Danny Drinkwater has explained his disastrous loan spells at Aston Villa and Burnley last season.
Drinkwater played five Premier League games across two periods away from parent club Chelsea, with his time at both clubs marred by off-field controversy.
The midfielder was attacked outside a nightclub a couple of days after joining Burnley in August 2019, then headbutted Villa teammate Jota during training the following March.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Drinkwater has offered his side of the stories.
“I was pinching around the team then,” he said of the first incident. “Someone said I had tried to chat up some footballer’s girlfriend, but that just wasn’t the case. I got jumped and beaten up.
“It was an international break, so I wasn’t breaking any rules by going out and having a drink. But the timing was awful and the fact I twisted my ankle was the worst thing. I went in for a scan the next day and found out it was to do with the bone and I couldn’t believe it. It was just like ‘could this get any worse?’.
“I didn’t have any stability in my life, so I was probably a bit lost as a person. I didn’t know where I fitted in professionally and I didn’t really know where I fitted in with my personal life and seeing my son, and it was really confusing. I think if you have one solid, then the other one you can manage.”
Drinkwater played four times at Villa from January 12 to February 16, but was phased out of the team by Dean Smith shortly thereafter following an altercation with Jota.
“Villa was the biggest wake-up call in terms of my fitness,” he said. “I was catching up three pre-seasons, a full season with no football and half a season where I’ve played two games. And I’m thinking ‘eight games, I’ll be fine’.
“I was trying to rush it and, to be fair, Dean Smith was quality. He didn’t put any pressure on me, but I felt like I had no time. I played four or five games and I didn’t manage to do anything. The fans were waiting for Danny Drinkwater and this loaf of bread turned up in midfield.”
Things came to a head after the final game before the Premier League’s suspension: a 4-0 defeat to former club Leicester in which Drinkwater did not make it off the bench.
“I was thinking ‘Jesus, I’ve just been back to somewhere I had so much success and I couldn’t get on the pitch. This is embarrassing’.
“I got some stick from the fans and I woke up and I was raging. After training I planned to go and speak to Dean Smith about things, but then I went and headbutted Jota.
“We were on the same team, that’s how stupid it was. I’ve never done that, I’ve never laid someone out before. It was ridiculous. I apologised straight away and I had to go home. I texted him straight after to apologise and take full responsibility. I Google translated it into Spanish as well to make sure he’d understand.
“I told myself that I needed to clean myself up big time. I must have taken a good look at myself sh*t loads of times. I had a wake up call after the drink driving, another wake up call after the nightclub and then another wake up call after the incident at Villa. Then it’s like, this has got to stop.
“Drink driving, I’ve not driven since, because I can’t, the nightclub incident, I’ve not really been in an English nightclub since and I don’t plan to and I definitely can’t put myself in the situation to fight with a team-mate again.”