With a reputation as one of the fiercest managers in the game, few are likely to associate Watford boss Nigel Pearson with raising an awareness on mental health issues in football.

However, despite his hard-hitting persona, the 56-year-old wasn’t one to shy away from addressing the issue on a recent visit to UCFB Wembley.

Speaking as part of the LMA Insight Series, Pearson told students: “It’s been a taboo subject for a long time and I think sometimes coming out and admitting that you’ve got problems has been perceived as a weakness.

“I think that’s been a real stumbling block; it blocks people from even approaching the subject. It’s a very real problem in modern society and has been for a long time, but it’s just not been openly accepted.”


Whilst how to deal with mental health remains an issue within the game, the former Leicester City and Hull manager did stress that huge improvements have been made. 

He continued: “I think the awareness is greater; I think the understanding and tolerance of people to accept that mental health can be an issue across the board for staff members (has also improved).

“I think we’ve come out of that generation where everything’s to do with character building. There is a sensitivity now, and I think there is an understanding of individuals’ needs.”

Although strides have been made into tackling the stigma, mental battles continue to dominate players’ lives; Accrington Stanley striker Billy Kee recently announced his retirement from the sport due to his ongoing battle with depression and anxiety.

Pearson concluded: “I think there has to be a sensitivity to understanding what individuals are going through. Confidentiality is a huge aspect of helping people to start helping themselves, but one of the most difficult things is to actually start the conversation.

“I think the most important aspect is that there is help available for people now. I think that’s always a worthwhile starting point. The LMA offer support to managers and coaches, and The PFA (Professional Footballers’ Association) do the same for players – I think it’s a good start.”