In the very first PFA Podcast we take a look at mental health and football - host Neil Mellor is joined by special guests Chris Iwelumo, Sporting Chance's Jeff Whitley and PFA Head of Player Welfare, Michael Bennett.
The panel have amassed over 1000 appearances between them and played in total for 38 clubs. Host, Neil Mellor was a fans favourite at Liverpool bursting onto the scene with a spectacular winner against Arsenal and a pivotal goal against Olympiakos in The Reds’ Champions League winning season. He went on to make over 200 appearances at teams including Preston North End and Sheffield Wednesday before injury cut short his career.
Chris Iwelumo is a former Scottish international and plied his trade at club level in Scotland, Denmark, Germany and England. He is joined by Jeff Whitley, a former Northern Irish international and Manchester City cult hero who now works with players in his role at Sporting Chance. Finally, Michael Bennett the former Charlton and Wimbledon defender who now heads up the PFA welfare department.
We take a closer look at mental health and football, finding out more about the pressures that professional football can place on players. We also discuss the PFA’s services and overall objectives surrounding player wellbeing.
Research published by FIFPro the world's players’ association show that symptoms of mental health problems are more widespread in professional footballers than in the general population. The PFA have previously documented some of the stressors within the game that can adversely impact mental health and this episode touches on several of these areas:
- We discuss the pitfalls for young players in leaving home at an early age, in addition to the challenges of integrating successfully into the first-team dressing room.
- The guests look at modern day distractions that can impact players such as social media and gaming, which can have a detrimental impact on areas such as sleep and performance anxiety.
- The panel discuss how injury impacted them personally and how players can try and deal with long-term injuries.
- We also look at the impact of simply falling out of favour with a manager, being released or transferring clubs. The short-term nature of football is a looming reality for a large number of players, some of whom will be on shorter term 12-month contracts – a situation that can leave you looking over your shoulder from Christmas onwards.
- Finally, we look at retirement and transition from football discuss the challenges that this can present to players – such as a loss of identity and the practical considerations to do with finance, future employment and income.