Allegedly, Liverpool FC and England youth international striker Bobby Duncan’s mental health has been badly affected as a result of how the club have managed his time there and his potential transfer away.
Although Duncan is yet to comment, his agent and club have conflicting versions of what Duncan’s experience at Liverpool FC has been. His agent has said that Liverpool have asked for a lot more money than they paid for Duncan, although he has been at the club for one year, and told him that he doesn’t have a future at Liverpool FC. Liverpool FC shared their disappointment regarding the comments made by the player’s agent, and then said that they will continue to manage the situation privately.
Player’s being deeply affected by football decisions is common and while we do not know the ins and outs of the Bobby Duncan situation, we know that players have been relegated to train with younger age groups, forced to run everyday, dropped from the team without an explanation, lied to and more. Football is big business and like the top corporations in this world, there is a lot of foul play. The difference between the corporate world and football is that, foul play happens within an adult space, whereas within football anyone can become a victim, regardless of age.
How do these situations affect the players?
When player’s experience the negatives of the football world they become anxious, depressed, insecurity, develop performance insecurity, become aggressive, rebel and invest less effort. Their behaviour, attitude and effort changes, leaving observers scratching their heads as to why a person in a “privileged position” is upset and behaving in such a way.
How do the affects play out?
I’ve seen players self sabotage their careers. I saw from close range as one of my best friends repeatedly got into conflict with Managers at each club he went to. A common thread for those that destroy their opportunities leads back to heartbreak, either in football or outside of football (mainly in football). For example, being told that you are a pivotal part of a team, then being dropped from the starting eleven without an explanation, then the squad and then told that the club no longer wants you, all within the space of a month is hard to take. It’s like someone saying that they love you and want to marry you, retracting the proposal, breaking up with you and then saying you cannot be friends, all within a month. You were fully committed into a relationship that you thought was reciprocal, then you suddenly find yourself what lost with wounds from the emotional rollercoaster.
Mental health dips, performance dips and relationship with football is fractured.
The hidden truth
Players are not educated about the realities of football, if they were informed about the downs of the game, they would be better prepared for it. They could build their emotional response kit so that they could become aware of options outside of their agent’s offering, parents suggestions and club’s pressure, thus improving the quality of their decisions.
Similarly to Bobby Duncan, in my book Soccology, an Aston Villa and England youth international Stephen Cooke shares how stressful it was to have Sir Alex Ferguson trying to convince him to stay at Manchester United. Cooke wanted to go back home to the Midlands, and sign for Aston Villa but Manchester United were not going to give up without a fight. To many, myself included, this sounds like a dream but it wasn’t for Cooke, it was a nightmare. There are thousands of stories like Cookes from 1999 to Duncan’s in 2019, yet they are not spoken about publicly.
I had the pleasure of working with Bobby Duncan when he played for Manchester City, he’s a goal machine hungry for opportunity. I hope that both Liverpool and Bobby can reach an agreement, I also hope that this situation also serves as an example to players to forensically research opportunities before making decisions to sign for clubs. You cannot prevent the negatives of the future but you can do enough research to reduce the chances of them happening.
Research being to converse with players that have played for the Manager of the club and to look into the following -
Staff turnover (players and management)
Manager’s loyalty towards players
Manager’s soft skills
Manager’s attitude (are they open, honest and transparent?)
How does the Manager respond to players with your traits? (as a player and person)
Is the Manager fair?
Who wants you to come to the club and how much influence do they have?
I advise you to go by the Manager’s history, history of their behaviour and tactics. Many listen to the promises that they are told and end up heartbroken as they never get fulfilled. People always assume that Managers are dishonest but there are other reasons too, like Managers losing themselves in pressure so they become erratic, they don’t cater for how you and the team will marinade and more. Players cannot control how the club prepare before making their decisions but they can prepare for how they make their own.
I hope this helps players to make more informed decisions. For those currently going through situations like Bobby Duncan and Stephen Cooke, feel free to drop Emma a line at admin@Soccology.com to arrange a one to one Skype session for support through the process.