Updated: Friday, 29th May 2020 @ 6:20am

Interview: Former coach and manager Sean Rogers chats football and coronavirus... including mental health and games behind closed doors

Interview: Former coach and manager Sean Rogers chats football and coronavirus... including mental health and games behind closed doors

| By Jake Clay

During the uncertainty around football’s return in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, one group still working at home are the coaches and managers of teams across all levels of the sport. 

While footballers will have their lives at home coordinated by training programs, the managers have the pressures of planning ahead when football eventually continues. 

Sean Rogers managed Mold Alexandra FC to the 2013/2014 Welsh National League title as well as winning the 2014 President Cup winners. 

During his time as a manager, Rogers prioritised his player's mental health when they were away from the training pitch. 

This has coincided with Leading sports psychotherapist Gary Bloom calling on the football pyramid to “reach out” to their players and staff by increasing their psychological services.

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard is making regular checks on the mental well-being of his squad during the coronavirus crisis, as players up and down the country attempt to adjust to life without football.

“I think the top leaders will be focused mainly on the players' mental health at the moment and their own attitude.

“They're dealing with very young men who are now stuck at home while the rest of the country’s population jokes about drinking wine and eating every night.

“As much as you hate to think it, when you’re looking at the likely ratios that a lot of the players will have family members who will catch the virus, fingers crossed it is just minor symptoms and hopefully nothing worse.

“I have no doubt the players will have all the heart monitors back at home and I’d imagine they would have their own fitness programs at home and the club will have access to that data.

“I think the main thing they will be worried about is these young men’s mentality as they are spending a lot of time at home. It’s great they will spend time with their loved ones, but they may be single, unable to see their parents or grandparents or separated from their children even by country.

“Some of the players will have great family lives and statistics show some of them will have difficulties at home.

“You have clubs like Manchester United and Liverpool who are having 50 players on their books in the first team which is before you start wondering about how you're looking after you’re under 23s and 18s.

“There is a huge demand for them to be touching base with all the players and being there for them and trying to keep them positive in terms of what they can do to take their mentality and mindset onto another level.

“I have read books on a San Diego coach, who when they lose games the next day he wouldn’t bring them in to go through the game, he would bring them in to show them videos about human rights as it was an opportunity to broaden their minds.”

Players are not the only ones affected by the stoppage in the season as non-league clubs have suffered significantly: all football in England below three divisions (National league, league north, league south) that make up the national league has ceased, with all results being expunged. 

All “grassroots” divisions below these tiers have also finished, but it has still yet to be decided whether these seasons are to be voided.

'THREE CEOS IN A YEAR'

Jersey Bulls, who won all 27 of their matches, and Vauxhall Motors FC already secured promotion to step five of the non-league pyramids - all of which has been cancelled.

Northern Premier League Premier Division's Leaders South Shields FC were set for promotion to National League North with a 13-point gap to second.

Using his managerial experience, Rogers offered his views on whether the English elite clubs could do more to help non-league football. 

“Yes, of course, they could but it wouldn’t happen in a million years: the Premier League seems incapable of doing that as they have had three CEOs in a year.

“You got issues with all of the organisations putting the right people at the top of the tree but in Britain, I think it is mad how you have got a FA, a football league and a Premier League who all have competing interests.

“You get the impression that there is that much tension between them that they don’t want to work together, and it is a shame that someone cannot unite them and bring them together.

“It is shocking news, it's a disgrace that step three down every season has been null and void.

"You've got clubs that have won promotion that now have been taken off them which is incredibly unfair.

“It's unfair to look at the likes of some Premier League clubs, who are a lot smaller as they've got their own fires to fight within reason. Sadly, the more you will see the PL may decide it is not a good idea to travel overseas.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of managers said 'Let’s stay in the UK or Scotland and play more friendlies with lower league clubs'.

"That way, when the new season starts with stronger line ups it is not the PL kids going to the likes of Tranmere Rovers. 

“It would be nice to think of the big PL trying to help the little clubs, but the difficulty will be where do you draw the line? How far up the ladder do you go in terms of providing support"

"The best you can hope for is the top clubs helping as it suits their needs, but the by-product is that you get full houses.

“What would be a great thing to do is for smaller league clubs to set up friendlies with the top PL clubs for higher prices but actually the top clubs are underwriting the costs.”

'FEAR AND NERVES'

It is inevitable that the Premier League will look to play out the rest of the season behind closed doors as it remains unclear when it will be completely safe for football fans to gather at stadiums.

The question remains how this will impact footballers' mentality as they will be playing in an empty stadium without an atmosphere. 

“It is more of an individual thing.

“There will be some players who, without all that noise, feel like they have a better focus and it improves their concentration levels - if you think about some of the clubs fighting relegation they may or not have fan bases that can sense the concern and fear and a bit of nervousness comes in.

“When there are tensions, moans, and groans the atmosphere dips that little bit. I suspect it might affect the bigger clubs more because, if you're one of the smaller clubs coming up against clubs expected to beat you, the chances are they pick up on the nervousness and tension of the crowd.

“If you’re a club fighting for your life from relegation you don’t need the motivation from the crowd, but if you’re a mid table team and you’re playing behind closed doors it feels like pre season friendlies or exhibition games.

“Some players train much better than they play as they are playing without any pressure and some people need that, so it depends on the makeup of the dressing room. One of the big things is that it will be massive for the leadership in place at these clubs.

“A lot of the managers, with the science and data they've got now, will use them and none of these players are brand new. In the worst case, they worked with them the latest August or if they brought them in the January transfer window.

“A lot of it will depend on the pressure of getting the Premier League to get back up and running behind closed doors.

“If the Premier League decided the date to get up and running, they will have to tell the clubs there is a certain deadline for managers declaring their players fit.

“You would imagine the clubs would have some time to get their players back into the training ground because it’s interesting with the government’s advice that no club will do this because of the chaos it will cause.

“Hypothetically with the government saying if you need to travel to work and keep your social distancing you can. Clubs may take the view that it is morally right for our players to be driving into the training ground and for us to try and maintain the social distancing as they can.”