Reid ‘just had to’ make move into counselling

Steven Reid was assistant coach at Nottingham Forest for two years before he left in July

Earlier this summer, former Millwall, Blackburn Rovers and West Bromwich Albion defender Steven Reid left his job.

The 41-year-old had been working as assistant to Steve Cooper at Nottingham Forest, but following a two-year stint with the club, he decided to leave.

The reason? To draw upon his own experience of mental health struggles and take on a role offering support to players around mental well-being, confidence, and leadership.

Reid is currently working towards his qualifications and hopes to be fully qualified in three years.

He spoke to BBC Radio Lancashire about his experiences and why he has chosen this career path.

‘The jump to the Premier League magnified my struggles’

Reid began his career with Millwall, progressing to the Lions’ first team and making more than 150 appearances during six years with the club.

It was at this time that Reid won his first cap for the Republic of Ireland before he went on to join then-Premier League side Blackburn Rovers in the summer of 2003.

The pressure that came with the move to the top flight – and sharing dressing rooms at club and international level with players such as Andrew Cole, Dwight Yorke, Roy Keane and Robbie Keane – exacerbated some of the struggles Reid had already been facing from a young age.

“I had issues with mental health challenges – anxiety, stress – and I was always a bit of a worrier when I was a kid at secondary school,” he said.

“Even on my debut for Millwall and the Republic of Ireland. It took me a long time to feel comfortable in that Ireland squad.

“When you jump to the Premier League, it jumped to another level of imposter syndrome and fitting in in a dressing room that had some of the best players to ever play in the league, some of the top names.

“I did struggle. The issues were already there but the jump in levels and spotlight just magnifies them.”

Steven Reid made a total of 166 appearances for Millwall before leaving to join Blackburn Rovers in 2003
Steven Reid made a total of 166 appearances for Millwall before leaving to join Blackburn Rovers in 2003

‘I wanted my career to be over’

Despite a long and successful career, both in domestic and international football, Reid continued to struggle and even wanted it to come to an end.

However, he has since reflected on the more difficult moments while he was playing and has better understood what he was going through as well as crediting himself with how he coped.

“A couple of times during my career, as bad as it sounds, I couldn’t wait for it to be over. I was even having thoughts like that as a young player, almost wanting to get to the end straight away,” Reid said.

“But do you know what? Over the past couple of years or so, I’ve patted myself on the back a lot more. I’ve always found that difficult to do and take praise.”

Reid has drawn upon these experiences during his coaching career where, most recently, he helped guide Nottingham Forest to the Premier League as part of Steve Cooper’s backroom staff before his exit this summer.

He continued: “I’ve looked back at some of the memories and experiences I’ve had and what I did as a player.

“Then to do it as a coach, whilst going through the issues I’ve faced, it’s difficult to know how I did it. At the same time I’m actually proud of what I’ve achieved in football so far.”

No regrets about taking a new career path

Steven Reid won 23 senior caps for the Republic of Ireland between 2001 and 2008
Steven Reid won 23 senior caps for the Republic of Ireland between 2001 and 2008

Having stepped away from football in the summer to help with footballers’ wellbeing, ending his long association with the game, you would be forgiven for assuming Reid may have felt some trepidation or regret.

Speaking to BBC Radio Lancashire before World Mental Health Day,external-link however, Reid says that he is sure he made the right decision.

“I had a couple of offers to become a manager within the English Football League – some decent clubs – but I just think I had to do this,” he said.

“It’s just something I had to explore a little bit more: about myself, about the journey I’m going into, learn a bit more about it, take the next level of qualifications and see where it leads a little bit more.”

Reid first made moves to enter the world of counselling after leaving a coaching role at Crystal Palace, but he was quickly drawn back into football.

“When I made the first jump when I left Crystal Palace, it was all a little bit vague. A few rumours were flying about which happens when there’s no real definitive statement or answer, people jump to conclusions,” he added.

“But it was effectively this I’m doing now but without a plan and committing to it. Then the phone rings a couple of months later asking if I fancy [another job in football].

“You’re back on the grass but this time I said I’m just going to be totally honest with what the journey looks like, why I’m stepping away from it, the challenges I’ve faced and, in a way, I’m quite proud of doing that.

“I’ve questioned it when watching a game or when results come in but I’ve not sat there and gone ‘I’ve made a terrible decision doing what I’ve done in the summer’.”

If you have been affected by issues raised in this story, there is information and support available on BBC Action Line.

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