Seaham Red Star manager Mark Collingwood has opened up about the positive impact spending time on a Northern League touchline has had on his personal life.
Collingwood suffered personal tragedy in May when he lost both of his parents within the space of just over three weeks.
Those tragic losses preceded his return to Red Star, a club he took from the brink of relegation in the Wearside League to the top six in Northern League Division One during his first spell in charge between 2014 and 2017.
The return to the dugout has brought an escape from off-field issues and Collingwood described the feeling of being in the game again as “like a drug”.
“The last year has felt impossible to deal with,” explained the Red Star boss, who originally left the club to join Jarrow Roofing, as it was closer to his parents.
“I left Red Star the first time to be closer to my family when it was needed due to illness and since then I lost both my parents within the space of 22 days.
“I was in a dark place, I think anyone would be after dealing with what I have over the last few months.
“Losing my mam and dad in such a short space of time is a lot to take.
“I was at Wembley for the FA Vase final when I got the call about my dad, it was such a shock and then I lost my mam three weeks later.
“I was at a low point, I was on medication, I was taking anti-depressents and it was an awful time in my life.
“I went back to Red Star and it gave me a buzz back to be honest. I don’t know what I would do without football in my life, it’s like a drug to me.
“Being on the touchline provided an escape, I don’t mind saying it’s changed me.
“I’m not the person I was 12 months ago, I look at some of the things I said or did and I cringe.
“It’s been a difficult year, particularly since May, but football has helped me cope with it all.
“It’s given me a bit of a release and it has been needed because things have been very tough.”
Collingwood’s return to the Ferguson Motors Repairs Stadium hasn’t quite gone according to plan.
The summer saw the Red Star manager conduct an overhaul of the playing squad following a whole host of departures from the club.
Those changes are ongoing and only last week Collingwood lost one of his most trusted players as captain David Palmer joined Shildon.
Progress has been slow and the club currently sits second from bottom in the Northern League Division One table, with only winless Penrith beneath them.
On Saturday, a 4-0 away defeat at North West Counties First Division South club Vauxhall Motors saw the club knocked out of the FA Vase.
Collingwood has found the going tough, but is taking heart from how the club’s committee have backed him during his second spell under their watch.
“It’s been difficult, we can’t get away from that,” he explained.
“There was a little bit of bad blood from last season for whatever reason and we have had to work around and deal with that.
“I think that it’s common knowledge that we can’t compete with more than two-thirds of the clubs in this division financially.
“But the committee are working so hard and they are behind us.
“I have to mention Dave Copeland, because he fully believes, supports and understands what we are trying to achieve at the club.
“But we are what we are and we are comfortable with that. Some players haven’t signed because of silly talk going around about how people think I like my teams to play.
“It is taking time to get things how I want, it won’t happen overnight.”
Collingwood remains defiant and the Red Star boss believes there are more positives to be had as he looks to help the club move away from their lowly position in the league.
“There are positives, I can see them now,” he said.
“Signing Dan Wilson and his form so far has been a breath of fresh air for us. We still have the Durham Challenge Cup to play for too.
“I know this team can compete when we have our best eleven on the pitch but at the moment, with injuries, that hasn’t happened enough.
“It’s been tough, we are nowhere near where I want this club to be. But we will get it right.”