Matt Piper’s autobiography is a tale of the rise, fall and redemption of a professional footballer. Piper was a rising star at Leicester City and Sunderland but his career was prematurely cut short by a succession of injuries and he had to retire at the age of 24.
‘Out of the Darkness’ tells the story of what happens when the dreams of being a top professional footballer turns sour and when deep depression descends post football.
Piper alongside co-writer Joe Brewin is an honest and forthright author who opens up about his mistakes, his alcoholism, drug taking and criminal behaviours and a near death experience.
Matt Piper tells his story without too much embellishment, recounting life as a young starlet rising through the ranks with tales of pranks, high jinks and misdemeanours at Leicester and Sunderland with the managers and characters he encounters.
He suffers from multiple injury problems, with 16 knee operations before he has to retire. He has Lax ligaments, an Anterior Cruciate Ligament tear, a Hernia and even an inflamed testicle at one point.
Sunderland manager Mick McCarthy once said that Piper was the fittest injured player, he’d ever seen but he also said with dark humour, “F**k me – if you were a horse you’d have been shot by now.”
When he decides to retire it comes as a pure relief. “My knees have been a mess since I was 16-years-old – by the end, I’d lost count of the operations, injections, physio sessions, and consultations, the constant rehab that seemed never-ending. Twenty years of development for 55 professional games over five years.”
After his retirement his life spirals downwards into depression, alcoholism and Valium addiction. He reaches rock bottom, “Breaking down in front of your Boss, your brother calling you an embarrassment, your Mum crying in your living room every day.”
He suffers a near death experience and is admitted into the Sporting Chance clinic for rehab. Eventually he fights off his demons and turns his life around setting up the FSD Academy to help others achieve their potential, working for Radio Leicester and producing his own podcast.
It is ultimately a positive story of adapting to change when a professional footballer’s life goes desperately wrong and how he achieves redemption. This is a story that should be read by other professional footballers but it is also a universal story of how a desperate situation can be transformed for a better future.
Out of the Darkness: From Top to Rock Bottom: My Story in Football by Matt Piper. Published by Pitch Publishing. Price £19.99.
This review first appeared in the February/March edition of Late Tackle magazine.