The Agent’s View is an exclusive content strand that comes directly from Ricky Pattenden, an agent for Every Aspect Sports Management, who offers insight into the life of an agent, his perspective on EFL ongoings and transfers, and so much more.
A hot topic and the more airtime we can give to this burning subject, the better.
Mental health in football is still a bit of a taboo, of which the football fraternity seem reluctant to speak openly about, regardless of the numerous campaigns, and courageous players that have gone public with issues they have battled or are currently battling.
I tip my hat to the FA, EFL and Premier League for the sheer amount of work they are doing to create awareness, and in my opinion from the top down, this approach is certainly starting to have an affect across the board… It’s the bottom up that has concerned me.
As an agent you build a very close relationship with your clients, and in my experience regardless of the age of the player, you become a bit of a father or big brother figure. Someone that the player can come to and speak openly to, knowing full well that whatever the conversation, it will not go any further, and you will do your upmost to help find a solution to any issue.
I like many other agents have clients that have been through some tough times with depression.
In the two instances I will touch on, I only became aware of the trouble the players were going through when everything came to a head, it took over their life and finally they shouted for help.
I was determined to help and be open minded enough to try and understand what they were going through, although at the same time I was disappointed in myself not seeing the signs earlier.
Having never gone through anything like this personally, it was all new to me, I had no idea what they were dealing with. Like I mentioned earlier, If something was not going so well, my clients can come to me with any problem right?
The fear of something like that ‘getting out’ and affecting their career which they work tirelessly for day in and day out is so severe, that even their nearest and dearest were not approached and instead opting to safely keep everything bottled up.
All players are aware that the football world is a very small world, and news travels at lightning speed, once passed from person to person the truth is actually anything but the truth…The football version of Chinese whispers is a game that is always played at the detriment to the player being discussed.
Both of my client’s parent clubs at the time, were fantastic, fully supportive and worked closely with the PFA to help the players come through the other side.
The club and staff knew the players, they saw how hard they worked, and they were willing to help them overcome a difficult period by giving them some time off, alongside some professional help.
Away from the parent clubs was a different story all together. Once the players were back to work, mentally well and fighting fit, it was time to seek a loan move or a new challenge all together.
As is often the case in football sometimes its best for everyone that the player gets a fresh start in a new environment. It is now where you will understand what I meant earlier when I mentioned it’s the bottom up that concerns me.
In particular, it is the Dinosaurs that are in position of power at some clubs and the throw away comments they openly discussed about my clients… “We’re not interested, he’s a wrongun”, “He’s a nutter, we wouldn’t touch him with a barge pole”, “No chance, the lad is trouble” and this was mostly followed by a jibe of going into non-league or abroad as that’s the only place which will take them.
I felt angry that the bigger picture was not being taken into consideration, upset that the players had worked so hard to get back to being fit and well which was going completely unnoticed and I was left questioning what we were going to do next? I could only imagine how my clients felt. Is it little wonder why players don’t open up?
I am the agent and I’m employed to do a job, so you keep going until the job is done.
Fortunately, there are people in the game who understood what these particular players had gone through and were willing to move forward and offer playing contracts so they could continue in their careers.
Did I think these opportunities were at the level their talent warranted, absolutely not, but it was league football and the chance to get back on the proverbial horse was greatly appreciated.
We are still a long way off, but the times are beginning to change, and the aforementioned dinosaurs are being replaced with a new age generation of decision makers, who are far more understanding, and look at mental health illness differently.
This will go some way to shaping the future support players will receive, because mental health illness will always be there in football, in part due to the sheer amount of pressure players face to perform every single game.
That pressure is as high as ever. I can’t think of another job where tens of thousands of people can shout you are s**t , then when the game is finished also be bombarded with insults by the keyboard warriors on social media.
Players do adapt and form thick skins, but let’s not hide behind the old nuisance that “The players earn fortunes, so they should get on with it”.
The game has moved on and we all need to have a clearer understanding of what a modern-day professional football player deals with. A chunky salary does not make a player immune to mental health illness.
Today my clients mentioned above are excelling in the EFL, playing week in week out and enjoying their jobs, whilst at the same time managing and being in control of their mental health.
They are an example of the ‘lucky ones’, because it does not always finish with a happy ending as we are sadly seeing.
Every Aspect Sports Management
Twitter & Instagram – @everyaspectmgmt