Brechin goalkeeper Paddy O’Neil has pleaded with fellow footballers not to suffer in silence – and urged them to pick up the phone if they’re struggling during lower league shutdown.
The 28-year-old admits the three-week postponement of League One and League Two is a huge blow for players’ mental health.
He knows these three weeks could end up feeling like an eternity so has called on anyone finding it hard just to give him a buzz.
‘It’s so important that nobody suffers alone’
O’Neil said: “These are dark days.
“This news will obviously have come as a massive blow to so many players in the lower divisions who just live for the game.
“We understand the reasons behind the decision but it still doesn’t make it any easier for a lot of boys.
“They will be missing not just what they love doing most, football, but the camaraderie and support network that football offers.
“It’s so important that nobody suffers alone. Personally, I would urge anyone not to think twice about picking up the phone.
“I’d be happy to speak about anything. It’s something I’m so passionate about to help people who might be struggling.
“Sometimes you have to talk. From my perspective, nothing would be a hassle.
“To be honest, it can make such a difference just having a simple chat.
“I know that better than anyone after what my own family have had to come through following my dad’s death.
“The PFA are providing a really good service as well. As long as people know there’s someone to turn to, that’s the main thing.”
O’Neil, who’s been comforting his mother Patricia in recent weeks, has insisted football helped him get back on his feet following his father’s death.
‘Football gave me a new focus’
He added: “Getting back to football and having the support of my team-mates as well as the wider football world helped me tremendously.
“It gave me a new focus and just gave me a different space to put my head twice a week for training – followed by match-day on the Saturday.
“So to have it taken away just like that is hard. And I think it might be harder this time round because it’s January.
“The nights are longer with not a lot to do so that can bring its own challenges.
“I’m sure others will be feeling exactly the same. Some guys might have lifestyle issues, employment or finance problems to contend with so soon after Christmas.
“Many could have lost their jobs and be really worried about the future which is understandable.
“Who knows when our season will restart? I don’t think there are any guarantees about anything right now.
“But if we all try and stick together as much as possible it can help tackle this massive problem.”