Charlie Adam: Players must speak out and not suffer alone

Former Rangers midfielder Charlie Adam helps promote mental health project Back Onside at the Elite Collaboration's Charity Golf Day. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS
Former Rangers midfielder Charlie Adam helps promote mental health project Back Onside at the Elite Collaboration's Charity Golf Day. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS
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When Charlie Adam was asked to support a celebrity golf day yesterday that marked the launch of mental health initiative Back Onside, there was always only going to be one response.

With his father having taken his own life in 2012, Adam has tragic personal experience of an issue that is now being discussed more openly among males, and those within football circles. That meant Cathkin Braes Golf Club in Rutherglen was the only place the Stoke City midfielder was ever going to be yesterday as the 31-year-old helped raise awareness of a project that is seeking to better understand what contributes to poor mental health among marginalised 16 to 24-year-olds.

Back Onside, which has Adam’s former Rangers team-mates Barry Ferguson and Bob Malcolm as patrons and is an Elite Collaboration venture, is an attempt to encourage individuals not to suffer alone. Adam will be eternally grateful that he never did.

“When I lost my dad, I had a situation where I did suffer for a little bit. I spoke to SAMH [Scottish Association for Mental Health] the charity, and they helped me really well. It helped me get through it,” he said.

“It was a massive release for me when I went to speak to them. So much pressure came off my shoulders from doing that. The people there were on the end of the phone or they were willing to come to my home and speak. They helped my family as well. You take the first step by speaking out and then you get the help that is needed. The problem we had before was that people were scared to speak about it and that’s why it was so 
difficult.”

The difficulties that players had within Adam’s sport, in which machismo had been a barrier to expressing vulnerability, appear to be now receding. In this mental health week, Neil Lennon and a number of others in the game have spoken openly about their struggles with depression.

“Everyone thinks footballers are these hard-as-nails people but it is not always like that,” said Adam. “When you have a difficult situation, it is hard to speak to people but that is what helps. The more people who speak out, the more people can get help, and that’s great.

“Men in general hate speaking about their feelings. But footballers, or retired players such as Barry and Bob, are in a position where they are big names in Scotland. If they are willing to come forward and support things to get the message out there then people will take notice. The hard work being put in is great.”

In his professional sphere Adam wants to continue to work hard in his present posting to ensure that Stoke remains the Dundonian’s home beyond the end of his current deal next summer. The midfielder has been linked with a move back north, and his old club Rangers. Principally, it would seem, because such homeland moves for post-30-year-old Scotland internationals are all the talk with Christophe Berra expected to rejoin Hearts, Steven Naismith being touted for a Rangers return, and Shaun Maloney wanted by Aberdeen.

“It’s different situations,” Adam said. “With Christophe, I think his little daughter and family are up here. That’s a difficult situation to be in. My son is in Scotland but he is ten and we’ve been alright with that. For Christophe, Ipswich is a long way from Edinburgh.

“No, I am happy at Stoke but you never know what can happen in football. We’ll see what happens next season. Scotland is always an option but I am happy where I am. It is a great club with great people. I’m comfortable there. This is the second longest I have been at any club after Rangers. If I do get a new deal, it will be the longest. I feel appreciated there, but I would say that of every club I have been at. I love what I do. It’s fantastic. I want to play in the Premier League for as long as I can. Hopefully until I retire. But it is the club who will decide what happens.

“Listen, Rangers is a wonderful club and I had a great time there. I left because I felt it was right for my career and it has been. But the club still has 50,000 for every home game. The battle now is to try to close the gap and you’re going to have to improve on the players they have.

“It would be [a huge boost for Rangers to get someone like Naismith]. Let’s be honest, they need to improve on the players they have got and he’d be one who would improve them. But I think they need more than him.”