Ex-Newcastle United defender candidly opens up his mental health struggle as he helps others

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Retirement hit Jose Enrique hard. But that was nothing compared to what was to come.

Enrique was forced to hang up his boots because of a persistent knee injury three years ago.

Then came the former Newcastle United’s biggest challenge. Enrique was diagnosed with a chordoma, a rare brain tumour, in May 2018. He had surgery to remove the tumour, and was given the all-clear last year.

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Now, Enrique is doing online high-intensity interval training (HIIT) classes as an ambassador for Switch & Co.

“It changes your life, completely,” said the 34-year-old, who has spoken to the Gazette about his four-year Newcastle career – and his sale to Liverpool.

“It changes the way you think. You appreciate things differently.

“Look, I had a nightmare with my retirement. When things are not under your control is when we struggle mentally. Everyone is the same when you cannot control a situation. I retired because of an injury, so it was out of my control. I’m a control freak!

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“The brain tumour was a wake-up call in a way. It took my anxiety away. It was obviously a difficult time, don’t get me wrong. After the operation I had five days in bed without moving. I felt like a kid again.

Jose Enrique.Jose Enrique.
Jose Enrique.

“It was a really bad situation. Some don’t learn. Some people maybe have a long cancer are still smoking after it. In my case, no. I’ve learnt from it.

“I have the chance to try to help people. I hope we can help people. It’s free until January 31. I hope they can join me. If I can do it after a brain tumour, everyone can do it.”

Enrique’s cancer diagnosis and treatment – and his footballing retirement – took a toll on his mental health.

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“After retirement and my illness as well, I suffered from mental health as well,” said Enrique. “I had a lot of problems with that and panic attacks.

Jose Enrique is mobbed after scoring his only Newcastle United goal against Nottingham Forest.Jose Enrique is mobbed after scoring his only Newcastle United goal against Nottingham Forest.
Jose Enrique is mobbed after scoring his only Newcastle United goal against Nottingham Forest.

“It was really, really difficult for me, and I believe doing workouts every single days helps me. I believe it helps everyone. It’s science – it works. Your hormones enjoy it. For me, being better physically makes me better mentally.

“For me, it’s not work doing what I’m doing with Switch. I do it every single day. I’m so happy to work with them. I’m helping people. In the situation we’re in now, people need mental strength. It’s not the best situation. I’m so happy working with them.”

After a half-hour HIIT class, Enrique has the same feeling he once had at the final whistle.

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“The first time, I felt like I’d played a game after a session,” said Enrique, who now lives in his native Spain with his partner Amy. “Just a half-hour session, and I had pains everywhere!

“I loved it. I loved the pain in my muscles. It was good to get that feeling back. Since then, I’ve enjoyed doing that and making posts about it. I’m loving it and the replies from fans."

Enrique – who has spoken about the advice he gives players thinking about joining Newcastle – is also working as a football agent, though nothing replicates the buzz he got from playing the game.

“It’s going quite well. I’m really happy. I’m watching football – but I miss football every single day.”

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