Football academies recruit thousands of young hopefuls every year. Most of them, won’t make it.

This is the tragic story of Jeremy Wisten, a former Manchester City youth player who, following an injury and subsequent release from the team, committed suicide on October 24, 2020. He had just turned eighteen.

Diving Deeper

Jeremy joined Manchester City aged 13 wanting to emulate his idol, Manchester City legend, Vincent Kompany. Jeremy was a bright young man who was described as a ‘talented, mature and hard-working’ player. However, things began to go downhill when he sustained a ligament injury in his knee, which saw him sidelined for five months and shattered his hopes of a scholarship with the club. Jeremy’s father, Manila, stated that Jeremy ‘personally did not believe he was receiving the right support at Manchester City to find a new club’. According to Mr Wisten, Man City assured them that matches would be arranged where clubs could come and watch Jeremy play, but these never occurred.

Football Academies’ Success Rate

Jeremy’s tragic case points to a wider discussion about mental health support for football academy hopefuls and men’s mental health in general.

Put yourself in these boys’ shoes. From ages as young as nine they believe they will achieve every young child’s dream. And now imagine that by 21 your dream comes crashing down as you’re told that you’re not good enough. Some of course will have a backup plan. But the pain of being ‘let go’ will linger and can affect some more severely than others.

According to statistics, less than 0.5 per cent of 9-year-olds enrolled in a football academy will make it professionally, or make a living from the game. That’s a great deal of pressure on a 9-year-old. The top academies are only required to have one safeguarding officer responsible for hundreds of players. In a category two academy, an officer only needs to be present part-time. Below that, it’s up to the club’s discretion whether or not to have a safeguarding officer at all.

Max Noble used to play for Fulham and trained with a first-team at the age of 15 when Fulham was an established Premier League club. He was diagnosed with Osgood-Schlatter disease which causes intense pain in the kneecap that ultimately bottlenecked his career. A 2021 interview details Noble’s traumatic experience with self-harm, suicide attempts, and the countless people he knows who have experienced the same thing. Because of the impossible dream kids are sold, he reveals that being a football player ‘nearly killed me’.

Breaking the Mental Health Taboo

According to Mind, 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. An additional 1 in 5 will have suicidal thoughts, 1 in 14  will self-harm, and men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women.

There are many reasons for why people, especially men, find it difficult to open up about their struggles with mental health. Recently, there have been some important campaigns such as the EFL partnership with Mind the Mental Health charity, or the Premier League Heads Up campaign. Their key message is that it is important to talk to someone; anyone, really.

If you wish to speak with someone anonymously, here are the numbers:

  • Samaritans: 116 123 24/7. Or: SMS SHOUT to 85258
  • CALM Helpline: 0800 58 58 58, from 5 pm to Midnight.
  • Papyrus (for people under 35): 0800 068 41 41, from 9 am to Midnight every day.
  • Childline (for 19 and under): 0800 1111
  • Silence of Suicide (for everyone): 0300 1020 505. Or email:

Much more needs to be done to prevent cases like Jeremy Wisten’s. The best way to honour his memory is to start implementing serious changes in the running of football academies to protect the minds of vulnerable young people.

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