Connect with us


Clubs urged to follow Crystal Palace stance after young footballer takes his own life

Clubs have been urged to follow a stance issued by Crystal Palace after young footballer Jeremy Wisten sadly took his own life in 2020.

He took his own life, aged 18, due to facing depression on the back of being released by Premier League club Manchester City.

Wisten, an Malawi-born centre-back, was signed by the Premier League club at the age of 13 after impressing scouts during a lengthy trial and wished to emulate his idol Vincent Kompany, but a a knee injury sustained in January 2018 had prevented him from playing for five months, which hampered his progress.

He was released by Manchester City in December 2018, then two years later, he was found hanged in his sister’s bedroom at home in Wythenshawe, Manchester.

The teenager didn’t feel he received the “right support” from the club after being let go, an inquest has since heard.

Manchester Area Coroner Zak Golombeck said: “I find that on the balance of probabilities that Jeremy took his own life and intended to do so.”

The Coroner read a statement from Wisten’s college mates which stated how “intelligent” and “mature” he was, as well as being a “selfless, kind-hearted, genuine, down-to-earth guy”.

Academy Director, Jason Wilcox, who was at the inquest along with a club solicitor, gave evidence, along with Wisten’s father Manila. The hearing was also attended by Wisten’s mother and sister.

The inquest heard that on the day of his death Wisten had been shopping with his mother to buy a gift for his cousin’s birthday. He spent the night in his sister’s bedroom while his parents watched Strictly on television downstairs.

“At 6pm his mum shouted up to say dinner was ready,” Wisten’s father recalled. “He said, ‘just leave it down there for me’. At 9 pm she checked his room and then his sister’s room and it was locked.”

His mother had to find a key to unlock the door and found her son dead, wearing his Man City tracksuit bottoms. “I heard a scream I will never forget,” his tearful father told the inquest.

He said his son didn’t any history of mental illness and that there was nothing to suggest he was going to commit suicide. He had recently turned 18 but was unable to have a party due to Covid restrictions; and his moods could be “up and down”, but the overall picture presented was of someone who was happy and popular.

“He was ready to do his driving test and wanted to go to university to study forensic science,” his father said. “The week in which he passed away he was completing university forms with his teacher and also applying for part-time jobs so he could go out and meet people.

“I 100% believe that Jeremy did not plan to kill himself. My reasons are very simple. He was a very proud young man who took care in how he looked and how people saw him. He was not found in a state of someone to find him. He wasn’t dressed properly.”

Wilcox said the injury had not been the main reason for his release, rather that it was a decision based on his long-term potential.

The ex-England international, who has been with City since 2013 and the Academy Manager since October 2017, added that he had “sleepless nights” about the meetings to inform youngsters they were being released, because “I genuinely care”.

When questioned how Wisten had reacted to the news, he said: “He was very quiet, very non-emotional at the time. All the boys react differently when they are given the news. They feel at that moment that their career is over, and it is certainly not. It’s the a start of a new journey for them.”

Wisten’s father was angry at the after-care his son had received from the club since leaving.

“He was still carrying injuries and he did not believe he was receiving the right support at Manchester City to find a new club,” he said. “They [said they] would arrange matches at City where Jeremy would play and clubs would come to watch. That did not happen. It was not happening.”

He added that video footage of his son playing was sent to other clubs, yet because of his injury there was little action from after 2018.

“I don’t think that was a marketing video, I think that was a ticking of the box,” he said. “It is a case that City should have done more, I know they have done more for others.

“I know they had done more for others. The statistic bandied around that 1% become professionals. It is not true for Manchester City. They almost always have their players continue at another club.”

Wilcox said he believed Wisten had been offered nine trials at different clubs and had also undergone mental health screening at the club in 2018 and 2019.

However, he added: “Since Jeremy’s death, it would have been extremely negligent not to review our processes and try to improve wherever we can. We have generally improved the processes all round.”

The club introduced player exit surveys and created a “parent portal” he said “and also have an improved process of managing the expectations of parents and boys.”

The Premier League puts on a residential weekend for Academy players who are without a club to try and help them consider what to do next. Wisten chose not to attend because he had fallen behind with his education, the inquest heard.

Online courses are also arranged by the Professional Footballers’ Association for released Academy players, although there are inevitably questions about whether enough is done.

Meanwhile, Crystal Palace become the first club to offer an Aftercare Programme for released players.

They said in a statement: “Crystal Palace Academy have enhanced their wide-ranging care programme for players aged 18-23 that are released from the club.

“A dedicated Player Care Officer will be in contact with all affected players for an extended period of time, as we support them on their journey – typically helping them find a new club, education programme or a job.

“The formal expansion of this offering continues the club’s significant investment in its new Academy facility having secured elite Category 1 status, and follows the official opening by England manager, former Palace player and Academy graduate Gareth Southgate alongside Chairman Steve Parish.”

Chairman Steve Parish said: “The Academy’s primary role is of course to ultimately produce footballers for the club’s first team, but we have a duty and moral obligation to nurture and guide all the 200+ players within our care.

“The Academy experience is a truly enriching one for our young players, where they will obviously develop as footballers, but also as young men, being taught a range of hugely beneficial life skills.

“We provide an outstanding education provision for those in our full-time care and hybrid education programmes, which will broaden all players’ options in the future.

“But we recognise that when an older Academy player is released, it may feel like the end of the world for that young man, and we must do our utmost to offer support to affected players through that process and guide them with the next stage of their journey.

“That typically begins with us providing introductions to new clubs or continuing to include the players in matches to enable other clubs to watch them play.

“But it may also be about helping them continue their education or begin a life outside of football in the workplace. Whatever their path is, we want to offer our support to them to help them achieve success.”

Clubs have been urged to follow the stance issued by Crystal Palace after young footballer Jeremy Wisten takes his own life…

@PeterHoward01: Proud of my club for this. Didn’t realise we were the first to do this. 🔴🔵🦅

@MccaTrigga: This is fantastic, coz I tell you from experience – it is needed!

@Marvin100: Absurd that in 2022 we finally have the first club actually doing this

@leepope_1: I wrote a project on this in my final year in university, a much needed programme and I hope all clubs follow with an initiative similar to this. 👏🏻👏🏻⚽️

@DrewAtkins7: How this isn’t standard practice, I don’t know – but this is excellent from Palace. Hopefully all clubs follow suit.

@peltonboy: Well done Palace, what a shame some of the bigger clubs hadn’t done this already 🤔

@CraigJa90014094: Class, every club should be doing this, can’t believe they haven’t been doing it for years

@stevewatson1404: This should be a mandatory contract on the first day a play signs for a Club, this is long overdue. Well played @CPFC for banging this drum and I hope @premierleague @EFL and all other professional Clubs take note. #MentalHealthMatters

@AG_Smithy: This is brilliant well done @CPFC not many appreciate the pain young players go through and mental mentality.

@JackHopo: Hats off to Palace. The games been crying out for this. A lot of my mates, me included, dedicate everything to football and academy at a young ages. Your dream one day bursts for so many and you have nothing on the back burner. Love to see it 🦅 🤝

@KingvagabondHOL: had 2 year 6s who were signed to palace a few years back. Both were sadly released but signed up to charlton, millwall and then Southampton. They’re now year 10s. The only club that checked in on them afterwards was Palace. This scheme doesn’t surprise me. We care about our kids.

@davo261088: Well done Palace. It’s about time football clubs realised they have a duty of care towards impressionable, sometimes vulnerable young lads who have had their dreams shattered. It’s about time the game had a moral conscience on how it’s treats young players

@CarltonRkid: One of my mates was released from Leeds academy and his life spiraled out of control. Football was his life. I’m glad there’s support for players who don’t make it. It must be hard to be within reaching distance of your dream.

@bav40: All clubs should do this as part of the eppp, my son released at 16 from a North West club with a renowned academy, promised so much but received very little, after being there from the age of 6 you’d expect some loyalty, not even a phone call to see if he was OK. #2faced. He’s at another club now that genuinely believes in their players, in the end being released was the best thing to happen to him, renewed love for the game, actually given a chance by the coaches & is a far more confident player for it.

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

More in Championship