At 21-years-old, Matt Jansen was a striker destined for a career in top-flight football.
Playing for his hometown club Carlisle United, he helped the team secure promotion to the Second Division and in doing so attracted the attention of a number of teams including Manchester United. But it was the Eagles he decided to join in 1998, and although only at the club for under a year, his performances still live long in the memory for many fans of that era.
In the third episode of our Cult Heroes series, Jansen speaks about his career beyond Palace, and how his luck and life changed in the summer of 2002. From being tipped for a place in England’s World Cup squad to a motorbike accident which left him in a coma for six days and out of football for six months, the player says his mind never regained the strength that his body portrayed.
“I don’t think I was ready. In my head I liken it to those snow globes you shake - the dust was still fizzing around in my head. I was playing for Blackburn Rovers at the time and it was difficult for the coaches because I was doing OK and they thought there was nothing wrong with me, but in my brain they couldn’t see I wasn’t OK. I couldn’t cope with the stresses of professional football and my belief and desire weren't quite there.”
In only his second game back after the accident, Jansen scored two goals and was awarded man of the match in Blackburn’s 4-1 win away to Aston Villa. However it didn’t stop the striker doubting his ability as a footballer, and a stop-start run in the team left him short of the confidence he was so full of early on in his career.
“It’s difficult to say if I ever got the belief back because I was always questioning my performances, even in that game against Villa where I played well, and then I’d be left out of the team. In hindsight they said they were protecting me but it added to my doubts and it was a vicious circle of me constantly questioning myself.”
Watch Jansen’s full interview with Palace TV’s Chris Grierson on our free membership site HERE