Soccer Saturday pundits open up on mental health struggles in football

Sky Sports Soccer Saturday pundits – including Paul Merson – open up on mental health struggles within football as former ref Mike Dean tells horrifying story involving an ex-footballer ‘sat on motorway bridge thinking of jumping’

  • Burnley’s Lyle Foster has been given leave to receive help for his mental health 
  • Paul Merson led a discussion about mental health struggles within football 
  • DOMINIC KING: I don’t understand what football is anymore – It’s All Coming Up 

Paul Merson bravely led the discussion on mental health struggles within football on Soccer Saturday.

The Arsenal legend has spoken out candidly over the years about his own experience with depression. 

It comes after news on Thursday that Burnley striker Lyle Foster has been given an extended leave of absence to receive treatment for his mental health. 

And after being asked by host Simon Thomas if attitudes were changing positively towards mental health, Merson told the Sky Sports show: ‘100 per cent the clubs are changing and fair play to them.

‘They pay a lot of money and a lot of wages for these people but at the same time they think of the person. 

Paul Merson bravely led a discussion on mental health struggles in football on Soccer Saturday

Burnley striker Lyle Foster has been given leave of absence to get help with his mental health

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‘Fair play to the lad (Lyle Foster). He could have held that in. In the past everybody would have said this and that but people understand now mental health takes anybody. 

‘Just because you earn a lot of money and play best game in the world it doesn’t mean you’re not going to be ill. I wish him all the best and he’s very brave for what he’s done. 

‘People on their keyboards will be saying it’s a disgrace. Don’t listen to them, they’re lemons.’

Fellow pundits Kris Boyd and Clinton Morrison spoke equally bravely about mental health, before Mike Dean – who works as a refereeing expert for the show – recounted a horrifying story about his good friend and former Tranmere and Fleetwood goalkeeper Scott Davies. 

Mike Dean then told a horrifying story involving his friend and former goalkeeper Scott Davies 

‘When he finished he didn’t know what to do with his life. It was all he had done for 15 to 20 years,’ Dean said.

‘He tried something outside football, but couldn’t do it. He turned to drink and sat on a motorway bridge for two hours thinking of jumping because he just did not know what to do with himself when he finished football and did not know where to get help.

‘Luckily he had some friends good around him and he recovered. He’s now got a job at Fleetwood as a goalkeeping coach for the Under 18s and Under 21s. 

‘But he was in such a bad place when he finished playing and kept it to himself because he didn’t want to admit he was in trouble but he had to, otherwise he might not have been here.’

Boyd – who earned cult status at both Rangers and Kilmarnock for his goalscoring exploits during his career – then went onto highlight how and why footballers in particular struggle when they retire.  

Davies played for Tranmere and Fleetwood, but struggled with his mental health after retiring

Former Scotland striker Kris Boyd also explained how he ‘felt lost’ when he hung up his boots

‘You don’t have a structure in your life and you lose that identity,’ he added. ‘You’re programmed as a footballer but when that stops it’s like “oh, what’s gone on here”. It’s a shock to the system”.

‘There are times when you feel lost in your life and there are people struggling but there is always someone there to listen to you.’

Morrison agreed with Boyd and also paid tribute to Merson for regularly speaking out on the topic as he said: ‘I suffered massively but I never came out and spoke. Then I did because he (Merson) was talking about it and that’s why we have such a good friendship because we can speak to each other about it.

‘You have to pick up the phone and there are always people out there to help you. Don’t listen to those lemons on social media.’

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