Sean Higgins: Former Falkirk and Stenhousemuir striker details alcoholism battle as he hopes to inspire other footballers

Former Falkirk and Stenhousemuir striker Sean Higgins has told of his battle with alcoholism after leaving the full-time game, with the hope of helping other ex-players cope with similar battles and to seek support.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

The forward, who is now assistant manager at Rossvale in the West of Scotland league system, also played for the likes of Ross County, Dundee and St Johnstone.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He turned to alcohol ten years ago when his part-time career started at the Warriors after leaving full-time Falkirk.

Sean Higgins in action for Stenhousemuir against Dunfermline back in 2013 (Photo: Michael Gillen)Sean Higgins in action for Stenhousemuir against Dunfermline back in 2013 (Photo: Michael Gillen)
Sean Higgins in action for Stenhousemuir against Dunfermline back in 2013 (Photo: Michael Gillen)

Things took a spiral for Sean after losing his father John to a cancer battle back in 2020, but he sought help from mental health charity Back Onside and after a heart-to-heart with his family, subsequently kicked the alcohol.

He said of his story: “When all you know as a full-time professional footballer from the age of 17 is getting up early to go and kick a ball about for work every day .. then that’s an unbelievable life and unbelievable for your mental health too.

“When you don’t have a purpose to wake up for in the morning then it can become really difficult.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I went part-time in 2013 after Falkirk said they couldn’t offer me a new deal on the same money. I started a university course but I was only there a couple of days and training two evenings with Stenhousemuir.

Higgins last full-time deal in football was with Falkirk (Photo: Alan Murray)Higgins last full-time deal in football was with Falkirk (Photo: Alan Murray)
Higgins last full-time deal in football was with Falkirk (Photo: Alan Murray)

“I’d be getting up in the morning trying to think what to do that day.

“Every opportunity to have a drink I took. Depression of not being a full-time footballer was starting to set in at that point.

“If you analyse it and strip it all back then you can see a pattern was starting.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I look back at pictures from that season - I scored twice against Rangers at Ibrox and I can’t believe how heavy I was.

Higgins scores for Falkirk against Cowdenbeath, who he subsequently went on to play for at part-time level (Photo: Alan Murray)Higgins scores for Falkirk against Cowdenbeath, who he subsequently went on to play for at part-time level (Photo: Alan Murray)
Higgins scores for Falkirk against Cowdenbeath, who he subsequently went on to play for at part-time level (Photo: Alan Murray)

“I was never unprofessional the night before a game or anything like that. But within a few months of going part-time, I wasn’t training every day, stopped going to the gym, was drinking more and eating worse.

“After a game on a Saturday I’d go out and rather than just having a few it was a case of getting ‘balero’.

“It's not that I was drinking every single day, the problem was more about how much I was drinking when I was on it.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"That then has an affect on mental health. The next day you’re rough, ­snapping at family.

“Before you know it you’re going back to the pub to get a curer. By the time training comes round on the Tuesday you go in and look and feel a bag of s***.”

Higgins added: “Anyone who knows me knows my dad was my best pal. He followed me all the way round the country from the age of 17 to support me.

“It’s a void that will never be filled. But I was trying to fill it with alcohol. It was numbing the pain.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“It got to the point I couldn’t sleep at night and I’d be coming in from work and having a glass of wine or three just to fall asleep.

“Then I’d wake up sluggish, crabbit, and not as alert as you should be.

“It was spiralling out of control for a year.

“It got to the point I sat down with my family and admitted I was struggling. That was last February, 14 months on from my dad passing away.

“After opening up to them I just said to myself ‘enough’s enough’.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Higgins believes the support of his family and charity Back Onside was what enabled him to get through his addiction, and he is hoping his story can help other players in similar situations.

“One hundred per cent there’s other guys in the same boat I was,” Higgins said.

“We need people to open up and eradicate the stigma around mental health and alcohol in football.

“Without Back Onside I wouldn’t have been able to open up about my depression.”

Related topics: