“The best way to deal with my life was to pass out through drink”.

These are the harrowing words of professional footballer Billy Knott, who has opened up about his battle with alcoholism and depression for the first time.

The 25-year-old is one of Canvey Island’s most successful exports having played for a host of full-time clubs, including Bradford City and Gillingham.

But in recent years, Knott says life on the pitch has been overshadowed by his inner demons, something he is only now coming to grips with.

After the engagement to his fiancée broke off, Knott says he began to spiral into a depression that he felt, at the time, could only be resolved by turning to the bottle.

Knott says he is now dealing with a conflict that has spanned almost three years thanks to support from the Professional Footballers Association.

And he said he felt he needed to get the weight he had been carrying since the summer of 2015 off his shoulders.

“It all started almost three years ago in my second season at Bradford,” said Knott. “I wasn’t playing as much as I had in my first season and then I split up with my fiancée. That was when I starting feeling lonely.

“It was a slow spiral. I wanted to get married but she was seeing me drunk and we were arguing a lot following a house move from Leeds to Bradford. I was going out a lot and I did binge drink. It is something I accept now.

“But I ruined what we had. I have lost a lot of stuff and some things you just can’t get back, no matter how much you want to.

“I was going to the pub more often and by myself and that was when the drinking really started. I didn’t think it was a problem at the time, but it really was. I felt like that was the only way I could get away from it all.

“I was going to bed and turning my phone off at 11pm but I was still up at 3am or 4am.

“I had little voices going around and around in my head and you want to answer the questions but you can’t do it. As soon as you think you have answered one question, another one appears and it feels like there is no escape.

“I was sitting in the pub and the best way for me to deal with my life was to pass out through drink.

“Then I had football the next day and it felt like nothing was going right in training and because of that I wasn’t playing.

“I was drinking to solve my problems. I wasn’t playing and that hurt me and I got lonely up north. I was living on my own and I just wanted it to stop.

“It came to a point where I wasn’t talking to my family. I normally talk to them every day. I am close to (brother) Sam and we always spoke but I wasn’t talking to him for two or three months at a time.

“I cut myself off from my friends but when I went to Lincoln last summer I thought it would change.

“At the start I was bang on it and wasn’t drinking. I was seeing my family quite a bit and I felt I was getting a handle on it but then I was sent off and I missed three games and it crept back in. I didn’t play much after that as the team was doing well.

“I went to Rochdale [on loan] at the start of the year and I started the first three games but then the pitch got really bad and the team was changed. They got a great result against Millwall (in the FA Cup fourth round) so the manager kept with the same team and the voices came back in my head.

“I was living in a hotel in Rochdale and I was all by myself. I was sat at the bar and I had strangers asking me if I was OK, people that didn’t know me but thought I looked like I was in a bad place.

“That was it for me. At the end of January this year I looked at myself and said ‘enough is enough’.

Knott reached out to the PFA which offers a number of services for players who suffer from mental illness and also runs the Sporting Chance Clinic, for those who are struggling with addictive disorders.

And, having made touch with a specialist, Knott says the help he has been getting is invaluable.

“I am a family person who minds his own business but I finally accepted someone else needed to help me,” said Knott, who is out of contract at Lincoln City in the summer.

“I contacted the PFA but I found I couldn’t open up at first and I just sat on the phone crying. I couldn’t get my words out and I wasn’t sure if it was going to work. But then I found the right person and I was able to speak to him.

“When we first met face-to-face I couldn’t get a sentence. But over time things got easier and I was able to talk to him about everything I had been feeling.

“He used to ring me and told me to call him every time I felt like I needed a drink.

“He said ‘if you are going to go out and have a drink, just take £20 and don’t take your wallet’. He told me that was a way of taking control of it.

“I am starting to realise that I can have a few beers and I will be OK. After that I won’t have any more.

“People deal with it in different ways. I try and speak to him when I know I am about to do something wrong. It is good to talk and he is a good listener.

“When you hear the voices in your head you can’t tell him everything as there is too much to talk about.

“I have a one-to-one every two or three weeks but he is always available.

“My first instinct now is to talk to him and not to sneak out for a drink and lie to people.

“He said the main thing I needed to do was to fill up my day with stuff to do - the simple things like getting up and having breakfast.

“He said it won’t change overnight and it is very hard but I am moving in the right direction.

“I started to go to training and then to the gym. I had a session on the bike before breakfast. In the afternoon I would have a nap and then spend some time in the gym and the pool before it is time for dinner. I would watch a film and head to bed about 9pm.

“These are small steps but I am a lot further on than I was. I was worrying what to say in this interview and I hadn’t even told my parents I was doing it.

“I know I still have a way to go but I will get through this.”



BILLY Knott says he will forever be indebted to a small group of friends who have dragged him through some of the darkest moments of his life.

Despite spending so much time surrounded by his colleagues, Knott says so many of the people he spends every day with do not know of his struggles.



Standing together- Billy Knott stands next to team-mate and friend Alex Woodyard

But he admits those who do have been able to support him and keep him on the right track.

“I held it in for years but being able to speak to people about even some of my feelings was a huge help,” he said.

“I felt I needed to get it out there as supporters expect so much from you and don’t see the other side of it. People look at you and think ‘what on earth is wrong with him’ when you are not playing as well as you could.

“It is not because I expect sympathy but it is another weight off my shoulders.

“My best mate Max Kent has been great with me. I have a group chat with Jack Parkinson at Welling and Sam Magri at Ebbsfleet and they spoke to me about it all and a few guys at Lincoln as well.

“You become close friends with your team-mates and you spend every day with them and the Lincoln guys have been great. Alex Woodyard, Ollie Palmer, Paul Farman and Neal Eardley in particular.

“Cam Stewart is another and I cannot thank him enough for his support. He is someone I know through football and I lived with him at the end of last year.

“I was the one that got Cam the move to Lincoln, funnily enough. Dan needed a winger and I told him about Cam and he came in and signed.

“I was living with him and he has really seen the worst of it. He has always been there for me and I’ll be forever grateful.”

Knott is out of contract at Lincoln City in the summer. The midfielder is currently sidelined with a lateral collateral ligament injury which means he will not play again this season.

With the Imps involved in the end-of-season play-offs, Knott says he has not had time to talk to manager Danny Cowley about a new deal next term.

But he says resolving his own issues and spending some time with his family is a priority at the moment.

“Ever since I started getting help it has taken me this long to get to this point where I feel I can talk to people. Now I can’t wait for the summer so I can be back home with my family,” he said.

“A year or so ago I wasn’t talking to my family and I hate that. Mum and dad said I needed help but I was in denial. But it was the best thing I have ever done and I am a better person for it.

“There will be highs and lows but I hope there will be more ups than downs. I am enjoying my time at the moment and I haven’t been able to say that for what feels like a long time.

“I want to get fit for pre-season and make it easier for myself moving forward.”



BILLY Knott insists he wants to make the people of Canvey Island proud as he looks to kickstart his career once again.

The 25-year-old has strong ties to his hometown, with his family still living on the island.



Great moment - Billy Knott playing for Bradford City against Chelsea in the FA Cup

And Knott says the last thing he would want is people he grew up knowing thinking he had wasted his talent.

“Canvey is a close community and people probably think I am wasting this chance I have been given,” said Knott.

“But this is something I never wanted to happen and I am taking positive steps to deal with it. It won’t change straight away but this is a start.

“My mum, dad and brother knew something was going on but I think they wanted me to say it. I didn’t want to let them down.

“At my worst I was lying to them when I was talking to them. I told them I would be heading to the cinema with friends but I would be at the pub by myself. That was such a low point for me and I never want to lie to them again.

“Burying yourself in that hole is awful. You are determined to sort it on your own but you just cannot do that.

“I have wanted to talk about it for a little while now,” he added. “I come from Canvey and people were coming up to me in the summer months and asking how I was getting on or asking my mum or dad how I was getting on.

“They had to say ‘he doesn’t have a club next year yet’ and I don’t want anyone to have to make excuses for me.

“I don’t want sympathy. Like I said before, people don’t understand how tough dealing with this can be.

“In this day and age people are talking about depression more but it’s still a massive deal.

“I didn’t think I had a problem with drink at first but the more you talk about it the more you realise you have a problem.

“Once you do that you can start dealing with it and I urge anyone in a similar position to do that.

“If this helps just one person it will be worth it.”



BILLY Knott says one of the only people he has spoken to about his battle with depression is Danny Cowley.

Knott came through the youth set-up at Concord Rangers before becoming a professional.



Great support - from Lincoln manager and former FitzWimarc PE teacher Danny Cowley

But the Canvey-born midfielder says, while he didn’t know how to open up to a number of people, one of the few in the game who does know is the former Beach Boys manager and FitzWimarc School teacher.

“I spoke to Danny about it,” said Knott. “I wanted him to know I was talking to someone at the PFA.

“Maybe I should have told someone at the clubs I was at that I was having problems, but none of them knows except Danny.

“He gathered something wasn’t right when I spoke to him about it and he encouraged me to get help.

“He talks to me but he has a lot going on and I don’t want to pester him as he is currently involved in the play-offs.

“I have known Danny for years. He was a teacher along with my mum at FitzWimarc so I knew him from about Year 9.

“He was always good to me. When he was Concord manager he always let me train over there.”

Knott is unsure where his future lies at the moment but admits he should have spoken out before now about his internal struggles.

“When I was not playing at Gillingham or Bradford in my second season or as much as I would have liked at Lincoln, I accept I wasn’t acting in the right way,” he said.

“I think I should have spoken about it before now but I hope getting it out there will make people understand. It was a spiral I couldn’t get out of.

“But I am starting to now.”