Luke Chadwick has told talkSPORT he doesnt hold grudges over the torment he faced over his looks throughout his early Manchester United career.
And he has urged fans NOT to take aim and hurl abuse at those who have apologised for their behaviour towards him, insisting he has long gotten over it.
Instead, the former midfielder hopes his story will help people be more mindful of what they say to others and be kinder to each other.
Luke Chadwick was a Manchester United player from 1997 to 2004 and won a Premier League medal during the 2000/01 campaign.
Former England international Gary Lineker and BBC presenter Nick Hancock are among those to have sent public apologies to Chadwick on Monday, in response to his honest comments about the abuse that marred his career at Old Trafford.
In a recent interview with The Athletic, Chadwick opened up about his struggles with anxiety and self-confidence having been the butt of the jokes over his appearance.
In particular, he was a running joke on the BBCs sport-theme comedy panel show They Think Its All Over, made him dread Friday nights when it aired.
The 39-year-old said the shows relentless jokes made people think it was acceptable to mock him, and he felt anxious even just to go outside at times.
As a young footballer the abuse I received about my appearance affected my mental health a lot.The feeling of embarrassment stopped me talking about how I felt.
Although uncomfortable at times,it’s so important we talk about our feelings to get through the tough times! pic.twitter.com/gNhQRoQG4u
— Luke Chadwick (@Luke_FFF) May 5, 2020
On Twitter, he wrote: As a young footballer the abuse I received about my appearance affected my mental health a lot. The feeling of embarrassment stopped me talking about how I felt.
Although uncomfortable at times, its so important we talk about our feelings to get through the tough times!
On Monday, They Think Its All Over host Hancock said he was appalled at himself over his cruel jokes about Chadwick and, 20 years later, issued a sincere apology.
Listening to Luke is incredibly humbling, hes shown so much more generosity and understanding and good judgement than we did at the time, he said on BBC Breakfast.
Im appalled for him and at myself. When I hear him speaking, Im full of admiration for the present Luke Chadwick and full of sympathy for the young Luke Chadwick, and personally I just feel a great deal of responsibility and shame, which I do accept and have to hold my hands up to.
Luke Chadwick left Man United in 2004 and went on to play for West Ham, Stoke, Norwich, MK Dons, and Cambridge before retiring in 2015.
The terrible thing about comedians and comedy shows is that if youre getting laughs, you think youre doing a good job.
Of course the worst thing for Luke was that it became a bit of a running joke. To us it was a photograph. Thats not good obviously, we should have been thinking about the person, but thats what can happen.
In the interview Chadwick also admitted he was disappointed that his boyhood hero, former England striker Lineker, had joined in with the jokes during his appearances on the show.
And the footballer-turned-broadcaster also apologised for his behaviour with a message on Twitter.
But, speaking to talkSPORT host Jim White on Monday morning, Chadwick made it clear he does not want Hancock, Lineker and others to now be hurled with abuse themselves because of his recent honesty.
Asked about the They Think Its All Over jokes at his expense, he said: That was probably the thing that made things worst because it was such a popular TV program.
It was on a Friday night and obviously the football was on the Saturday and it was fresh in peoples minds.
But I really dont want the message to be lost in terms of it just turns into talking about the TV and people having a go at them, because I really dont want it to be about that.
Obviously it was tough at the time but it was 20-odd years ago, Ive got no grudge towards any of these people.
If I was more free to speak about my emotions or whatever back then, then probably if they knew how much it was affecting me, Im sure they would have stopped.
Im sure theyre all good enough people to not want to see a young lad feel like that, but its what happened and theres no change in that now.
I just dont want these people 20 years down the line to get a load of criticism for it.
Luke Chadwick made just shy of 25 appearances in six years at MK Dons, being named their player of the season TWICE in the 2009/10 and 2010/11 campaigns
Darren Fletcher reveals Man United legend Ruud van Nistelrooy was so obsessed with goals he would ‘be raging’ whenever he didn’t score
Chadwick says times have changed in the years since, but while he doesnt believe players could face the same torment on national television now, he says social media is the modern day challenge now facing players.
And the former midfielder hopes the tragedy of the coronavirus crisis will be a time for transformation and people will start to treat others better.
In terms of TV, I dont think anything like that would be allowed to happen now, he added.
Obviously there are massive challenges with social media where people are so free to message people and say whatever they want and say the most awful things, and youre always going to have people like that.
I think what has to happen from this whole tragedy is there has to be something positive to come out of it.
When we get back to some sort of normality, we have to have changed in a positive way somehow, to ensure its been worthwhile.
Perhaps the way we treat each other can be a massive positive to come from all the tragedy that has gone on.

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