Wayne Bridge went to three major tournaments with England and won the same number of trophies with Chelsea, but even still, he never felt like a champion.
Under the surface was a man desperately lacking self-belief, alongside more visible problems such as injuries and fierce competition for places.
Like Anton Ferdinand, his career has unfairly become synonymous with John Terry, and what should’ve been a dream job sometimes felt more like a hardship.
Sitting down with talkSPORT for our series, After The Lights Go Out, Bridge opens up on the mental issues he faced during his playing career, which he only recently overcame thanks to a reality TV show.
“I went on a show called SAS: Who Dares Wins, and my wife noticed a change in me straight away,” he said.
“I was more focused that I want to do something. I’ve had my own issues, 100%, and I feel like I’m at peace now.
“But I went on that show when I was 38, and I learnt so much about myself.
“I knew I had insecurities and self-confidence issues, but nobody else really knew about it.
“I learnt to talk more and become more open, but I probably learnt to like myself a bit more.
“After football I said no to a lot of opportunities, mainly because I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin.
“After SAS, I liked myself a little bit more. If you don’t like me, that’ll probably hurt me a little bit because that’s who I am, but I definitely like myself more.”
Bridge had all the makings of a Chelsea legend when he netted a late winner for the Blues at Arsenal in the quarter-final of the 2003/04 Champions League campaign, and nobody expected his career to peak there.
But the arrival of Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge the following year changed things for Bridge, as did a serious ankle injury in 2005.
He stayed at Chelsea until 2009, but never regained his place in the team following the arrival of Ashley Cole in 2006.
And the former left-back admits his relationship with Mourinho was difficult at times.
He said: “I remember having an argument with him in training because he was digging me out all the time and I ended up turning around and saying, ‘What’s your problem?’
“I think he tries to get something out of you and get a reaction, but my head just went.
“It was constant, I knew in myself it was alright, but he didn’t like it, it was unneeded and constant and I was pushed to the side a bit.”
“I turned a corner with him. He is a great manager, he was great for the team and training was amazing.
“Even afterwards, when I’ve had injuries, he would have me in at the training ground for treatment, asking me if I wanted to work and coach the kids. He was really good with me.
“As much as he was hard on me, and I felt it was unnecessary at the time, he’s also been really good to me.”
Bridge was unlucky that his peak years coincided with those of Ashley Cole, both for club and country.
He was all too aware that whenever selected for England, it was only as cover for Cole, something which he struggled to cope with alongside pre-existing confidence issues.
“The most I’ve been homesick was going away with England to World Cups and European Championships,” he added.
“I was never playing, Ashley Cole was always going to play. I’ve come on for seven minutes against Argentina at a World Cup, but for me that’s nothing.
“I really struggled being at the England camp, I’d speak to my mum and dad and friends, and I hated it in the end.
“I wasn’t confident and I was surrounded by confident people, going to training thinking I was never going to play and I just didn’t enjoy it.
“I don’t want to sound ungrateful, that I didn’t like playing for my country, but I found it hard to go back to my room on my own and the head space that I used to go to wasn’t good.”
With a fresh outlook on life, Bridge’s main passion is his family: his wife Frankie, and his three kids Jayden, Parker and Carter.
It’s part of the reason why he doesn’t really want to go into coaching.
“The only reason I would do it is for money,” he said. “I’ve had the best part of it: train for a couple of hours, go home, chill out, play a game.
“I’d become frustrated if I was a coach, because I’d want to be out there doing it. I couldn’t be a manager, I wouldn’t mind being an assistant.
“I always think should I do it? Then I think of the hours they do and how they’re away from the family all the time. Being at home so much, I’ve come to love that again.”
Presented by Steve Harmison and Leon McKenzie, ‘After The Lights Go Out’ focuses on the struggles of professional athletes after their retirement from sport – and the third episode features Wayne Bridge this Sunday at 9.30pm on talkSPORT
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