Andy Cole, scorer of the goal that saw Rovers lift the Worthington Cup in 2002, may have overcome cancer following a kidney transplant in 2017, but now faces an internal battle that is becoming harder to manage during lockdown.

Cole says his problems have been accentuated by self-isolation, the former England international living alone and confined to his home, leaving him with little else to do but think.

He is throwing his energies in to the Andy Cole Fund, in conjunction with Kidney Research UK, to raise both funds an and awareness in to the disease which affects three million people in the UK.

The 48-year-old has to come to accept some days will be better than others, but admits the struggles of the last five years have hit him hard.

“I’m still here. That’s the most important thing. But people don’t understand what you go through with this illness,” he explained.

“They look at a transplant patient and say: ‘You’re okay. You look really well.’

“Externally that can be true. But, internally, many things are going on. You’re dealing with the medication and your moods. I’ve been very fortunate I’m never angry about it.

“Your mental wellbeing is paramount because it’s so tough to deal with a disease that one day you feel unbelievably well and the next day you feel like a bag of s***. That was me last Wednesday. I asked myself: ‘What did you do on Tuesday to make you feel like this on Wednesday?’ Nothing. It was just that Wednesday came and I felt like a bag of s***. Couldn’t get out of bed.

“Thursday, I was okay again. I have to accept that sometimes my body is going to say: ‘I’m not having you today.’ So you have to rest and recuperate, and come back the day after.”

The Andy Cole Fund, motivated by his visit to the World Transplant Games in Newcastle last year, aims to raise at least £500,000 over the next three years, with mental health and wellbeing one of the core focuses.

And Cole, who suffered kidney failure in 2015 before undergoing life-saving treatment three years later, added: “I’ve been mentally strong enough to play football, but this is the toughest battle I’ve ever had to deal with.

“I don’t want anyone to end up struggling like I did. The mental battle is bigger than the physical problem. Your mind is the most powerful thing in the world.”

Cole is best known for his goal-laden spells with Newcastle United and Manchester United in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but he wasn’t without success during his three seasons with Rovers.

Lancashire Telegraph:

He netted the winner in the 2002 Worthington Cup final win over Spurs, and ended that season with nine goals in 10 games.

After an £8m move in December 2001 he scored 37 times in all, which included a reunion with former strike partner Dwight Yorke under manager Graeme Souness, before moving to Fulham in the summer of 2004.

Life for Cole now is one of self-isolation, but also self doubt, admitting: ‘my mind never stops going’.

He has come to terms with the disease, finding it easier to talk about, but despite a positive support network, that doesn’t stop the self-doubt or questioning.

“It’s a rollercoaster,” he told The Guardian. “But I continue to give it a good go and fight as hard as I can do. You have to try and feel optimistic for the future. I’ve got to face the reality but try and stay as positive as I can. But, when I’m here alone, I have time to think. I know that this is my biggest challenge.

“It’s really hard and, day by day, it’s getting harder. Once you have this disease you want to get out, exercise and be around people. When you’re confined to a small space and you have to stay indoors and you can’t socialise, it’s really tough. I’ve been living on my own the past two years. I used to find it really comforting to go see someone for a chat. It got me out of the house.

“There are many, many times when I want to give up, period, not just on life but give up on everything.”

His fundraising efforts will now give him a separate focus, and Cole added: “My goal now is to find better ways to help make life better for people living with kidney disease or a transplant.

“If I can help anybody else, then I’ll do just that.

“I’m calling on anyone who is touched by my story to support the fund and give hope to kidney patients. We need hope now more than ever.”