Retired Albion Rovers player David Cox claims opponents were regularly told to target his struggles with mental health.
The 32-year-old forward decided to walk away from the game mid-match last Thursday after he was allegedly taunted by Stenhousemuir captain Jonathan Tiffoney during a League Two clash.
The Scottish Football Association is now investigating the claims of abuse, which Tiffoney has branded “simply untrue”.
Cox has bravely spoken out about his battles with depression, which saw him progress from self-harm to suicide attempts, a number of times over the years.
But now he claims those honest admissions were used against him on the field of play in an attempt to lure him into a dismissal.
Cox – who informed Rovers boss Brian Reid he was “done with football” during Thursday’s half-time interval before heading for the Cliftonville exit – told BBC Radio 5 Live: “There have been a few times where players have told me to watch my wrists and made reference to the mental health stuff – ‘oh, we all know your story. We know how to wind you up. I’ll have you sent off in five minutes’.
“People say things in a roundabout way, without actually saying them. But they know what they’re talking about.
“There’s a lot more from fans. I remember doing my story back in 2012, my first game back a fan shouted ‘away and hang yourself and do it right this time’.
“I know for a fact that players will be told when they come on to play against me, ‘Wind him up, he’ll react. You’ll get him sent off’.
“How do I know? Because players have told me. It happens all the time.
“I’ve heard it about players as well. ‘Get stuck into him, smash him in the first tackle, you’ll get him riled up and he’ll be sent off’. Sometimes that’s the game plan. If you can get them down to 10 men, then go and do it.”
Former Airdrie, Forfar, Peterhead and Annan striker Cox opted to speak out in a bid to raise awareness of issues surrounding mental health in football.
But he issued a damning indictment on the game’s current approach.
“Listen, football is one of the most dangerous places you’ll ever be in – it’s not a good place to be in, to be honest, especially when you’ve got thoughts of suicide,” he said. “It can be a very lonely place.
“People will say things like ‘everybody would love to play football’. But unfortunately for me, the time has come where I feel I’m better off away from it, better mentally.”
Tiffoney has also taken a leave of absence while the SFA launches its probe into the matter.
He has already strenuously denied Cox’s claims, insisting: “I would never attack another player’s mental health or wellbeing and will fully co-operate with the Scottish FA investigation.”
But Cox now admits he is worried his decision to speak out will lead the Stenny skipper facing his own torment.
He said: “Someone messaged me two days ago and said I was trying to ruin (Tiffoney’s) life. He was basically calling me a snowflake.
“That couldn’t be any further from the truth. This isn’t about Jonathan Tiffoney. This is bigger. For me it was the final straw.
“Speaking about this is really empowering. But there’s also the other side, I feel really anxious about it. Talking about it is almost like reliving some things and can drag you down a wee bit.
“I’m trying to think about the positives and the good talking about it will do.
“I’m going to be honest, I actually feel really bad. I’ve seen some of the things that have been said about (Tiffoney) and it makes me feel sick a wee bit because it’s not like I tried to get someone in trouble. It’s the bigger picture for me.”