Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughGary Speed and the after-effects, the dignity of football fans - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Gary Speed and the after-effects, the dignity of football fans - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Gary Speed and the after-effects, the dignity of football fans

The idiom goes that “prevention is better than cure” but what the saying doesn’t consider is the unfortunate factors that characterise the clamour to spread the gospel of prevention. That’s one of the reasons “every cloud has a silver lining” was promoted from mere sentence to fully fledged clichéd idiom.

This past week can be seen as another example of these two bedfellows re-emerging in the aftermath of the truly shocking and heartbreakingly surprising news about Gary Speed’s suicide.

Now, the issue of depression in football has been covered on this site before, once by myself with reference to Robert Enke and a wonderful piece by Ben McAleer in the immediate aftermath of the Speed news. From both of these pieces, it is clear to see that depression in football should be a larger issue than it currently is.

At this point it is prudent to point out that the exact cause of Speed’s death is not clear and depression may not be the reason for him to take his own life so tragically on Sunday.

However, whatever the reason is, the effects that his passing have produced on the footballing community are hugely important as football in this country appears to be facing up to the illness.

Just in the past week, the Sporting Chance clinic, which deals with depression and addiction in sportspeople, has already received ten phone calls from footballers. Meanwhile, the PFA is to release 50,000 copies of it’s “The Footballer’s Guidebook” which has information, advice, contact numbers and case studies on depression. The booklet is available to both current and ex-players but as the author, Susannah Strong states; “Our booklet is a start but there’s much to be done. The thing now is about prevention. It needs to be ok to talk about mental health”.

If Speed’s passing could indeed have been prevented by an institution like the Sporting Chance clinic or the PFA’s support system, that is a real tragedy as it would hint that footballers either did not know the services are there or are reluctant to open up about mental health (again, it should be stressed, this is still speculation).

However, if the weekend’s heartbreaking events of a man in his prime and on the up, at least footballing wise, can prevent more cases like this happening in the future, there will be an element of a positivity. But, as always with the silver lining, why must there have been a cloud in the first place to initiate it?

One final thought on the Speed story. With disappointing stories of football “fans” sinking back into the 1970s with semi-racist chanting and abusive Twitter messages to footballers, it is always refreshing to see the good side of football supporters coming through.

At times of tragedy, football fans shine through with their own personal marks of respect. Whether it was the spontaneous applause and chanting raising up from the minute’s silence at Swansea, the Leeds’ fans chanting for 11 minutes from the 11th minute of their game at Forest or the impeccably observed minute’s silence/applause up and down the country, football fans once again showed their class and dignity.

Finally, more tales of dodgy ownership from the returning soap opera that is Portsmouth Football Club with their owner Vladimir Antonov stepping down as Chairman after the club’s parent company entered administration and Antonov himself appeared in court in Lithuania for asset stripping.

The whole tale has once again called into question the effect the Fit and Proper Persons Test has on gauging whether an investor is suitable to own a football club. As the BBC’s Matt Slater superbly illustrates, Antonov’s credentials were hardly glimmering in the first place when he took over Portsmouth in June of this year.

The ease with which it appears for anybody to get through the Fit and Proper Person’s Test is a serious worry for any football fan who’s club is up for sale as the continuing case of Portsmouth so cruelly shows.

Dan Whiteway tweets on the subject of just about everything over here and blogs on sport and TV and junk here

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