World Mental Health Day | Emile Heskey

Emile Heskey

Emile Heskey’s football career is most often remembered for his unselfish style of play, and his power and versatility on the pitch. His long and glittering career included being a record £11m signing for Liverpool in 2000, achieving 62 senior caps and 7 goals for the national side, and representing England at two World Cups.  Emile has spoken candidly about how difficult the transition was for him when leaving his home club Leicester for Liverpool, and here in his own words, he shares his thoughts about football and mental health, at this year’s Injured Conference.

When you’re playing, there are so many highs and so many lows and I’m not talking about seasons, I’m talking about games. Your highs and lows within that could be so dramatic. When I left Leicester and went to Liverpool, I found it tough, they say it’s homesick, I found it tough being on my own up there. Even though I had kids and everything, I was in the middle of nowhere in my eyes. 

The pressures at Liverpool were so much higher than anywhere else, because you know you’ve got to win. There’s no real drawing and losing – there’s winning. If you lose, you know you’re getting it. You have this perception that when the pressure’s tough and its hard, that people hate you, no one hates you, but you get this perception in your mind that people hate you, they don’t want to know you, they don’t want to talk to you. You’re fighting your own mental battles then aren’t you? You don’t want to go out, you don’t want to see no one, you don’t want to talk to no one, but people would love to see you. 

I don’t know if everyone understands that there is help out there if needs be, and who do they go to, where do they go, and what it is. The club can only do so much, and when I say that, it’s the clubs with a lot of money that can do a hell of a lot, its not everyone that can do a hell of a lot, but it’s a whole tier of football that needs it. So there’s a little bit of difference there. 

When you leave football, it kicks you out. You don’t leave football, it kicks you out and you’re kind of like, ‘well what do I do?’  The thing I don’t necessarily like about football, is from the age of I’d say 9 but we’ll say 15, you’re told what to do, when to do, how to do, when to eat, where to eat. What t-shirt to wear, what not to wear, if you don’t wear that you’re fined, if you do wear that, you’re great. Then you’re kicked out and its like ‘where do I go?’ 

‘I’ve got to be.’

No, you haven’t got to be, 

‘Oh, what do I do then?’ 

And you haven’t really got a cycle and you’re not really wound down for that at all. 

Again, we say go and get your badges, and then you can go back in there, but there’s 40,000 people retiring and then there’s 2 jobs, so there’s not really a cycle to say, ok this is what you’re going to do. Here’s what were going to do for the ex-players. I don’t know what it is, but there’s no real pathway after that. 

Mental health, if you’re suffering there’s always someone out there to help but you’ve got to want to be helped.