Dundee United boss Micky Mellon has opened up on his own mental health challenges and revealed he would have liked to have worked in that sector had he not been first a player then manager.
In a wide-ranging chat conducted by former Tannadice skipper Sean Dillon for the club’s DUTV, Mellon also talked about his new book and revealed a reason why he may be in trouble with the officials at the Old Course.
In this era of coronavirus, the pandemic has impacted many areas of our professional lives, one being maintaining a distance between interviewer and interviewee.
For example, whereas last season reporters had nice trips over to St Andrews to look forward to when covering United, nowadays you travel as far as Zoomland instead or snatch a minute or two of in-person discussion at the end of a game.
Through no fault of his own, Mellon has done much of his talking in cyberspace since taking charge of the Tangerines,
That was why it was so refreshing to see him open up so much in the video interview conducted by Dillon.
In an honest 70-minute exchange, Mellon offered his heartfelt thoughts on mental health; mentioned his new book entitled The First 100 Days: Lessons in Leadership from the Football Bosses; and laughed his way through a tale of ashes scattering that he joked could get him into trouble with the golfing powers-that-be.
In addressing mental well-being in football, Mellon revealed that if he were not employed in football he would have liked to have worked in that field.
He said: “I love helping people and also love psychology.
“As part of my learning, I have gone into a lot of situations like the one where I sponsor a footballer who is a recovering alcoholic – he is still an alcoholic.
“I go to the AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings with him as his sponsor, or I used to, and I have seen what these meetings can do.
“I have also been involved with psychologists, going to speak to them and finding out about what they do because I wanted to try and learn about that as much as possible.
“I wanted to help my own players and I have heard some unbelievable stories about players and hard times – going from one extreme to the other.
“So if I weren’t a football manager I would have liked to have been somebody who helped with mental health because I think that is massive in football at the moment and the world we live in.
“I would like to help people organise their thoughts because I have struggled with my mental health. Not in a way…I don’t know how you measure it.
“We are managers and we deal with ups and downs and all the rest of it,” added the United boss.
“I was, a few years ago, one of the first to say: ‘Just get on with it. Roll your sleeves up and crack on. What’s the matter with you? Get on with it!’
“What I did was recommend psychologists to players but I decided, a few years ago, to practise what you preach. Instead of thinking you can tell everyone else to go and speak to somebody, I asked myself: ‘Why don’t you do it?’
“So I went to see a club psychologist and it was the lightbulb moment of my life, I swear.
“It was the moment I got taught how to deal with and organise (my) thoughts.
“Although I understand you can’t just switch emotion on and off – if you are upset, you are upset – I now understand there is a process you can go through that helps you with those kind of things. It will clear.
“People talk about it being like waves but let the waves wash over you.
“Me, as the manager of Dundee United, I’m not remotely embarrassed to say that I speak to people about how I might be thinking about things.
“Don’t think you are too tough. Go and find someone who will help you organise your thoughts.”
Mellon has organised his own thoughts and those of other managers in his new book, revealing he finally decided to put it all together after discovering that his “dear friend” and former Burnley team-mate Lenny Johnrose had Motor Neurone Disease.
“It was an idea I had eight years ago and there has never been a book about the process a manager looking out for to try to be a success,” he said.
Walter Smith, Gordon Strachan, Mauricio Pochettino, Pep Guardiola, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Sam Allardyce, David Moyes, Sean Dyche and Shelley Kerr are among those who provide words of wisdom in the book.
Mellon said: “The book is not about me. I’m in it and I’ve written about my first 100 days at Dundee United but there is so much more to it than that.”
The United manager has set up home in St Andrews – the time it takes to eat a banana away from the club’s training centre, as he puts it.
He revealed that he had already had a “sad but happy” tale to tell about his time in the town.
Mellon said: “My wife’s dad Mike sadly passed away about a year ago.
“My wife (Jane) and him were as close as a dad and daughter can be. I also had a wonderful relationship with him and so did the kids – he was a fantastic grandad.
“He died very suddenly. In fact, my wife found him which was horrendous.
“That is the sad part of the story.
“He wanted to be cremated and that was done. About four months later, we had his ashes and were wondering what we were going to do with them.
“We came to Scotland and he was a mad golfer and we had thought about scattering them at his own course.
I’m sure my father-in-law would’ve been laughing about it and I do apologise to St Andrews.
“But we had moved to St Andrews, the home of golf.
“I do hope I don’t lose my membership over this but one Sunday I said to the missus: ‘Look, do you know what happens in St Andrews on a Sunday?’ She said that she didn’t.
“I said that you can go and walk on the Old Course.
“I said to her: ‘Being the good husband that I am, I have had a lightbulb moment and why don’t we put your dad’s ashes on the Old Course – the home of golf and the place where it started?’
“She said: ‘I can’t believe you said that – what a wonderful idea.’
“So we took the ashes and walked to the Swilcan Bridge. You know what it’s like there on a Sunday – everybody getting their pictures taken.
“There was somebody on it before me and I thought: ‘I’m next – happy days!’
“On I went with the bag of ashes but just as I was about to do it, out of the corner of my eye I saw the course marshal coming towards us in his buggy.
The Swilcan Bridge.
The most famous bridge in golf was built 700 years ago to help shepherds get livestock across. 🐄 pic.twitter.com/KYUBgRXKj6
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) October 8, 2016
“I don’t know if I am allowed to do it or not and before I know it he is right in front of me.
“He says: ‘Hello sir, do you want your picture taken?’ I am thinking no and that I just want him to go so I can scatter the ashes.
“My missus was crying and I think the marshal thought it was the emotion of being on the iconic Swilcan Bridge.
“I agreed to let him take the picture but as he was walking backwards with the camera, I emptied the ashes. The wind got up and blew them all over him. He just said ‘smile’ and took the picture!
“I’m sure my father-in-law would have been laughing about it and I do apologise to St Andrews.”