Wayne Rooney says he would advise young players experiencing issues with alcohol and their mental health to talk to someone after opening up about his own experiences at the beginning of his career.
The Birmingham City manager spoke this week about using alcohol to cope with the pressure he was under as a young professional footballer.
Rooney said he initially avoided speaking to people about the issues he was encountering but urged younger players today to seek help.
“By talking,” Rooney said, when asked how he copes with pressure now. “When I was younger, I always felt I could deal with things myself.
“So by actually talking about different aspects of life as well. When you’re in a situation, having that confidence to talk to people about it, it’s so important and there’s so many different platforms now for players to do that. Maybe 15, 20 years ago, that wasn’t the case.
“It’s really important that players if they have got issues — and I’m a coach who is very open with the players and I want the players to come to me if there’s any issues, but firstly if that’s because they are not playing I always explain to them why, and any issues off the pitch as well. My door is always there for the players to come in and speak about that. So that’s really important factor.”
He continued: “That’s just not for football as well. It’s for any young people who are dealing with difficult moments in the life.
“There’s always help out there and just by communicating with people, and sometimes it’s people you don’t expect to be the ones who can help you. So it’s just figuring out the right people to speak to and really getting the help if you need it.”
After making his senior debut for Everton at the age of 16, Rooney explained he had used alcohol in his early 20s as a “release” to deal with challenges on and off the pitch.
The 38-year-old said his advice on young players opening up extended to wider mental health and addiction issues.
“Not just that (alcohol), but there’s obviously gambling,” he added. “You’re still seeing it now with players which have been the news more recently of gambling there, there’s all different addictions which it’s easy for players to fall into.
“And it’s important that if you do fall into any of them that the help’s there from myself, firstly at the club, but also the people within the club. It’s something which we have to really make sure we get right because mental health issues are very important, that you deal with them and you feel confident enough to speak about them.”
Rooney’s Birmingham – 15th in the Championship table – are next in action against Sunderland on Saturday.
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(Photo: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)