Goalkeeper Dale Roberts killed himself after struggling to come to terms with an injury and national media speculation about his fiancee’s alleged affair with a team-mate, an inquest has heard.
The Rushden & Diamonds player was just 24 when he hanged himself on December 14 last year, hours before he was due to play for his team against Eastwood Town.
An inquest in Corby yesterday heard Mr Roberts was “embarrassed” about tabloid speculation that his fiancee Lindsey Cowan was having an affair with Paul Terry, brother of England captain John.
And he felt he was struggling to recover from a leg injury sustained while playing for the England C team.
Club doctor John Mellor prescribed Mr Roberts anti-depressants after he admitted he had considered harming himself.
After failing to attend pre-match training on December 14, Mr Roberts was found by police hanged in his flat in Higham Ferrers.
Among those paying tributes to Mr Roberts were his mother, Isabella Roberts, Miss Cowan, former manager Justin Edinburgh and his childhood friend, England and Manchester City footballer Adam Johnson.
After the revelations in the national media, which the Evening Telegraph chose not to report, Mr Roberts split from his fiancee and went on holiday to America with Mr Johnson, a time which Mr Johnson described as “the time of our lives”.
But he added: “I’m not sure he could deal with the embarrassment the story caused him. I think it was a combination of things – the negative press and his leg injury. This is a sad and tragic loss of a young man who was a dear friend and my heart goes out to the family.”
Mr Roberts and Miss Cowan, who were together for six years, were reunited shortly after his return from holiday. But his mood changed significantly after the injury, which consigned him to months on the bench and left him feeling lethargic.
Mrs Roberts said her son was upset when he called her in May last year after hearing about his fiancee’s alleged affair. But she said it was after he suffered his leg injury that his personality began to change.
She said: “I don’t blame anyone for his death, but there are lessons to be learned. I feel as though my life has been taken away, losing Dale like this. He was my shining star, the love of my life. I shall never get over this. I feel humbled to have had a son like Dale.”
Miss Cowan said around the time of the alleged affair, she had “heard rumours that Dale was texting other girls,” but added: “I never doubted his love for me. Our relationship got stronger after the dust settled from the items in the press. Dale had convinced himself he was ill and had a fixation with the leg injury. He thought he was never going to get over it. He said he didn’t want to play football any more.”
On the day Mr Roberts died, Miss Cowan found a note from him on the fridge calling her “the love of my life”.
She said: “I’m left heartbroken and I will miss him so much. I believe he was more depressed than people thought. He will always remain the love of my life.”
Mr Edinburgh said: “It had such a massive impact on everyone who knew him. He was such a nice lad.”
Coroner Anne Pember recorded a verdict of suicide.