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Soccer Saturday pundits praised for emotional talk about footballers struggling with mental health

Sky Sports Soccer Saturday pundits have been praised for their emotional talk about footballers who are struggling with mental health.

Before the 3pm kick offs got underway, the panel took a moment to highlight such important issues surrounding mental health after it was confirmed this week that Lyle Foster is “in the care of specialist”.

They are “giving him the support and care he needs to help him back to full health,” say Burnley, with the 23-year-old South Africa international striker, who has three goals in eight games for the Clarets this season, out for an for an indefinite period.

Simon Thomas: Paul, are we seeing a positive change at the moment, in terms of the way clubs are handling players who are struggling?

Paul Merson: Yeah, 100%. And fair play to the clubs as well, I think that’s important. I think they pay a lot of money for these people and they pay them a lot of wages, but at the same time, they think of the person and fair play to the lad. He could have easily just held that in, held that in.

ST: That would have been the way in the past, wouldn’t it?

PM: Oh, 100%, 100%. Everybody, everybody would have said, oh, he’s getting this, he’s getting that. People understand now, this takes anybody. Mental health takes anybody, because you earn a lot of money and you play the best game in the world, or you got the best job in the world doesn’t mean you’re not going to be ill. Do you know what I mean? And mental health takes anybody. So for me, fair play to the lad, I hope. I wish him all the best. I’ve been there too many times and I wish him all the best and he’s very, very brave for what he’s done to come out, because there’ll be a lot of people out there sitting behind the silly keyboards in their bedrooms with the curtains pulled, and they’ll be going, oh, it’s a disgrace. It’s this and that. Don’t listen to them, people. They’re lemons.

ST: Never listen to them. I mean, Kris, Richarlison opened up a little bit early in the season about his struggles as well. From your time as a player and what you hear and you see now are more players struggling than perhaps we’re aware of.

Kris Boyd: Yeah, I would say so. I think maybe before people master, they didn’t want to face it up. I think with people speaking, there’s more access to help out there now. People feel as if they don’t need to be boxed in a corner as such, with nowhere to turn. I think with the way that the world has changed, basically, it’s not just in football. You’ve got to give credit to a lot of people in terms of opening up. It’s not easy, and I think there’s obviously the other side of where people don’t, but you’ve got to applaud the ones who do, because there is always somebody out there will listen to you. There should be. It doesn’t matter how bad you think it is or how bad you’re feeling at moment time. Speak to somebody if you’re struggling.

Mike Dean: I’m very good friends with Scott Davies, former Tranmere goalkeeper, has been quite public this week. He’s done like a podcast with Tranmere. And when Scott finished, a Tranmere with an achilles injury. All he’s done for like 15/20 years is play football. Finished, didn’t know what to do with his life, tried to do something away from football, couldn’t do it, turned to drink. He’s only like early 30s, sat on a motorway bridge for 2 hours thinking of jumping off the bridge because just did not know what to do with himself when he finished football, didn’t have no idea what to do, didn’t know where to get help. Luckily enough he had a few good group of friends around him near where he lives. Get the sporting chance, been in there, recovered now, lucky enough. And now he’s just took up a job at Fleetwood Town as the under 18s, under 21 goalkeeper. So he’s early, 30s and all you did is play football for so long, you don’t know what to do when you finished. And he was just in such a bad place and he kept it into himself because he didn’t want to admit that he was in trouble. But in the end he had to, otherwise he might not have been here.

KB: If you don’t have a structure in your life, you feel as…

ST: But it’s also your identity, isn’t it? We lose our identity.

KB: It’s hard, we’ve all been there, but you’re all pro programmed as a footballer. And there’s other jobs, it’s the exact same. You go in, you get your breakfast, you train, you have your lunch, you maybe do a little bit of gym, then you go home, you’ll rest up and go again tomorrow. When that stops, all of a sudden it’s like, whoa, what’s going on here? You don’t know. It’s a shock to your system. And then you can understand Paul Merson. There’s nobody better to speak about it than is. There is times where you feel lost in your life and right now there is people out there are struggling, but we will always see it. There will be someday there to listen to you.

Clinton Morrison: Yeah, I agree with that because we did a show when I first ever started about four or five years ago with Merse on the show of talking about it. And you do suffer when you finish football, you suffer. I suffered massively. I never come out and spoke about it, but then I did come out because I felt comfortable because he was talking about it. And it’s something you can engage with. And that’s why me and him have so much of a good friendship, because I know what he’s been through and I know I can speak to him about things. And I’ll always pick up the phone, and I’ve said it many a times, I pick up the phone, he’ll pick up the phone to me twice a week. We’ll chat, we’ll have a talk to see how each other are. And that’s what you got to do. You got to pick up the phone, see how people are. There’s always people out there to help you. I say, don’t listen to the lemons that are on social media. They haven’t a clue.

PM: And I would say fair play to the clubs and people all over the country, CEOs of big companies. It’s not just happening in football. It’s happening on the workplace of everywhere. And fair play to all them people as well.

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