Life after football: ‘Players need much more help’

Feb 03, 15 Life after football: ‘Players need much more help’

A study which shows that over half of footballers suffer from a clinical level of psychological distress after being released from a club at a young age has led to further calls for improved after-care in the game as explained here by RTE Sport

The study at Teeside University in England indicated that 55% of a sample of players between 15 and 18 were found to have psychological issues in the aftermath of release from a club, including depression and anxiety.

It also showed many turn to alcohol and drugs and shy away from dealing with the news.

Dr Tim Prescott, director of clinical psychology, said the university assessed the players on three occasions and found that as time went on, the distress was increasing.

Former Liverpool and Ipswich Town player Shane O’Connor told RTÉ of his experience this morning and said more needs to be done for players returning home from England.


"Former Liverpool and Ipswich Town player Shane O’Connor" - Picture by

“Former Liverpool and Ipswich Town player Shane O’Connor” – Picture by


“I’d get up, go training and I’d come home and wait to go training the next day. That was my life.”

He left Liverpool after two seasons, having moved to Anfield at 16, and later had three seasons with the Tractor Boys before departing in January 2012.

O’Connor, who will line out for Cobh Ramblers in the SSE Airtricity First Division this year, said leaving a club at such a young age was extremely difficult to cope with.

“I feel people that are coming back from Ireland need more help. Listening to the doctor [describe the research], it is probably scary how much I can relate to everything he said, of going down roads of trying to shut out … When people tried to talk to me, I just shut it out and tried to make up some sort of story to make them believe that I am hanging on to the dream.

“I don’t think there is enough done for people psychologically-wise, I could have used a bit of help in trying to integrate back into normal life.

“From the age of 16, I’d get up, go training and I’d come home and wait to go training the next day. That was my life. That was the bubble you’d live in over there. When that bubble bursts, you don’t know where to turn.”

RTÉ Soccer analyst and psychotherapist Richie Sadlier also discussed interacting with players struggling to cope with the rejection and said that there is a need for professional help as they adjust to a completely different way of life.

“You’re talking about kids, who don’t pursue this dream in isolation. They do it with the support of their family, parents in particular, and sometimes coaches, agents or scouts.

“It’s a disappointment for a lot of people. I did it while I worked at the Millwall academy when players were released, [where] you offer help as best you can.

“You say that you have contacts with other clubs and you might set them up with trials elsewhere. You might stay in touch with them. You can give them free tickets for a match coming up. You can do all of those things.

“But there reaches a point, as this research has shown, that a lot of players are dealing with issues that can’t be resolved by chats on the phone with a friend or tickets to a match or the offer of a trial. Professional help is needed.

“Counsellors, psychologists, psychotherapists, there is a role for that expertise in professional sport. Particularly in professional football and this age group. Because the vast majority of lads that go down this road will experience rejection, disappointment, failure, or whatever word you like.

“They will arrive at a point with their head in their hands and say ‘right, this is a catastrophe’. Those lads need help and more than just sympathetic chats by their friends.”

For full links to the article by RTE Sport in please (CLICK HERE)








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