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Michail Antonio Considered Retirement, Now He Has World Cup Dreams With Jamaica

Josh Lawless

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Michail Antonio Considered Retirement, Now He Has World Cup Dreams With Jamaica

It’s hard to believe it when you see him leading the line for West Ham and doing Dirty Dancing celebrations but Michail Antonio genuinely thought about retiring a few years back. 

The South Londoner had progressed all the way from Non-League to the dizzying heights of the Premier League and yet he wasn’t happy.

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Antonio had a long contract at West Ham but was not satisfied with being a bit-part player who was in and out of the team. 

Image: PA
Image: PA

It caused him to fall out of love with football and contemplate hanging up his boots extremely prematurely. 

“If I'm not performing, don’t play me,” Antonio told SPORTbible, recalling the situation. 

“But the fact is if I'm playing well when you're dropping me it's a complete head muddler. It’s a complete headf**k. 

“You dropping me after a good performance confuses me. I don't know what I'm doing or what it takes for me to play.  

“And there was a time where it affected me that much like, I got a bit depressed. And I actually had a full-blown conversation, with my missus, like thinking about whether I should retire from football.  

“Obviously I had a long contract with West Ham as well. So I couldn't just go, ‘I want to leave’. 

“One thing with football is that it can go like that and everything changes. It went from me being bit-part, in and out, to me playing. 

“I’ve not looked back. I’ve been playing ever since.” 

Antonio signed with West Ham in 2015 and played just about every position under the sun. 

But then he excelled as an emergency striker to the point where he established himself as the Hammers’ No.9, and ended up getting the coveted shirt number after hitting double figures in back-to-back Premier League campaigns. 

Image: PA
Image: PA

This term, he’s got six in 14 games for the East London outfit. 

He’s now also the main for Jamaica, having elected to represent the country of his family roots following after failing to get a cap for England despite a number of call-ups. 

He explained: “Obviously I didn't get to play and then it got to a stage where I just thought, ‘I'm not going to get called up’. I didn’t believe I was going to get the call. 

“There's loads of quality young strikers out there, he’s trying to build a team for the future. And that Tammy Abraham is young, Dominic Calvert-Lewin is young and Harry Kane is still quite young. 

 “My mum was born in Jamaica and my dad was born in Jamaica. I went to Jamaica all the time when I was younger. 

“Why not try and see if we can get Jamaica to a World Cup after they’ve not been there for 20 years. 

“There’s loads of quality players now, Ravel Morrison is there now, Danny Johnson is there, Ethan Pinnock’s  

“And then quite a few of the local boys like Cory Burke and Damion Lowe, the keeper Andre Blake.  

“They're actually building a decent squad and hopefully we can make a late push for it. 

“[There are] no regrets whatsoever, I'm enjoying my football with them. And the difference with Jamaica, with England they got to the Euros final and stuff like that but with Jamaica every achievement is a massive achievement. 

“We get to the World Cup, we’re making history there. In England, you chill in the room in St. George's Park. 

“In Jamaica, I’m chilling by the pool at 25 degrees heat!” 

Antonio has been capped three times by the Caribbean country and scored twice, including a stunning long-range effort against the United States.


The former Reading and Nottingham Forest man is one of many to have switched international allegiance, but didn’t give Gareth Southgate the heads-up. 

“He didn’t call me when he wasn’t calling me up so I didn't really feel like it was necessary for me to call him to make the decision. 

“Because I could kind of tell what his squad was like, I can kind of tell what he's doing and to be fair, I kind of agree with his decisions.  

“He's got young players there, that he's going to have in his squad over the next few years that they can build a philosophy with. 

“Whereas I’m now 31, if I went to this World Cup, I'll probably have another Euros and then there'll be another young boy coming through who's going to be quality and who's scoring goals. 

“I fully understand why he would go with some younger than me.” 

Antonio’s journey is a special one. He started out playing cage football locally, getting barged into the wall and losing layers of skin from an early age. 

Ronaldinho, Ronaldinho Nazario and Thierry Henry were among his idols.  

So too was Ian Wright, who Antonio reckons “should get knighted”. 

Image: PA
Image: PA

Like Wright, Antonio took the Non-League route and turned out for Tooting and Mitcham before eventually getting to the promised land. 

“The physio used to run on with a bucket and sponge,” Antonio recalled. 

“The changing rooms, you’ll be very lucky if there’s hot water. It was cramped, I don't even know if the physios do strappings on ankles. 

“Compared to now, where we've got four or five physios, I don’t what they got in the bag by they got a whole bag for the stuff that they want to give you on the pitch. 

“The pitches alone, the pitches in the Premier League are carpet for the whole season. 

“[At the] beginning of the season at Tooting and Mitcham the pitches were decent to be fair and people enjoyed coming at the beginning of the season. 

“But it got to the end of October and November, pitches are boggy and bobbly as hell. 

“Every now and then I do posts about the roots because people don’t really take notice of it and don’t realise how important it is.” 


Rejection was a feature of Antonio’s journey. At different stages he got turned down by Spurs, Brentford, QPR and AFC Wimbledon – the latter even refusing to pay his seven pounds registration fee. 

He persevered and got his just rewards for the hard work he put in. But if football didn’t work out, what would Antonio be doing now? 

“I'd probably be a PE teacher. I had great bonds with the teachers that I grew up with. 

“Dave Holt was the head of PE teachers and then there was also Mr Mensah and there was Neil Watson. 

“I wasn’t the best of kids in school so I used to get kicked out of class every now and then. 

“He [Mr Holt] used to take me in and bring him to his office and stuff like that. 

“The school, Southfields, actually offered me a job. They said if I went away and got my sports science degree then there will always be a job there for me.” 

All three episodes of BT Sport Films’ South of the River (produced by Noah Media Group) are available to watch at any time via the BT Sport App and will be shown on BT Sport 3 on 28th December from 09:30.

Featured Image Credit: Image: PA & Michail Antonio

Topics: Michail Antonio, West Ham United, Jamaica

Josh Lawless
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