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‘Sometimes it can affect you’ - Man City teenager McAtee speaks out on mental health impact for young footballers

12:00 GMT+3 09/05/2022
James McAtee Manchester City 2021-22
The England U20 international has been advising all players to speak with family or friends if they are experiencing tough times on and off the field

Manchester City academy graduate James McAtee has been discussing the challenges that young players face in modern football, with the 19-year-old midfielder admitting that mental health issues need to be addressed.

The England U20 international has stepped out of a famed youth system at the Premier League champions to take in six appearances across all competitions this season, with his star seemingly very much on the rise.

He does, however, face a number of challenges on and off the field and says it is important for players of promise – as well as more established ones – to talk with friends and family if they find themselves struggling in a pressurised environment.

What has McAtee had to say on mental health?

The Salford native, who made his Premier League debut for City against Everton in November 2021, has told the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport: “I think being a young footballer is everybody’s dream.

“When you grow up you want to be a young footballer but sometimes I think people don’t see what it’s actually like. Obviously there are amazing parts to it, but there are bad parts to it as well.

“We get bad comments and sometimes you just have to ignore it, but sometimes it can affect you. I think every young player experiences that.

“I can always speak to my family no matter what, but my friends are really good. If I’ve had a bad day at work or a bad game, or just a down day in general, I can go with my friends to play golf or bowling, so they keep my mind off football if things aren't going so well.

“In a football environment, when you need help you don’t want to ask anyone because everyone is in competition.

“Sometimes it’s hard to ask your team-mate, but I would advise a young player, or any player, to go and speak to a team-mate because they might have gone through the same thing you are going through.”

Is football doing more to address mental health issues?

With mental health becoming more of a topic for debate in wider society, organisations within football have put a number of initiatives in place to help those within the game that may be experiencing issues.

The Football Association, along with the Football League and Premier League, now work with players past and present to help guide them through any difficulties.

There is more that can be done, as greater empathy and understanding is shown towards those that operate in a seemingly dream environment, and the hope is that nobody will be forced to contend with any challenges by themselves.

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