With more than four decades in football as a player, coach and manager, Chris Hughton is one of only a handful of people who have experienced top-flight football on the pitch and from the touchline.
His remarkable career includes being the first mixed-race player to represent the Republic of Ireland, securing promotion for Newcastle United after just one season and leading Brighton and Hove into the Premier League for the first time. Here, Chris discusses his views on mental health in football with PFA Director of Player Welfare Michael Bennett, at this years Injured Conference.
What do you understand about mental health?
If we’re talking about mental health we’re talking about stress, depression. Stress levels are about the pressure you put on yourself and about the job that you’re in. Mental health of course is a far bigger issue, and it’s a far bigger issue in society.
What was the lowest moment you had in football?
The things that are the hardest are of course losing a job, and I’ve been in that position on three occasions. The best support mechanism for me has been family.
If you were in charge of mental health and wellbeing in football, what would you do?
I think the education [around mental health] that our coaches and young coaches should get, should be part of the clubs structure. So when that coach goes from being an under 10’s coach, to working his way up to under 16s then academy level under 18s, we would like to think he has had a lot of experience in that field, to take forward.
As a player in the team, you obviously have your teammates for support. What’s it like being a manager? Is it lonely?
The difference between being a player to being a manager is chalk and cheese. Is it a lonely job? Yes it is, because for as much as you have good staff around you, and you confide in your staff, and you talk about decision-making and involve them in that decision-making, there is such a big percentage of those decisions that only I can make. That’s why you try as much as possible to have good people and good influences around you.
If you could sum it up, what would your key message be?
My key message to everyone regarding mental health, stress, wellness is that it’s not a taboo subject. At some stage every single one of us will go through that, don’t be shy about confronting it. Don’t be shy about speaking to your coach, manager, somebody at the club, because that’s the only way that we can address it.