A break from politics and the press today, and instead three of my other interests – football, mental illness and plugging books. No, not my own books, though these are available here here here here here and the latest one, Power and Responsibility, here. Oh, and you can pre-order the next one, The Burden of Power, here
The one I really want to plug, however, is ‘I’m not really here – a life of two halves’.
I met the author, former Manchester City footballer Paul Lake, a couple of weeks ago.
It is fair to say that it will help if readers are football fans, but it is not essential. For me the most important parts of the book are those that deal with Paul’s depression, which fell upon him as he struggled with a succession of injuries which after years of struggle prematurely ended his career.
The culture of football remains fairly unenlightened in some areas, but there has been progress on racism, and there will be more progress on mental health thanks to Paul’s book. He cites a former manager, John Gregory, asking the question ‘what’s he got to be depressed about?’ That question still gets asked, inside football and outside, but the more open people like Paul Lake are, the better off all of us will be, and the more managers and other leaders in sport will realise depression is an illness like any other.
He seems to have come to terms with his career ending early, but as I discovered when I met him, though he has not had a bad bout of depression for years, he will live with the pain and physical scars of injury forever. He cannot kick a ball – if he does his knee balloons to twice its normal size – and even raising his pace to jog across the road to avoid traffic is a risk.
All this for someone once seen as a future England captain. Non football fans will be able to whizz through accounts of player banter and descriptions of the key matches in his life. But the accounts of his depression and his struggles with injury are worth real examination by a general audience. He is now back in the game, working as an ambassador for the communities programme at his former club. But I hope the mental health charities realise they too have a great new ambassador to recruit, and that Time to Change – who get a good plug in the book – ‘sign him on’, as we say on what used to be the terraces.
You would not expect me to get through a blog about a footballer without mentioning Burnley, so I remind fellow Clarets that Paul spent a year at Burnley as a physio – having spent so much time being treated by physios, he decided to become one. And there are some wonderful insights into our former manager Stan Ternent, whose after match interviews, as I revealed in the Financial Times magazine on Saturday, were a cause of fascination to my former boss, TB.
Good luck to Paul and his family, and I look forward to seeing him on the Time to Change circuit.