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West Ham star Robert Snodgrass on how his lockdown podcast is taking the fight to mental illness

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Life in lockdown has brought an array of issues to day-to-day life, from the most trivial to some far darker challenges, but it has also presented the time and opportunity for people to take action and explore things they never would have done before.

West Ham's Robert Snodgrass is no different. The midfielder, who was enjoying some fine personal form before the lockdown hit, has taken it upon himself to address the issue of mental health, something which has long been a problem but has only been brought into sharper focus during this crisis.

Last month the 32-year-old launched his own podcast alongside former Scotland international, Kris Boyd. The Lockdown Tactics aims to guide listeners through their isolation and any mental challenges with a healthy dose of laughter and insight from some big names along the way.

Figures released last month showed that depression and anxiety within professional football has risen during the lockdown, but those issues won't be limited to sport. This week is Mental Health Awareness week in the UK and Snodgrass and Boyd will be there to support listeners through their show and Boyd's charity.

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"Right now there is no script, it is you finding your own routine in the home and sticking to the guidelines," says Snodgrass. "It is difficult in terms of trying to do different things and approach it every day.

"Sometimes it is too much for me so I'll pick up the phone and have a chat to my mates or sit and have a tea with the missus.

"[At West Ham] we've got Aaron Cresswell, Nobes [Mark Noble] and David Martin, we have got a good bunch who sit and have a coffee after training, we have a chat about how we're getting on. That side has been hard, missing your team-mates, going in with them every day."

The draw of the Premier League means Snodgrass and his guests can reach an audience that perhaps would never have considered facing up to mental health issues before. That platform and reach inspired the former Norwich and Aston Villa man to agree to setting up the podcast with close friend Boyd, whose younger brother Scott took his own life in 2016, aged 17. Boyd has since setup the Kris Boyd Charity to support those struggling with mental health issues.

“I thought to myself there is something that needs to be done here and we wanted to make a difference," Boyd said on a recent episode.

The Lockdown Tactics: Snodgrass has launched his own podcast alongside Kris Boyd

"I’d do anything in the world to have him back. The most important thing is that we keep going because I don’t want anyone to go through what we’ve all been through. We’re helping. I’m not saying we have a cure but I know we are helping people.

“There is loads that can still be done. There is a lot of focus on the virus but as we come out of this there needs to be a lot of focus on the mental health aspect.

“When we come out of lockdown a lot of people will be looking for help and it’s important that help is there.

“That’s why our podcast is doing very well and we’ve had such positive feedback.”

Snodgrass adds: "I have got a great chance to try and make a change. I have got a voice and an opinion. It is not for everybody but the podcast is there, we want to be the go to place in sport to get that message out there, get people on to tell us their sacrifices and their highs but also the lows as well."

The midfielder hopes that listeners will be encouraged to talk themselves having heard how he himself struggled mentally during a 16-month recovery from a serious knee injury at Hull City. Fans of the show have also heard an impressive guest-list including Danny Rose, Tyson Fury, Jack Wilshere, Darren Fletcher and John Terry (below) open up on their battles with repeated injuries, serious illness or the pressures of captaining club and country.

"The biggest challenge is facing [up to the fact] that you are struggling and then talking. If we can use the platform to show that we are used as role models but people will think: 'Well if he's struggling it is okay for me to struggle'.

"We're trying to create a message but not by just saying it and trying to be right in people's faces with mental health. We are trying to do it in a fun, staying active and educated way in terms of getting out and staying active."

That light-hearted side of the podcast has not only made for entertaining listening, but has seen the likes of Champions League winner Andy Robertson and West Ham's Declan Rice join in, setting their own challenges.

Listeners have been setting their own tasks too, with Snodgrass's friend and Stenhousemuir midfielder, Scott McLaughlin, even running a marathon with six days’ notice to raise funds for Boyd's charity.

(PA)

Snodgrass has been giving each and every challenge a go, but is facing perhaps more pressing ones in home-schooling his three children and teaching his parents how to use Zoom - "all I can see is my Dad's nose!"

The Scot has been appointed de facto head of maths in his household, but saw his teaching talent questioned by manager David Moyes.

"I don't know who is schooling who," Moyes said. Snodgrass did concede there have been limits: "The little one had no interest in joining her Zs to her Ys and I was pleading: 'help me out, here's a Nutella bar, don't tell your mum!'"

Once he is finished grappling with the curriculum, Snodgrass had his own homework to complete. West Ham provided all players with their own individual programmes while working from home, before their return to Rush Green this week.

Throughout the lockdown West Ham players have had constant support from a number of staff as well as access to a club psychologist. Before returning to the training ground this week, managers and coaches remained in constant contact through WhatsApp and Zoom calls. But nothing can replace the normal rhythm and camaraderie of football.

“We’re all missing it," he says. "It is very difficult but this is life or death, it is so important that we realise we need to stick to guidelines and that mentally we’re ready to go back.”




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