5 things we learnt from Dele Alli's emotional interview with Gary Neville

5 things we learnt from Dele Alli's emotional interview with Gary Neville
Dele Alli reveals six-week rehab stint following mental health crisis

Everton footballer Dele Alli has opened up about struggles during his childhood in a deeply emotional and personal interview.

In 2015, Alli signed for Tottenham Hotspur and made his Premier League debut, but behind the success, many were unfamiliar with the footballer’s harrowing past.

The now 27-year-old recently sat down with Manchester United legend Gary Neville on The Overlap YouTube channel for a deeply moving interview in which he detailed parts of his childhood that left him traumatised and that has continued to impact his mental health in adulthood.

Here’s everything we learned from the interview:

Alli entered a rehab facility for his mental health, childhood trauma and an addiction to sleep pills

In the interview, Alli revealed that he was leaning on sleeping pills to cope with his mental health issues, rather than seeking help. After attending a rehab facility in America for six weeks, his outlook on asking for help has changed.

Alli said: “[My family] had heard a few times about [the sleeping tablets], but I’d swear on everything that I’d never taken them, which is part of the problem you know, I didn’t want help. I’d tell myself that I wasn’t an addict, I wasn’t addicted to them, but I definitely was.”

Dele: "Now is the Time to Talk"

He also added: “With our schedule, you have a game, you have to be up early in the morning to train, you’ve got all the adrenaline and stuff so sometimes, you know, to take a sleeping tablet and be ready for the next day is fine, but when you’re broken as I am, it can obviously have the reverse effect because it does work for the problems you want to deal with.”

The footballer said that with Everton’s support, he entered a rehab facility that deals with addiction, mental health and trauma, for six weeks.

He said: “So, when I came back from Turkey, I came in and I found out that I need an operation and I was in a bad place mentally and yeah, I decided to go to like a modern-day rehab facility for mental health. They deal with like addiction, mental health, and trauma because it was something that I felt like it was time for.”

Alli continued: “So I went there, I went there for six weeks and Everton were amazing about it, you know. They supported me 100 per cent and I’ll be grateful to them forever.

“I think, whatever happens in the future, for them to be so open and honest and understanding, I think I couldn’t have asked for anything more in that time when I was probably making the biggest decision of my life – something I was scared to do. But I’m happy I’ve done it and to be honest, I couldn’t have expected it to go the way it did.”

Alli suffered sexual abuse as a child and began selling drugs at eight years old

In a particularly emotional part of the interview, Alli revealed the extent of his childhood trauma, explaining that he was molested at the age of six.

He said: “My childhood is] something I haven’t really spoken about that much, to be honest. I mean, I think there were a few incidents that could give you kind of a brief understanding. So, at six, I was molested by my mum’s friend, who was at the house a lot.

“My mum was an alcoholic, and that happened at six. I was sent to Africa to learn discipline, and then I was sent back. At seven, I started smoking, eight I started dealing drugs.

“An older person told me that they wouldn’t stop a kid on a bike, so I rode around with my football, and then underneath I’d have the drugs, that was eight. Eleven, I was hung off a bridge by a guy from the next estate, a man.”

The footballer continued, explaining that he was 12 when he was adopted by “an amazing family” that helped him get his life on track and his footballer career started.

Alli said: “Twelve, I was adopted – and from then, it was like – I was adopted by an amazing family like I said, I couldn’t have asked for better people to do what they’d done for me. If God created people, it was them.

“They were amazing, and they’ve helped me a lot, and that was another thing, you know – when I started living with them, it was hard for me to really open up to them, because I felt within myself, it was easy to get rid of me again.

“I tried to be the best kid I could be for them. I stayed with them from 12, and then started playing first-team, professionally, at 16. It all sort of took off from there.”

At 24, Alli considered retiring from football

Alli revealed that when he was 24 years old and playing for Tottenham under manager at the time, José Mourinho, there was a moment when he considered retiring from the sport altogether.

He said: “It’s hard to pinpoint one exact moment [when I started to feel that things weren’t right]. Probably the saddest moment for me, was when [José] Mourinho was manager, I think I was 24. I remember there was one session, like one morning I woke up and I had to go to training – this is when he’d stopped playing me – and I was in a bad place.

“I remember just looking in the mirror – I mean it sounds dramatic but I was literally staring in the mirror – and I was asking if I could retire now, at 24, doing the thing I love. For me, that was heart-breaking to even have had that thought at 24, to want to retire. That hurt me a lot, that was another thing that I had to carry.”

Mourinho apologised for calling Alli "lazy"

Alli opened up about his relationship with the former Spurs manager Mourinho and touched on the comment he made about Alli being “lazy” in the documentary that was filmed for Amazon’s Prime Video.

Alli explained: “I’m glad you asked me about that [Jose Mourinho calling me lazy], so that lazy comment people all love to bring that up, that interview obviously that was on Amazon.

“He called me lazy – that was the day after recovery day. A week later, he apologised to me for calling me lazy because he’d seen me actually train and play. But that wasn’t in the documentary, and no one spoke up about that because it was only me and him.

“In the team meeting, he called me lazy but then one-on-one, I think it was on the pitch he apologised for it. And I didn’t think anything of it at the time because I know myself – I’m not lazy.”

Alli feels better than ever and energised about football again

Despite all the challenges with injuries, as well as his mental health and addiction, Alli says that he now feels in a much better place and is ready for the next challenge.

Yeah, I think [I’m ok], that’s a question I’ve definitely been asked a lot – but I think this is probably the first time in a long time that I can say ‘yeah’ and like mean it.

“I think mentally I’m probably in the best place I’ve ever been, and I feel good. Obviously injured at the minute, but I’ve got that passion back for football – I’m doing really well.”

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