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Dealing with a snapped ligament and broken heart

THERE are the mood swings, the hand-outs and, of course, the mortifying fall-out from the photographs of a lost weekend in the neon-tinted, talcum-powdered underbelly of Amsterdam that can be found all too easily on the internet.

Paul Slane just wants to get back into football. Picture: SNS
Paul Slane just wants to get back into football. Picture: SNS

Paul Slane has put his parents, Susan and George, through enough over the past 18 months or so. He wants to get a career that once seemed destined for great things back on the rails. Perhaps more importantly, he wants his family to be proud of him.

Of course, there is a list of football players as long as the River Amstel, who, brash and unguarded, have landed themselves in varying degrees of soapy bubble through the Pandora's Box of social media.

Slane, though, was way ahead of the curve. Let's just say the lurid snapshots of himself and his local ladyfriends uploaded to Twitter last March emphatically updated his status to that of the master of the compromising position.

He had been given £10,000 in a severance agreement with Celtic that was intended, in part, to fund a hip operation. Slane, disillusioned and lacking direction, opted to use a sizeable percentage losing himself in the twilight world of drinking and gambling with his friends.

Aged 18 and having made just a handful of electrifying performances for Motherwell, almost anything seemed possible when he was given a four-year contract at Celtic.

Yet, a snapped cruciate ligament followed by those recurring hip problems destroyed everything of which he had dared to dream. The moral of his story is that the journey from cloud nine to some shawarma-splattered continental gutter is one that can be travelled in a frighteningly short space of time.

Slane was unfailingly candid over his darker moments in the warm sunshine at the K-Park Training Complex in East Kilbride yesterday morning as he prepared for the latest session of a specially-arranged programme aimed at attracting interest in out-of-contract players as they get themselves fit.

He has not played competitively for a year-and-a-half now and is living with his parents in Glasgow. When that transfer to Celtic came off, his intention was to earn enough to make their lives all the more comfortable. Instead, he is depending on their moral and financial support as he endeavours to tunnel some way back into his chosen profession. "When I was at Celtic, I got really good money," he recalled. "When you stop playing, though, it stops. That's the hardest thing. From a young age, when I made it, I always wanted to be able to help my mum and dad.

"It's tough. At this stage of my life, I should be giving them money. It's the other way about just now, which is hard to take, but I hope I can pay them back in the next few years. I want to repay the faith they have shown in me.

"I live with them and probably my mood swings are worse than anything. I'm like a baby at times and I don't think my mum and dad take me too seriously. I can be a bit of a nightmare. I did speak to them and said it might be time for me to get a job, but that would have meant I'd have missed out on my two rehab sessions every day.

"We came to the decision that I'd keep doing that and live off my mum and dad giving me money here and there. I did get the operation in the end, but it's been a nightmare ever since. It has broken my heart.

"I didn't do the rehab the way I should have. I did it myself rather than meeting up with a physio. I've maybe gone through six operations in total, but I can't accept that I'm not meant to play football and I will fight until the day it is impossible."

In addition to convincing any sceptical manager he is physically robust enough to play at a decent level again, there are now inevitable questions over his dependability as a character following that ill-fated and thoroughly self-destructive trip to Holland. "When I was at Motherwell and Celtic, there was never any trouble," he pointed out.

"Obviously, when I left, I did a stupid thing. The worst thing about that was putting my mum and dad through it rather than myself.

"My main aim now is just to get fit and show people that I am not really like that. I feel I'm strong mentally, but I think anyone would struggle with a dream move and then have injuries like I had."

There is also the added trauma of coming to terms with such an horrifically public fall from grace.

"That's one of the hardest things to deal with," he said. "All your pals and family say it's the perfect life as a footballer. It's a dream for every boy and you are living it. When it gets taken away through injury, it is destroying. If you love what you are doing, it's always going to have a big effect when it is taken away.

"Football is what I love the most. It means everything to me. When you start to feel it's getting taken away from you, it becomes hard to live properly. I just want to get my foot back in the door, but I do feel I'm starting from scratch."

n The training camps at K-Park have been designed by Tony Ashgar, MD of Revolution Sports Management and on-site coach and former Ayr United manager Gordon Dalziel.

Players both in and out of contract can work on their fitness with the next starting on June 23. For bookings, call John Kavanagh on 07830 335625 or Jan Lokaj on 07964 434694.

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