Jamie O’Hara reveals personal anguish over death of former Love Island contestant Mike Thalassitis and reveals he had no support after Big Brother stint

25 Mar

Jamie O’Hara has revealed his personal anguish over the death of former footballer and television personality Mike Thalassitis.

The former Cyprus Under-19 international was found hanged in a park close to his North London home on March 16 at the age of 26.

Thalassitis was a talented footballer and played up front in the lower leagues

Thalassitis began his career with Stevenage in 2011 before enjoying loan spells with Boreham Wood, Hayes and Yeading, Cambridge United, Bishop’s Stortford and Ebbsfleet United.

But the striker became a household name when he took part in ITV2 reality show Love Island in 2017 before retiring from the sport in December of the same year.

After his career in the Premier League with Tottenham Hotspur and Portsmouth, O’Hara enjoyed stints with lower-league clubs and is now plying his trade for Billericay Town in the National League South.

And the 32-year-old revealed he tried to sign the talented footballer before his death.

O’Hara played in the FA Cup Final in 2010

He told Jim White on talkSPORT: “I knew Mike when I went into that different world of doing reality stuff and he was a fantastic lad – really nice bloke.

“I don’t think he realised how loved he was. He was a fantastic-looking guy and he must have been really struggling and what upsets me is that no-one could have reached out to him like I did.

“Me and our gaffer were having a conversation – he was really well-regarded at this level in terms of non-league – he was a really good player.

“He obviously took the opportunity to go into the reality world and that industry is quite scary because you go in, you don’t really know what is going on, you’re filled with a lot of people who are not necessarily very talented but are just controversial and just want to be out there.

Thalassitis appeared on Love Island and Celebs Go Dating

“And there is no kind of end goal to it. You’re just trying to be seen out as much as possible, get the next show.

“But there is always someone else that comes along. And I think that Mike was kind of crying out for someone to give him an opportunity again to maybe play football.

“We had the conversation – me and the gaffer – and it’s really sad because we didn’t think he would be interested in coming back to play football because he was doing so well in terms of the shows he was getting.

“But he must have been really, really struggling in his mental state.”

O’Hara celebrates scoring for Spurs against West Ham

After spells with Fulham and Gillingham, O’Hara competed on Celebrity Big Brother before joining the ambitious Billericay.

Although appearing to thrive in the limelight, the midfielder admitted dealing with being in the glare of the public eye was an altogether new experience and the lack of support frightened him somewhat.

He added: “When I left Big Brother, I had a five-minute conversation with a psychiatrist after the show and then that was it.

“I got my money, and then it was like ‘Right, off you go’.

“I didn’t know what else to do, I didn’t know what else was coming up, I had nothing in the pipeline and then you’re going into this industry that I knew nothing about.

“And it was really difficult.”

Jermaine Pennant: 20 years since Arsenal paid £2m for the wonderkid who went from Champions League final to Jeremy Kyle

8 Feb

Jermaine Pennant had an interesting career as a footballer and it is 20 years since that journey started when Arsenal signed him as a 15-year-old.

On February 8, 1999, the Gunners signed the teenager for a deal worth £2million from Notts County and it was a record for a trainee at the time.

From there he went on to play in the Premier League more than 200 times, a Champions League final with Liverpool, spent 30 days in prison and last year ended up on the Jeremy Kyle show.

Jermaine Pennant was signed by Arsenal as a 15-year-old

The obviously talented youngster was quickly snapped up from the Nottingham club, who were managed by Sam Allardyce at the time, and seemed destined to stardom in north London.

Pennant claims he had no choice in the matter and his dad arrived with an agent in a Range Rover and drove him down the M1 from the Nottingham council estate he lived on.

Pennant playing in the Champions League final for Liverpool in 2007

He struggled to cope with the move at first and was homesick after leaving all his friends and family behind at such a young age

It was not until 2003 that he made his full Premier League debut for the Gunners but it was worth the wait as he scored a hat-trick against Southampton. Not bad for someone who was still hungover from the night before, as he revealed in an interview with FourFourTwo.

Pennant was frustrated with his lack of game time, he only made five starts in seven years with Arsenal, and had a reputation of partying the night before training and games and then turning up late.

He was shipped out on loan to Watford, Leeds United and Birmingham by Arsene Wenger and by 2005 the loan to the Blues was made permanent in a £3million deal.

Before the transfer was completed, Pennant was convicted of drink-driving, driving while disqualified, and having no insurance. His punishment was being sent to prison for 90 days.

Upon release after serving a third of his sentence, he had to play with a tag on his ankle and still struggled with discipline problems in the midlands.

Jermaine Pennant had to play with a tag

The most successful time of his career came when he moved to Liverpool for £6.7million and featured in the 2007 Champions League final.

After Liverpool he became a bit of a journeyman and played at Real Zaragoza, Stoke, Wolves, Pune City, Wigan, Bury and Billericay Town in the Bostik Premier Division.

Throughout his career, he developed a reputation as a playboy footballer and shot back to fame earlier in 2018 when he released his autobiography Mental: Bad Behaviour and the Beautiful Game.

Pennant played for Billericay in the Bostik Premier

With his football career now finished, Pennant has been publicising the book and appearing on numerous shows, including Celebrity Big Brother.

His latest surprise TV appearance came on The Jeremy Kyle Show, with Pennant shocking viewers by explaining some of his antics as a footballer .

Pennant, 35, was also asked to take a lie detector test to find out if he had been unfaithful to his wife, Alice Goodwin, who appeared alongside him on the show.

He had all the talent needed to reach the top of football but he never quite reached the heights expected of him.

Still, he had a pretty decent career – you’ve got to have something about you to make more than 200 appearances in the Premier League and play in a Champions League final.

Pennant said in an interview reflecting on his career: “I have had a good career – I’m not unhappy – but I could’ve done more, I know that. I could have made more of myself and my ability.”