Marc Warren was a Young Socceroos and A-League prodigy, later playing for Sydney FC and Perth Glory. In an incredibly honest and insightful story, he revealed how the PFA saved his life.
At 19, Warren was playing for Sheffield United and in the U/20 World Cup for the Young Socceroos, competing with and against some of the world's best.
By 21, he was semi-professional and bordering on alcoholism, broke from gambling, and beginning a depressive streak that would get a lot worse before it got better.
By 24 he'd left football altogether and was "working in a warehouse, drinking too much, gambling with what little money I had, and unsure of my place in the world.
Still just 29 but now working in real estate, Warren writes in a gripping article for the PFA website about how football nearly destroyed him, how A-League clubs weren't there when he needed them most, and how the PFA saved his life.
As Warren writes "if you’re not prepared, dreams can turn to nightmares in no time."
Warren says his move to the English Championship as a teenager quickly turned toxic.
"I was playing with guys that had been earning tens of thousands of pounds a month for years who could afford to go out and party and gamble at the casino," he wrote.
"I was a 19-year-old trying to keep up, desperate to fit in. At the end of my two-year deal I wasn’t re-signed, quite simply, because I was partying too much."
Warren then moved to semi-pro Scottish club Airdrie, where he says it became much worse.
"I had nothing constructive to do, so I spent my days drinking or sleeping," he continued. "When I could afford to, I’d be in the pub from lunchtime. When I couldn’t I’d stay at home then I’d eventually call my parents for some money… only to start drinking again."
He returned home to Sydney FC, only to hit rock-bottom.
"I joined Sydney FC as a fit 21-year-old, with a decent reputation after playing in Europe. I played just eight games, in one of which I was sent off. I wasn’t good enough. My athleticism had gone. I didn’t deserve another contract."
After working in a warehouse, Warren earned a Perth Glory contract that he said was a "miracle of a second chance" but due to a terribly-timed injury, fell back into the same spiral.
He then said Perth failed to support him and the PFA stepped in, which he credits with saving his life.
"My club turned a blind eye to everything that was happening, at a time when I needed them the most," he continued. "Not just physically but emotionally. I was a shell of the man I wanted to be; this would be the darkest time in my life.
"Then the PFA stepped in and saved my life. They put a protective and supportive arm around me. I want to name a few names here – Beau Busch, Richard Garcia, Dino Djulbic, Rhys Williams – leaders, who listened, understood, and gave me the strength to talk. I was introduced to a psychologist who encouraged me to open up, especially to my family, who I can’t thank enough for their patience and unconditional love.
"One thing I realised on my journey was that maybe football wasn’t for me. Maybe it never was?
"What the PFA did for me still gives me goosebumps. It’s time for me to give something back."