Mike Hughes and David Cotterill: Ex-Swans from Different Eras Fight Depression in Different Ways

Depression is being dealt a double blow by ex Swans footballers, in two very different but effective ways. Former goalkeeper Mike Hughes will be handing over a small but welcome donation to the Swansea branch of the Samaritans whilst David Cotterill has bravely opened up on his personal fight against ‘the black dog’ in an effort to bring the issue of depression throughout football to the fore.

After teaming up with Mike for the former and being reduced to tears reading the latter’s moving BBC interview I couldn’t be more proud of a couple of former Swansea City players.

It’s my privilege to join Mike in handing over a cheque for £400 to the Samaritans at Boss Brewery before the Queens Park Rangers fixture. The money was raised as part of an ATFV fundraising event that saw Mike grilled on his Swans career by Kevin Johns and a small but enthusiastic crowd of Swans fans.

Those of us of a certain age will remember goalkeeper Mike breaking into the Swans team under John Toshack, surviving the turmoil of a winding up order in the John Bond days before playing a part in play off promotion glory under Terry Yorath. Alas, the discovery of a brain abnormality after a second concussion injury brought an end to Mike’s flourishing career at the age of just 24 and he was unable to see out the season that saw the Swans beat Torquay to promotion to the old Third Division.

Mike’s fascinating hour with the mic is available on YouTube spread over four parts and it is well worth viewing for his Tosh tales and take on today’s footballers…and owners. Follow the links below for each of the videos:-

An Evening With Mike Hughes & Friends Pt 1

An Evening With Mike Hughes & Friends Pt 2

An Evening With Mike Hughes & Friends Pt 3

An Evening With Mike Hughes & friends Pt 4

Of particular relevance though is the very end of the evening where Mike explains why he chose the Samaritans to receive the proceeds from the evening: Samaritans Soundbite 

There’s a sobering start to that fourth part as Mike shares his traumatic experiences watching the Swans side that he’d been forced to quit as they continued their promotion push, culminating in a difficult day at Torquay where he watched promotion being sealed before finally joining the celebrations in the dressing room afterwards. It really is powerful, thought provoking stuff!

I’d like to place on record my thanks for Mike giving up his time and providing such an entertaining Q&A session with the charity champion himself, Kev Johns…it was a very enjoyable evening and the money raised will be put to very good use by the local branch of the Samaritans. This unbelievable volunteer led service is there to help and advise those that feel they have nowhere else to turn…

…people like David Cotterill…

A Sousa signing in 2009, Cotterill cost the Swans £600k when he made his loan spell a permanent move in January 2010 – a very hefty transfer fee for the Swans at that time.

Like the majority of his career Cotterill’s form fluctuated from sublime to nondescript and that is wholly understandable after the player’s revelation of his desperate – and ongoing – fight against depression since his teenage years.

It’s an article well worth reading (one of the few ones on BBC Sport these days) and the short video that accompanies it is a compelling, if difficult, watch too.

But for anyone that has experienced depression, anxiety and mental health issues – and it is well documented that I have – there is plenty in the interview to strike a chord and his words are a beacon of hope that the very darkest thoughts can be survived but they also act as a stark warning of a deep-rooted crisis in football that is being ignored by clubs and hidden by players for fear of ending their own careers.

David’s not the only ex-Swan to reveal a battle with depression in recent times with Steven Caulker opening up on his own issues last year. There’s no doubt that many footballers enjoy the trappings of wealth, fame and fortune but there’s also the extreme pressures that are placed on these young men, many of whom simply don’t know how to handle it and often have people around them  more interested in taking advantage of that fame and fortune for their own benefit.

Maybe if a few more players spoke out in the way David Cotterill has this week then the world of football would realise that there is a desperate darkness lurking under all the glitz, glamour and greed in the game. Cotterill has shone a light on that darkness but it is a light that too many in the game will choose to ignore.

I don’t know whether the timing was deliberate but Cotterill’s revelations come hard on the heels of several interviews with Gary Speed’s widow, and the heart wrenching story of how she discovered that her husband had been haunted by mental health issues right back to his teenage years, and how those issues ultimately saw him take his own life, was too much for me to read in the end.

We’ll never know if better support within the game would have led to a different outcome for Gary Speed but surely it is something the game must aspire to in order to do all it can to prevent another Gary Speed or Clark Carlisle or Dean Windass.

Please take a few moments to read David’s full and frank interview here: David Cotterill: Wales winger opens up about depression

I’d like to wish David the very best in his continuing battle against depression and I hope that he can find a new club in the near future, for he has plenty still to offer the game at the age of 30. Hell, maybe he could do a job for the Swans as an experienced back up in that No.10 role, eh‽

Two former Swans, two different eras, two battles against the darkness of depression…and one person sitting here full of admiration as he types this article about them both.

At the end of David Cotterill’s interview the BBC has included a link for those that have been affected by mental health issues – please, if you are struggling to cope, battle against depression or have suicidal thoughts, check out this link ( Action Line ) and please TALK TO SOMEONE. Sharing your pain and your fears is a sign of strength not weakness and it just might change your life when all hope seems lost.



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