With more than three decades in football, Chris Powell has been influencing the game as a player, manager and coach. A former chairman of the PFA, Chris made over 200 appearances for both Charlton and Southend, and with 5 caps for the national side, he was recently appointed a coach for the England Men’s Senior Team. At this years Injured Conference, Here Chris addresses the importance of valuing the welfare of players, and in his own words, shares his thoughts about mental health.
I think the workplace has changed. I really do. It was very harsh when I first started playing in the 80’s. I could talk about experiences that I went through or saw, which absolutely wouldn’t be acceptable now, so I think clubs recognise that now that is not what we need. What we need is a place where people feel comfortable, and feel safe. Employee welfare has been at the forefront in the corporate world for a long time, and football hasn’t really done it. I know clubs are doing it now, and have been for a few years because you’ve got to recognise how important the workforce is.
Mental health when I was a youngster, I think the word ‘mental’ people used to think there has to be something wrong. It was almost that your behaviours weren’t correct, you weren’t right, you weren’t fitting into society etc. That’s what it was then, but I mean we’re talking 34 years on now, it’s totally changed. Mental health now for me it's not a stigma, it’s a major part of life.
There are a lot of stresses as a player, the opinions of the media, the opinions of the supporters, the crowd, especially now with technology and social media. I think over the years, we’ve suddenly realised that there are times they’re going to need help.
Dealing with it yourself and dealing with the issues that the modern-day player deals with can be tough, so sometimes people don’t realise what a manager goes through. How does he deal with his issues? How does he build resilience? How does he get himself on top? Those things for me are at the forefront of people's minds now in the game, and they should be.
I think the governing bodies have a role to play, the Premier League, the FA the LMA, the PFA. Especially with young players. We have a duty of care, I feel, to really make sure that if they leave the football club, they’re equipped to actually walk away from the game and go and work in another field. I think we definitely should have a big role to play in that.
I think its massively important now in the game that [players know] ‘you’re not alone’. Come and speak to me. If it’s not me, there are numbers, there are email addresses. You can contact someone, you can reach out because people have more understanding nowadays. People actually want you to, so you can feel better about yourself and that’s what I would say.