‘Utter despair’: Ex-Norwich City winger Adrian Forbes reveals his battle with depression
PUBLISHED: 14:05 09 November 2017 | UPDATED: 15:56 09 November 2017
Adrian Forbes has today become the latest former Norwich City footballer to reveal his battle with depression, which he said left him in “utter despair”.
The popular winger, who is the Carrow Road stadium announcer at home matches, follows in the footsteps of Darren Eadie, Leon McKenzie and Cedric Anselin in making his struggles public.
Tomorrow he will open up about depression at a business breakfast to raise money for Norfolk Paralympic swimmer Jessica-Jane Applegate.
Speaking ahead of the event Forbes, 38, told how he felt “lost and forgotten” when his football career came to an end, and that depression threatened to consume him.
He said: “At 32, I faced the situation where I’d had nine operations on one knee, and just couldn’t carry on as a player – something I’d done for 20 years.
“I fell into depression and utter despair, because I just didn’t know what to do. I’d arrived here in Norwich, from a tough part of North West London, when I was just 15, so I’d made this region my life, and my sport was everything.”
He said it was the business community of East Anglia which proved to be his saviour - which is why he said he was anxious to encourage more businesses to support footballers and other sporting young people.
“In the end, I was so very fortunate, because businesses came forward to signpost me, and I ended up engaged with the Community Sports Foundation (the registered Norwich City Football Club Charity),” he said.
“As a result of that I was put forward for the Premier League Elite Coaches Apprenticeship Scheme, and eventually I found myself getting one of the two funded places for BAME (Black Asian and Minority Ethnic) coaches.
“In just a few weeks’ time I’ll now graduate with my diploma, and I have two years of superb work ahead of me, implementing my learning – and hopefully getting closer to taking on a coaching position for a club here or abroad.”
He added: “For me, those steps just wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t been supported and championed by businesses and organisations who wanted to make sure my skills were deployed in the right way after my initial sporting career was at an end.”
The prevalence of mental ill health in sport has been in the spotlight in recent years, prompting research by mental health charity Mind.
Stephen Buckley, head of information at Mind, said: “Footballers experience a unique set of mental health pressures in their jobs from scoring goals and winning trophies, to facing media scrutiny and meeting the high expectations of fans.
“Approaching retirement is a particularly challenging time for most sportspeople who have spent their entire lives being defined as athletes.
“Mind’s report Performance Matters: Mental health in Elite Sports shows there is more to do to proactively support professional sportspeople at key transition points such as entering professional sport and signing their first contract, to long term injury and retirement.”
“While many people from the world of sport have already made a difference by speaking out, it is key that they receive support from the sector to tackle the broader stigma around mental health in sport.”
Forbes added: “My greatest plea – and something I’ll be emphasising at the Jessica-Jane fundraising breakfast event, is that the business community really have to understand what a part they can play in making sure athletes fulfil their potential in life, whether their initial sport career goes all the way or not.
“A business person might be able to offer mentoring, an apprenticeship role for someone who can no longer play, or volunteer to teach our footballers and athletes in skills that are really pertinent to today’s professional world.”
His comments come at a time when the international stage is discussing BAME coaches in great detail.
UK Athletics this week unveiled a new photographic exhibition to show the significant contribution made by black and minority ethic coaches in sport. It runs from this month until April 2018.
Forbes said: “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t ever wrestle with the idea that I was initially given a specific BAME coach place because of the colour of my skin, but I’m also self-aware enough to know that I only have that place because I’m an exceptional coach who is extremely committed to what I do.
“I can’t wait to see where this next chapter will take me, and every day I thank the business people of East Anglia who supported me and ensured that this has been possible for me.”
Forbes played 131 times for Norwich between 1996-2001, before moving to Luton, Swansea, Blackpool, Millwall, Grimsby and Lowestoft.
■ For more information about the breakfast event, email firstname.lastname@example.org.