Anichebe reveals only his faith and his mother helped him through horror spell
21:30 GMT, 20 October 2012
When you possess a physique like Everton's super-strong striker Victor Anichebe, it is hard to imagine falling prey to self-doubt and depression.
But the 24-year-old Nigerian international frankly admits only a strong religious upbringing and some choice words from his Mum kept him going during the dark times when one bad injury seemed to follow another.
Anichebe's return to goal-scoring form has mirrored Everton's excellent start to the season, which they hope to continue at bottom club QPR on Sunday.
Tough times: Victor Anichebe needed his mother's help
But it hasn't always been like that for the 6ft3in striker, who grew up on Merseyside after his parents moved there from Africa when he was a baby.
He missed a whole season after suffering knee ligament damage against Newcastle in 2008, a further six months after injuring his other knee warming up in a pre-season friendly against Preston, and four months last year after tearing a groin muscle when on international duty for Nigeria in Madagascar.
'There were plenty of times when I was at a low ebb. To come back after 12 months, get injured again, and then again, I began to ask whether it was worth it,' he admitted.
'It's hard for people to know what really understand what it is like being injured. It is not just physical, it is mental too.
'You see your team-mates out there when you should be playing with them. Your friends and family tip-toe around, not knowing whether they should talk to you about being injured.
'I am a Christian but it was difficult to keep my faith at times. It was easy to think it is all rubbish and didn’t mean anything, but it does.
'My mum was supportive and said God had given me this ability so I should use it. She almost forced me to continue with my faith when I was in danger of losing it.
'If you stick with something, you will get through to the other side, and it got me through some hard situations.
'Steven Pienaar (Everton team-mate) also has his faith. I’m not saying that it makes you a great player, but it helps. It’s always nice to think you have that extra push behind you.'
As he chats about his beliefs, Anichebe appears the archetypal gentle giant. Yet he is no shrinking violet on the pitch, happy to use his power and aggression to unsettle opponents.
Faith: Anichebe is aided by his Christian beliefs
He was once criticised for a studs-up challenge on Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek during a reserve derby that attracted a lot of publicity on Merseyside. And he was sent off for a lunge on Manchester City's Pablo Zabaleta in December 2010, the last time City lost a home game.
'I don't need to go to the gym to lift weights and be big,' he reveals. 'When I come off the pitch, I am chilled, normal, not this aggressive person. Some people say too laid-back because I don't do enough. But I might be something else on the pitch.
'Look at boxers, you see them praying before a fight, and then they try to punch someone's head off. I am big and powerful, I use the attributes God has given me. I am not like Steven (Pienaar), where I will glide past players.'
Injuries have restricted Anichebe to only 40 Premier League starts since signing professional forms for Everton in 2005, the club he first trained with as a 10-year-old.
On the flip side, he has been used as a substitute 85 times by manager David Moyes – a club record. The signings of Belgian international Kevin Mirallas and Croatia's Nikica Jelavic means there is plenty of competition for places up front but that is something that appears to have inspired rather than deterred Anichebe, who has scored three goals already this campaign.
Tricky: Anichebe suffered racism in Ukraine
Rather than any opponent, the toughest experience Anichebe has had to overcome on a football pitch came early in his career when Everton played in a European game in Ukraine and encountered similar scenes to the alleged racism suffered by England under-21 players in Serbia last week.
'It happened before the game and was probably the worst thing I have ever seen in my life,' he said.
'I was walking around the pitch with the team and the whole crowd were doing big monkey chanting. It was like they were doing it synchronised, together – it was crazy.
'Everyone was spitting on me, so much it was like it was actually raining. I told the guards and they just laughed. I could see where the England boys were coming from last week.'
He also underwent a painful experience in 2009 when police questioned him as he looked into a jewellery shop window during a walk to help ease the boredom of being injured. Humiliatingly, the officers grabbed his crutches in case he tried to “escape”. They later apologised for the incident, which Anichebe believes was racially motivated.
If Anichebe continues his recent good form, he may have a difficult dilemma to make if Nigeria call him up for the African Cup of Nations in January.
Fine form: Anichebe has played well of late
A proud fan of the Super Eagles – and his parents have both returned to live in Nigeria – he is torn between helping out his country and showing loyalty to Everton after they have supported him.
'I love my country but Everton is what I am thinking about,' he admits.
'Everton helped me so much particularly when I was depressed about my injuries. They stood by me. They sent me away to America and to Belgium for rehab. I could look back at my injuries but it's better to forget about that stuff and be a man. As long as I am fit, I am good.'
Victor Anichebe was speaking at the Everton FIFA 13 Pro Player Challenge. Log on to www.youtube.com/EASPORTSfootball to see tournaments taking place across the country. EA SPORTS FIFA 13 is out now on all formats including PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360 and iOS.