The Liver Bird  

Friday, 12 June 2020

Liverpool FC, Lockdown and Mental Health

There are just five days until Premier League football is back in our lives and nine days until Liverpool line up against Everton in the Merseyside derby. The UK has been in lockdown for close to 12 weeks and a Premier League ball hasn't been kicked since Monday 9th March.

For many, the lack of football will have been a blessing but for those like myself who class the sport as one of their true loves in life, this has been a difficult time to say the least. I don't think anyone could have predicted the impact a lack of football could have on a fan's mental health and well being.

Image via Science Focus
Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not somebody who has suffered with significant mental health issues (though I know plenty who have) but I think the lack of football, the lack of a routine, something to look forward to, has had a significant impact on my personal mental health.

Football is escapism in its purest form, unlike a film or a TV show, you can't successfully predict the outcome. You're taken on a ride, through a rollercoaster of emotions, you're often shouting expletives at the opposition but this is a release and without it, without this release of emotions and the experience of the highs, something huge is removed from your life - it's only natural that you then struggle in its absence.

Pile onto this the fact you couldn't leave your house aside from one bit of exercise initially, maybe you've been furloughed, maybe all your mates don't live close enough for you to have a socially distanced BBQ... and all of a sudden you've created the perfect storm.

It's for this reason, and I know I am not alone in this, that the feeling of relief knowing that Liverpool will be back on our screens in less than 10 days is an immense one. 

It's not just fans who have struggled through this Coronavirus lockdown, players have suffered too. Liverpool were reported to have provided mental health advice to players early on including breathing exercises and social media advice. It's also been reported that players who were close to the end of their contracts have had significant mental struggles and have been reaching out for support.

I was reading some very interesting snippets from Kevin George who is an ex-professional and mental health in football expert (I need to check out his book "Soccology") and for me he hit the nail on the head:

"Coronavirus has taken everyone out of their routine and this is what can bring problems. People get lost without the comfort of their schedule or what their schedule may be protecting them from for example sitting with thoughts. Creating a schedule also puts control back in your hands instead of sitting in uncertainty, waiting for updates."

Football forms a huge part of that "schedule" for me and I know for many others and so taking it day by day and forming a plan for each day has been a real coping mechanism.

For anybody struggling with mental health issues I highly recommend the Mind website which is packed with superb advice. The NHS also produced "10 tips to help if you are worried about coronavirus".

Looking ahead, when football does restart next week. As a Liverpool fan born in 1989 I have literally been waiting my whole life to watch us lift the Premier League title. You couldn't have ever predicted that a pandemic would delay proceedings but I suppose after waiting for that long, I can wait a while longer.

After it was confirmed recently that the Reds will be able to play the Merseyside Derby at Goodison and not at a neutral venue, it could be that this is where Jurgen Klopp and the boys claim the title. This is dependent upon the Manchester City v Arsenal result on Wednesday.

I've dreamed of this moment for years, we've come close on occasion, Gerrard's slip still causes a physical pained reaction whenever I see it but it'll all have been worth the wait after the way this year has unfolded. 

Yes if we don't win it at Goodison we win it in another empty stadium with fake fan cheers and no opportunity to gather and celebrate but at this stage, I don't care, to watch us lift the title after lockdown will be phenomenal. Cider will be flowing, Si Senor, You'll Never Walk Alone and the Mo Salah chant will be sung, it will be an emotional moment for all Liverpool fans and I for one cannot wait.

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Sunday, 5 April 2020



That's what I was saying to myself over and over again approximately four weeks ago. At the time I had shared the below on social media, which unfortunately now sounds more like a distasteful joke but this was genuinely how I was feeling. The club I had supported and followed my whole life, a full 30 years, had got within touching distance of lifting their first Premier League title and then a pandemic breaks out.

You just couldn't write it, it's peak Liverpool. Throughout the years, the club and football as a sport has faced some torrid times but to throw around what I'm sure will be the word of the year for 2020... this is unprecedented.

After what has happened in Britain and across the globe over the past few weeks, it does really make you take a step back and think about the vital things in life. Bill Shankly once said "Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it's much more serious than that." On this occasion, I have to disagree with the great Shanks. 

Interestingly, it's the great man himself though who has really got me thinking about the latest decision from our wonderful football club. The club this week has decided to take advantage of the Government furlough scheme in order to assist with paying its non-playing staff. While the scheme is there to help those employees from all companies who may suffer during this crisis, it seems immoral for a club that checked in around £40million plus in profit last year to take this route when so much more could be done. It goes against everything the club, the city and its fans stand for and I truly hope another conclusion is reached.

"The socialism I believe in is everyone working for each other, everyone having a share of the rewards. It's the way I see football, the way I see life." - Bill Shankly

Away from the club's current stance of furloughing, one man who has made me immensely proud is our captain Jordan Henderson. It was revealed this week that the skipper is working to set up a fund for NHS workers by speaking regularly with captains from other Premier League clubs. This is the example Liverpool should be setting.

Image source: Liverpool Echo
With no real indication of when it may be safe to restart the Premier League and football across the country in general, while I am desperate to see my boys back in action (I heard YNWA on a quiz show midweek and nearly started crying!) this whole situation has made me realise how lucky we are and it really makes you take stock and value the smaller things in life.

All I do hope is that Liverpool are given the opportunity to earn that trophy, I do not want to be gifted the Premier League title and do not feel it is right to scrap the whole season. Next season hasn't yet begun so sort out what's happening in the here and now before you go looking to plan ahead.

I don't know when, but at some point this year, Jurgen Klopp and his phenomenal Redmen will lift that elusive piece of silverware. I always thought I would cry when we won the league but as this season went on, the Reds were making it far too easy, the raw emotion of going so close in the 2018/2019 season was absent so I was beginning to think the waterworks wouldn't happen. I'm almost certain now though, after everything that has happened, seeing Jordan Henderson lift that cup will not just be a true sense of happiness, it will symbolise a return to normality and I will never look at life or football in the same way again.

Stay safe folks, stay home. YNWA.

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