How one Chelsea wonderkid destined for the big stage became homeless

EXCLUSIVE: Jacob Mellis was once the Chelsea wonderkid destined for the big stage… at 32, he’s now homeless after tumbling through the Football League as he opens up on his problems with drink that blighted his career

  • Jacob Mellis has found himself homeless after a 14-year career in league football
  • The 32-year-old once earned £8,000-a-week while coming through at Chelsea 
  • He has opened up on his drinking issues, for which he is now seeking PFA help  

At the peak of his young career, Jacob Mellis was playing in the Champions League and earning £8,000 a week. Today he is homeless.

He arrives to speak to Mail Sport at Alderley Edge hotel, a venue he has become all-too-familiar with, wearing the same clothes he had on the day before. Once a confident teenage prodigy who stood head and shoulders above the throng at Chelsea’s academy, the 32-year-old is disconnected and weary.

The location, one of the wealthiest villages in the North West of England called home by some of the Premier League’s biggest stars, is at odds with his dire situation, but Mellis has little say in where he gets his respite these days.

He has no home, no car and no income. Over the past 18 months, he has relied on the goodwill of family and friends offering couches to crash on or spotting the cash for a hotel room.

Today’s venue has been picked for its convenience by a childhood friend, who lives just minutes down the road and is helping Mellis get some form of stability back into his life.

Jacob Mellis is currently homeless after being forced into retirement 18 months ago

Last night it was a mate’s pad in Manchester’s city centre. Tonight it is either another stay in the hotel – his friend footing the £95 bill – or a trip back to his brother’s in Nottingham. The search for a place to put his head down is endless.

‘I spend each day just thinking about where to go really,’ he says. ‘I have family but I don’t really want to rely on them. I want to try to do stuff for myself. It’s been difficult. I try not to think about it too much. I just try and get on with it.

‘They just want the best for me. They try to help me as much as they can. Obviously they’ve got their own lives. They get me hotels, or I can stay at their house sometimes.

The former Chelsea youth product made his debut for the Blues in the Champions League

‘From day to day nothing is settled. You think it can never happen to you. I didn’t plan on retiring. It’s difficult.’

The premature end to his playing days has thrown Mellis into the deepest of holes. A misdiagnosed knee injury was picked up at Southend last year, bringing the curtain down on a 13-year professional career that started at Stamford Bridge, where his debut came in the Champions League against Slovakian outfit MSK Zilina.

Mellis is the first to admit he did not make the most of his ability, a tendency to prioritise drinking and nights out undermining his promise. It is a problem he has never been able to shake.

‘Throughout my career it’s been a thing that’s caused me problems,’ he says. ‘When you’re drinking you’re not in control of what you’re doing.

‘It affects training, managers wouldn’t be happy. I remember I turned up one time to training drunk. I would’ve been 19. Steve Holland [Chelsea’s assistant coach] sent me in. There’s been a few occasions where it has affected me.

‘David Luiz didn’t speak too much English, but when we’d be warming up he’d [mimics sniffing his breath] “Hey, have you been drinking?’”. He would say stop [wags his finger]. Like that.

‘Dermot Drummy [Chelsea’s former academy manager] gave me a mentor, Ashley Cole, to stop me from going out and to talk to me. So people did try, I can’t lie.

‘I was cocky back then, arrogant. I felt like I should be playing. I feel like it is a good thing if it’s channelled in the right way. But I don’t think I channelled it in the right way.

Mellis has been staying in hotels and crashing on the couches of friends and family 

‘If I wasn’t picked or was feeling frustrated I would just go out, go drinking. You’re not messing Chelsea up, you’re messing yourself up.’

Alcohol became a constant presence throughout Mellis’s career, one which saw him leave Chelsea to join Barnsley in the Championship, before going on to play for seven more clubs across the Football League.

‘When I was still playing in the league, I didn’t regret anything. I thought I am where I am,’ he adds.

‘Since I’ve stopped playing, you have more time to think. You have to regret that. The amount of people that come up to me and say “Oh my God , what happened to you?”, that’s when it makes me think about it. These are people that are playing in the Premier League.

‘I feel like I didn’t really know the talent that I had. Outwardly I would be cocky. But inside I would be a bit, not nervous, but didn’t really know what I could achieve. I didn’t believe it.’

Mellis was one of Chelsea’s star students at academy level, but never made the breakthrough

He admits he would turn up to training at Cobham following heavy drinking sessions 

His current situation has exacerbated the problem. ‘I’m drinking as much as I can really. Just to forget about the stress,’ he admits. ‘It’s pretty much when the opportunity comes.’


 2009–2012: Chelsea 

2009–2010 (loan): Southampton 

2011 (loan) : Barnsley

2012–2014: Barnsley

2014–2015: Blackpool

2015 (loan): Oldham Athletic

2015–2017: Bury

2017–2020:  Mansfield

2020: Bolton 

2020–2021: Gillingham

2021-22: Southend

2022: Leatherhead

He has reached out to the PFA who are in the early stages of getting him help. Mellis is set to enter the Sporting Chance clinic this week in a bid to overcome his issues with alcohol.

There has also been assistance from others within the football community. Chelsea have helped Mellis through his first two talent identification courses as he aims to eventually land work back in football.

‘I’ve spoken to the PFA where I try and explain it. I felt if you don’t drink every day it’s not a problem. But it causes problems in your life. Now I’m trying to rectify that.

‘Chelsea helped me to get my Level 1 and Level 2 scouting badges. I did that with them and the FA at Stamford Bridge. I think that’s something that I’ll enjoy. I like watching youngsters, I feel like I can see potential in people.

‘I watch football all day, every day. I like to spot youth talents coming through. I feel like I can help them in other ways, off the pitch. Try to steer them away from the stuff I was doing.’

Currently a permanent role is proving difficult – having no fixed address can cause issues when trying to secure the background checks necessary when working with young people.

For now, it’s back to the search for a bed. Carless and cashless, any travel depends on lifts or train tickets provided by others. An enquiry at the front desk reveals the hotel is fully booked for the evening, and so begins the task of plotting a route to Nottingham. It’s just another stop on the long road to recovery.

Mellis ended his playing career at Southend in League Two after a knee injury diagnosis

Source: Read Full Article