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Kightly feels ex players can help current crop

MICHAEL Kightly feels former footballers should stay in the game to help current players improve their mental health.

The number of players seeking help has risen dramatically since the start of lockdown according to medical research.

And Kightly believes more needs to be done to ensure those suffering depression can get themselves back on track.

“I think ex players should speak to players individually,” said the former Southend United winger.

“You could speak to four lads a week at a club and do a club a month to help them.

“You could have a cycle of clubs you looked after and the PFA could easily set that up.

“I know they say they’re trying to help but are they actually doing things like that, I’m not so sure.

“Someone like myself could go to Southend, Colchester, Leyton Orient and Ipswich and ask how they’re feeling and what’s going on to try and help people.

“But so many people don’t talk and from my own experience when you don’t talk you can get into a dark place.”

Kightly experienced his own issues with depression when dealing with a prolonged period of injury when with Wolverhampton Wanderers.

But he knows only too well that footballers will be reluctant to speak out, especially in front of their team-mates.

“We would have meetings but it would always be in front of each other so we would sit there and I’d be thinking yeah that affects me, yeah I feel like that but you would never say it in front of everyone,” said Kightly, who played in the Premier League for Burnley, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Stoke City.

“You’re scared of looking stupid so it was a waste of time really.

“For me it should be an ex player who has seen and felt what it’s like coming in.

“I could talk to a brick layer but I’ve never laid bricks so I don’t really know what it’s like.

“People would come in and talk to us but they had never stood on a pitch and had all these doubts and problems when you have fans booing you and you think you’re not good enough.”

But Kightly also feels managers need to be better educated.

“It baffles me,” said the Basildon born 34-year-old.

“You hear people and managers say you have to talk about it but it does my head in and makes me so angry.

“It happened to me in my career where I spoke to a manager and said I was struggling with some personal issues.

“I said I was OK but I wanted him to be aware and that football was my release. But come Saturday I didn’t play and I wasn’t even on the bench so next time I wouldn’t have said anything.

“It happens all the time and I would say that in a squad of 20 players that 18 or 19 players have their own mental health issues.”

>The full Michael Kightly interview is now available to listen to in this week's podcast.

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