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 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.
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.
“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.”
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’.
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“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.”