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Former Rovers star Jansen loving life again after surviving dark days
A METEORIC rise, a near-death experience and a soul destroying battle to get his way back to the top. All the Matt Jansen story is missing is a fairytale ending.
You wouldn’t rule it out either as the former Blackburn Rovers striker continues his new footballing chapter, having fallen back in love with the game after a ‘nightmare’ few years.
Jansen’s career ‘hell’ is widely known as he attempted to fight his way back to the top of the game, after an accident in Rome in 2002.
The accident on a scooter left him in a coma for six days after suffering a brain haemorrhage, as one of England’s brightest young talents was left fighting, not just for his career, but his life.
Now, a decade on, a philosophical Jansen only has eyes on the future. The past has haunted him for long enough. Now, it is all about the future and his dreams of one day getting back to the top - this time in the world of coaching.
After just a few minutes with him at his Alderley Edge home, it was easy to see why many within the game believe he has a big future as a coach – or even as manager.
Articulate, intelligent and with a real knowledge of football, Jansen talks about his ambitions with real enthusiasm, as well as an obvious belief in his ability.
For the last couple of seasons, the 34-year-old has helped former Rovers team-mate Garry Flitcroft guide Chorley up the footballing ladder.
Jansen is the Magpies’ player-coach, with Flitcroft as boss, and they are hoping to make it two promotions in just three seasons this time around, having narrowly missed out last campaign.
This summer has seen him take another step towards his coaching badges and, when a dream future return to Rovers is mentioned, it quickly becomes obvious Jansen has lofty ambitions.
He said: “I had a break after I finally decided to walk away from the game. It literally was destroying me. I could never get back to what I was no matter how many times I tried.
“After a complete break though I got into the coaching and management side. It is something I am really enjoying.
“I love what I am doing. I really do. I love working with Flitty and have just started my coaching badges and, believe me, they are a grind.
“It is hard, hard work. You have a big file and you have 15 to 16 tasks and you have to get them all signed off. You have seminars and copying things out of books.
“I am doing that. Then that is one coaching badge done and then you are onto your B and your A.
“They have to be done because it is part of what I want to do. I am ambitious and I want to progress in the game. I am loving life at Chorley and hopefully we can get promoted again this season. Let’s see how far we can go.
“Who knows? One day I would like a go at management and of course it would be great if I ever got the chance at Blackburn Rovers.
“At the moment though I am just enjoying what I am doing and seeing where it takes me.”
It would have been very easy for Jansen’s hard luck story to have taken him from the game for good. We are talking about a 24-year-old at the height of his powers, suddenly struck down by a freak accident.
There was no lack of effort on his behalf to get back to being the imaginative, skillful and crowd-pleasing player he once was. After four years of trying though, he was forced to give up.
“I thought ‘what might have been’ for years,” he said.” You have to draw a line under it some day though. I was trying to get back to my best and psychologically I never quite felt that I was.
“I was advised not to play for 12 months after the accident but it was six months when I felt I could play.
“I played against Aston Villa in the cup, scored two goals and did well. Then I didn’t play for another month. They were told to look after me and not keep playing me, but no one explained that to me.
“I started doubting myself and questioning myself. Then I played against Sunderland and was brought off. They were just looking after me but I didn’t understand that.
“Gary McAllister asked if I would go and play for Coventry on loan. Rovers thought a drop down would be an easier route back for me. I thought it was just another knock to me ego.
“If everything had been explained correctly to me that it was about looking after me then it might have worked out differently. But I constantly kept getting these knocks, albeit they were not meant to be knocks. They were just trying to look after me.
“My confidence kept dropping. I was flying before all this and I couldn’t quite get the confidence back.”
If you listen to fans from Rovers and Bolton, there certainly seemed plenty of signs during the post accident years that Jansen showed glimpses of his former self.
It was never enough to convince the former Carlisle starlet that he could repeat his past glories and, without that old confidence, Jansen knew he was done for.
“Apparently there is not one thing physically wrong and it was all psychological,” he said. “I was adamant I wasn’t 100 per cent. I did well and then went to Bolton and played well so I doubt there was. I presume it was all psychological and just couldn’t get as confident as I was.
“I never felt I was going to win the battle. Even when people said I was brilliant I didnt believe it. I didn’t have that belief, that arrogance any more.
“I always doubted and questioned myself, whereas before I thought I could walk on water. It went from being never my fault before the accident to always being my fault after it. The mind is powerful.
“It was killing me. I had got that bad with it, I was in a bad way. I feared playing football. I didn’t want the ball because I believed I was going to make a mistake. I went on to the pitch petrified, which was ridiculous. It was destroying me.
“I walked away from it for good. Then in December Sam Allardyce asked me back. I loved football but I hated what it was doing to me, but I missed it when I wasn’t there. It was strange.
“Sam is notorious at getting people back to their best. I hadn’t done anything for three months and Sam asked if I wanted to play. I came off the bench and it was against Blackburn.
“He was great. I enjoyed it but still I had that fear and the problems and in the end I called it a day.”