the world, hasn’t it?” Hooper says. “And going onto the suicide one, even bigger. You’re literally saving someone’s life by what you’re saying or what you’re doing.”

Hooper goes on to talk about how he got involved with helping the Offside Trust and became “obsessed” with charity work after getting to know Jess Shepherd, the inspirational and brave little girl from nearby Ruislip who passed away in 2018 after suffering with cancer for seven years.

He would like to do more and more to help people. Hooper wants to put together a team to provide a counselling service for those with mental health problems — something  he believes everybody suffers from in one way or another — and he plans to open up a boxing gym not far from where we are talking.

On top of all of that there is his family to think about too. Hooper acknowledges that Sharon, his wife, has been “pretty much my carer and hasn’t had any help at all dealing with someone like myself over a 30-year period”. They split 18 months ago and have just sold their house but remain extremely close. Hooper describes Sharon as his best friend and he still sees plenty of his children. “Hand on heart, they’re all I’m worried about,” he says. “So if I come away with whatever I come away with (from the house), I’ll be alright for a little while. And then I’ll chase my dream.”

Which is what? “Helping others,” Hooper replies. “And that’s whether it’s monetised or not. You know when you’re doing it. It could be just a hello, it could be opening the door.

“Look at that old man sitting there,” Hooper says, gesturing towards an elderly gentleman who was in the pub when we arrived more than an hour and a half earlier and hasn’t moved from his chair. “He’s obviously very, very lonely — go and have a couple of words with him. That’s what I’d like to do.”

As we finish up, I tell him that it takes bravery and courage to talk so candidly about his life story, which, quite frankly, is unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. “My mind is telling me that even now, in this talk that we’ve done, I haven’t done enough,” Hooper says. “There is so much more to my story that could then open up someone else.”

Hooper takes a sip from his pint of Guinness and leans back in his chair as he contemplates everything we’ve discussed. “I’d love to sit here and say that I’ve got the answer to life — I think that’s what I was always looking for,” he adds. “I haven’t got that but I’ve certainly got the answer to my personal contentment. And it ain’t money. It’s nothing like that. It’s just being open and honest.”
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« Reply #11853 on: Sunday, March 22, 2020, 19:00:09 »

Got really close to getting Dean on the pod about a year ago. Talked on the phone a couple times, he mentioned tenstuff mentioned in the this article etc

He wasn't ready to go for it at that stage but I'm really happy that his sorry is getting out there.
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pauld

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« Reply #11854 on: Tuesday, March 24, 2020, 10:41:05 »

For those longing for a bit of Tom Smith action:

https://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/sport/18329296.former-swindon-town-midfielder-tom-smith-aiming-return-professional-game-let-go-club-2018/
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Cookie

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« Reply #11855 on: Sunday, March 29, 2020, 19:06:48 »

Luc Nijholt currently playing 'live' on the BBC, Scottish Cup Final 1991.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/live/football/52063379

Edit: and Malpas on the other side.
« Last Edit: Sunday, March 29, 2020, 19:12:53 by Cookie » Logged
pauld

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« Reply #11856 on: Wednesday, April 1, 2020, 21:14:00 »

According to SSP's twitter, in about 18 years or so from now we'll all be singing "Super Sidney Parkin" as SSP mk 2 bangs in his debut hat-trick. Congrats!
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Valid Pint

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« Reply #11857 on: Today at 08:49:29 »

BBC reports Charlie Austin has described symptons.
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pauld

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« Reply #11858 on: Today at 09:37:06 »

BBC reports Charlie Austin has described symptons.
About two weeks ago?
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Peter Venkman

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« Reply #11859 on: Today at 09:48:14 »

About two weeks ago?
Yep was all over the press 2 weeks back.

https://www.lancs.live/sport/football/football-news/charlie-austin-west-brom-coronavirus-17958526
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