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Bowler Ryan Sidebottom shares mental health problems

Ryan Sidebottom
Ryan Sidebottom Image credit: smoothradio.com

Former England bowler Ryan Sidebottom has spoken candidly about his mental health problems he has suffered since retiring at the end of the 2017 season.

Sidebottom was part of England’s T20 World Cup winning team in 2010 and won the County Championship five times.

But after stepping down from the sport he told the BBC Sports Desk podcast there has been “a huge void” in his life.

"I had days where there was massive self-sabotage," he said. "I would dwell on the past, worry about the future.”

The 44-year-old faces concern on how he will afford a livelihood and protect his family without a regular income.

"I'd worry about my children, money," he said. "How am I going to pay the mortgage? How am I going to house my wife, my children? What's my next step in life?

"And I'd have days where I would just be angry, agitated. That would have been in the morning and then in the afternoon I'd be really emotional and I wouldn't know why.

"I'd be frustrated with my wife, frustrated internally, and I'd have lots of horrible feelings. I wasn't sleeping very well because of every negative thought about the past, the future."

Noticing his mental health was deteriorating Sidebottom has received support and opened up about his worries to friends who felt lost after retiring from sport or being made redundant.

"They've really struggled mentally and it's nice that I can speak about it and put it out there and say, 'look, it's OK not to be OK'," he added.

"Talking really, really helps. I've been very fortunate to have my wife and some very close friends who have really helped me through those dark days and those horrible feelings, just to talk things through and get it off my chest."

Former Wales football player Hal Robson Kanu can relate to Sidebottom’s story, he launched his own business making turmeric shots after his retirement, but feels there should be more support for athletes when they step down from the game.

"There is little infrastructure offered to players and to backroom staff," Kanu said. "The support structures need a systemic change.

"Whether that's the FA (Football Association), the PFA (Professional Footballers' Association), the Premier League - these bodies really need to understand the importance of mental well-being and the emotional side of the game because there's massive pressures in sport and also in society too."

Former Leicester and England rugby player Leon Lloyd co-founded Switch the Play, a charity supporting athletes when they retire.

"Transition out of sport should be talked about as soon as you are going into sport because it's definitely going to happen," he said.

"The more things you can put in place to help that cliff edge just be a small downward slope, the better off you will be. It's impossible to replicate the feeling of running out in a big stadium. It's about finding things to fill those voids."

Ryan Sidebottom played in 65 international cricket matches between 2001 and 2010.