AN EX-ACADEMY football player from Whitchurch has featured in a new documentary looking at the mental health struggles of de-selected players.

Richard Wilkinson was a former player in Stoke City's academy, but he was de-selected at the age of 17 and has since then run a photography business and also works as counsellor.

He features in 'Sidelined', an online documentary by production company Ben & Jack Studio, which investigates the impact on players who have been released from a football academy or club through deselection, injury or retirement.

Richard said: "On the back of my two published articles on mental health support for deselected, injured and retired football players, Ben & Jack Studio approached me to participate in a documentary to raise awareness around this unsupported area.

"Sidelined gives insight into the devastating reality of being released from a football academy or club through deselection, injury or retirement.


"Inspiring real-life encounters shows how these individuals can use their experiences to find new identities after exiting the game.

"Ninty-nine per cent of players do not make it so this is a huge issue."

The former Stoke academy player spoke about how his football career came to an abrupt end and how there was no help for him to find another path.

He said: "I thought I was going to make it.

"When I didn't, I received a letter through the post. The letter said that I wasn't required back for the next season and wished me good luck."

Whitchurch Herald:

Richard added: "After I received the letter I tried to bury the emotion. I tried to get on with everything.

"It was emotion which I can't quite explain. I just knew that I could not manage it at that age.

"I had to shut it down and push it away and try and get on with things."

The former academy player moved to Whitchurch shortly after being released from Stoke City and needed to find a new path.

He said: "It was difficult when we first came. I was still processing the change of town and people and I had to find a new area of work.

"I ended up starting my own photography business and have been doing it alongside counselling."

Richard continues to help people like himself via the Sporting Chance charity, which was founded by Arsenal legend Tony Adams to help sportsmen with their mental health.

You can watch Sidelined via by clicking here.