Ashley Cole: Players’ mental health benefits from listening and talking

Ashley Cole believes English football is producing better players now that  coaches are putting greater emphasis on mental health.

The England Under-21s assistant manager says the younger generation are more comfortable speaking about mental wellbeing and become better players for it.

Cole said: “If I go back to my situation [as a player], I was probably left in the lurch sometimes and didn’t feel comfortable speaking about my personal issues.

“But I feel these players are really open and engaging with that. It’s a good thing that players have come out of their shell and are willing to talk and listen because I feel we’re producing better players from that now.”

Former Arsenal and Chelsea defender Cole, 40, who made 107 appearances for England before retiring as a player in 2019, was speaking before the Young Lions’ friendly in Georgia on Tuesday.

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He has been in his current England role since July, when Lee Carsley succeeded Aidy Boothroyd as the Young Lions’ head coach.

“For me, I want to know the person before the player,” he said. “I really think it’s very important you get to understand the individual.

“What makes him tick? What makes him the best that he can be? That’s very important. Maybe in my day it was more about what you did on the pitch and the mental health side of a player was probably disregarded a bit.

“But now it’s vitally important that there’s so much support around the mental health side and also understanding the person is a must.

“I think this is why I got this job and why I love it so much. I really engage with the players and know what makes them tick on a daily basis.”

Cole said it was right to question whether there were enough opportunities for black managers in the game and that he was determined to reach the highest level as a coach.

He cited Carlo Ancelotti, Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger as the best coaches he had played under.

Cole added: “I would love to take – and I spoke about  getting to know the person – Carlo Ancelotti’s man-management was key.

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“He made you feel very safe and was very approachable and that brought out the best in me.

“In terms of the tactical aspect, Jose Mourinho, in terms of the detail and due diligence.

“He had amazing game-plans and I would take Arsene Wenger because at times he let the game be the teacher.

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“From my perspective I was a raw 19-year-old, but he let me play. I made a lot of mistakes in my early career and he never took me out of the team.

“So if I could take all those three together and squash them into one, hopefully that can be me. Very difficult and tough. High standard that, isn’t it?”

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