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The lost career of Matt Jansen

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Video: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/8647167.stm

Once a teenage starlet with Carlisle United coveted by the top flight's biggest clubs, the career of striker Matt Jansen sadly never quite fulfilled the potential it once seemed to promise.

However the case of Jansen does not follow the usual fall from grace suffered by many tipped talents.

Following a switch to Crystal Palace in 1998 for £1m, the Wetheral-born forward had earned rave reviews during a spell with Blackburn Rovers, who paid £4.1m for him a season later.

Such form, and goals - 47 in three seasons at Ewood Park - propelled the playmaker into the plans of England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson, and became a target for bosses such as Arsene Wenger at Arsenal and Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United - who he had turned down to join Palace four years previous.

However having missed out on England's 2002 World Cup squad, Jansen's career was to take a dramatic turn, when he suffered a road traffic accident while on holiday in the Italian capital of Rome. The accident would prove to be a pivotal moment in the career of the talented Cumbrian, who was never able to fully return to the form he showed prior to the incident.

"I was in a coma for six days, from then on I was trying to rebuild my career," Jansen told BBC Late Kick Off.

"With head injuries you suffer depressions, and all kinds of problems, then it was basic co-ordination, and it was a slow process.

"It was tearing me apart, I had sleepless nights, frustration, depression, and you get to a stage where you think there is no point continuing this battle.

"I had psychologists, psychiatrists, all kinds of medical staff at Blackburn who were unbelievable and very supportive, and Graeme Souness was very supportive and helped me along.

"I had comebacks, scored goals, and was in and out, but I couldn't fully get that confidence I have prior to the accident.

"I was my own worst critic, and everyone would say there was nothing wrong, but I felt there was and I was my own demise really." Having finally hung up his boots on a full-time basis with a spell at Wrexham in the Blue Square Premier last season, Jansen - still just 32 - is currently a player-coach with Unibond Premier side Leigh Genesis, working for former Rovers team-mate Garry Flitcroft.

And while the striker now has another source of income from regular employment, and has ruled out a return to the professional game as a player, the desire to remain in football in some capacity remains as strong as ever.

"I trade foreign currencies, which has been interesting," he said.

"It doesn't give you the same buzz as playing football, the same excitement, the same adrenaline rush or the same pressures.

"I could have gone to clubs in the Championship playing-wise, but I've put that to bed really, it was more the 'next step' I was looking at, getting into coaching and management.

"I'm physically fine, but I've moved on and hopefully I can become a successful coach or manager."

On turning down Fergie:

Walking around Selhurst Park, the 20-year-old is the main topic of conversation. Palace fans are simply grateful he chose them over Manchester United - how many youngsters can have faced a decision like that? - but already thoughts are turning to how long they can hold on to him.

Aston Villa, Newcastle and Liverpool have been linked with multi-million pound bids for a player with only a handful of Premiership games under his belt.

Palace chief scout John Griffin is convinced he will play for England within two years. Few are prepared to argue.

So, why a team threatened with relegation instead of a team, at the time, threatening to do a league and European cup double?

"I first came down with my agent Tony Woodcock and we stayed with Ron Noades [the Palace Chairman He showed us all the new facilities and let us stay in his house. It was just like a home and it felt the right place to go. Plus there was the chance of getting in the first team. I wanted to play first team football and I really think I have made the right choice. I got selected for the England Under 21s and the England B squad but if I was at Manchester United I don't know whether that would have happened because I would not have been playing."

Alex Ferguson has an unrivalled reputation for bringing on young talent yet there is simply not enough room for everyone to make it at Old Trafford, so despite a week spent training with the champions it was the London side who won the battle.

"I really played well when I was at Man United but I was looking at the reserves team and there was Phil Neville, Paul Scholes and Cruyff - it would have beaten a lot of Premiership sides. When I made the move I wanted to play first team football because I had been in the first team at Carlisle. It has paid off for me."

Jansen was quality, very unlucky..

It really puts into perspective how sh*t Walcott is, hes no wonderkid, just a sprinter

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its a shame his career panned out the way it did,

but looking at the bigger picture, it could be argued that he's lucky to even be alive

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ohh yeah, i forgot to add to my post,

cue a 48 page thread on Redcafe detailing how if Jansen had signed for Fergie, i mean United. he wouldve been a 4 time European champion, god Knows how many times league winner, and Englands top an greatest ever goalscorer.

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Jeffers was neva Arsenal class..

When he played he looked outta place, was not good enough..

Wenger liked Jansen & Ashton, I dnt kno why he didnt pick up Jansen but I know he felt Ashton was too slow for the top level.. such a shame 2 bright talents got their careers f*cked up

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