PFA's Taylor urges players to seek help


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The Independent Football

Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor has urged players to ask for help with any personal problems that concern them. It has emerged that in the wake of Wales manager Gary Speed's death at the weekend five players contacted the Sporting Chance clinic.

"It is fair to say Gary's death has prompted them to ask for help," said the clinic's chief executive Peter Kay.

Taylor said the PFA, in conjunction with associated partners, regularly helped out its members but the greatest hurdle was often making the first step. "We have players all the time who come to us needing help. It is part of our job," he said.

"The delicate thing is making sure everyone is aware and they can have confidence with the confidentiality element. It does need them to have the courage to ask for help and when they do that it makes it easier to break through the barrier."

Taylor said the death of Speed, whom sources have confirmed was found hanged at his home in Cheshire, had brought into focus the fact that people involved in football were not immune from facing every-day pressures.

"It has brought into people's minds the problems footballers deal with," he added. "I want people to know there is a support and counselling system there because we want to do all we can to prevent things like this happening again.

"We have have a very close liaison with – and subsidise – the Sporting Chance clinic and we also have trained PFA counsellors.

"Only this season we brought out a booklet on mental health issues and different problems. We have been working for some time on issues of depression and mental health and other, addictive, problems. This is not something which is happening just now, it is something we have been addressing."

Celtic manager Neil Lennon, meanwhile, has added his tribute to Speed, a regular opponent in his Premier League playing days. Lennon, who met Speed on a course recently, said: "All the tributes coming his way are genuine. He was a fantastic pro and a fantastic player. I sometimes think that gets overlooked because of the longevity he had in his career. People always ask me who was your toughest opponent, and when I played in the Premier League, Gary would've been in the top two or three.

"It's very sad and I think the whole football world is in complete shock, and we send all our condolences from our club to the family. It's a tragic loss to his family and to football."

Wales international midfielder Joe Ledley and defender Adam Matthews are currently in the Celtic squad.