There is a serious reason why Arsenal’s FA Cup tie kicks of at 19.56 precisely

Monday’s FA Cup tie against Leeds

Why is that, you may well ask… and here is the answer as announced by the FA:

It appears that depression is a growing problem, especially amongst men of all ages, so where better to think about it than at a football match. One ex-Arsenal player that has suffered more than most is Paul Merson, who has been fighting his demons for decades and has publicly opened up about it in his column for the Daily Star….

On Monday I’ll have been sober for a year. But this time last year, I wanted to kill myself.

I couldn’t go on any more. I just couldn’t see a way out. I had the tablets in my hand. I didn’t take enough to do anything but I had them there. With vodka. It was scary.

It was only because of the kids really, and my wife, and a little bit of consciousness, that I didn’t.

Fear probably as well. I was scared to do it. When you’re in that place, you don’t see how it’s ever going to pass. But I have the tools now. If I get into a real down situation, I know it will pass.

So when I see this weekend’s FA Cup games kicking off a minute later to raise awareness for mental health I will remember that time when things got dark and think: ‘Thank god that’s not how I feel any more.’

I’m telling you this because I hope it helps someone. If even one person reads this and it helps them, then it will be worth it.

I don’t want to kill myself any more. I don’t have those thoughts. I’m not carrying the world on my shoulders. Walking around with guilt.

I’m not beating myself up, drinking and gambling all the time and asking why I’m doing this to myself.

It’s only now I know. I have an illness. I have a mental illness. I’ve accepted that now. Before, I used to beat myself up all the time.

It must have taken a lot out of Merson to open up about this so publicly, and maybe we should all look around and see if all our mates are really okay, or just putting up a front because they are scared of looking weak or losing face.

Maybe this weekend is the time to ask your friends if everything is okay?


  1. This welcome airing of mental health issues would have been widely laughed at only a few years ago. The fact that it is now widely welcomed, shows how far we have gone as a society in gaining some measure of perspective as to where our true priorities as humans should lie. At times like this we see how far down the list of true priorities merely winning football matches actually lies. I HOPE AND BELIEVE THST MANY FANS WHO WATCH AND WHO ATTEND MATCHES WILL NOW GIVE FURTHER THOUGHT TO THIS VITAL ISSUE.

    1. Thanks Jon.
      As someone who has suffered depression for many years due to chronic pain, the kind of depression that is difficult to fully cure, I appreciate your thoughts.
      And, like LeCoq says below, it’s still uncomfortable for many people to even hear it while they have no problem you mentioning you have a problem in muscles, bones, or joints.
      But as you say, there’s been much progress in the last 10 years…

  2. 👍👍 A problem shared is a problem halved. Totally behind this! I’ve suffered and a close friend and former work colleague of mine are no longer with us, due to depression 😢
    Don’t suffer in silence.

  3. Well said Jon and Sue.

    It would be a lot easier if people could get their head around that Mental Health is as it says, a health problem, an illness as much as a broken leg is an health/illness issue!
    It`s a lot easier to fix a broken bone!
    Mental health can effect anyone of us and at any time, lets be kind to each other!……………….obviously apart from any Spuds!

    1. Le Coq, While agreeing with your theme I would say that good mental health is about many issues and being kind to other fans is jut one aspect. It is ALSO IMPORTANT TO BE HONEST AND TRUE TO YOUR OWN BELIEFS AND NOT TO DUCK ISSUES, NOR TO PRETEND ISSUES ARE NOT THERE AND SO TO IGNORE THAM. WE NEED TOTAL TRUTH, ADMITTEDLY AT TIMES, WITH A GREAT DEAL OF TACT. BUT TRUTH IS VITAL! Both spoken and written truth!

  4. Just type depression in the search engine and you will see a number of practical tools to help you fight this monster. The site is jw dot org (options in over 1000 different languages).

    1. Yes, Le Coq an inappropriate comment about a very serious subject that transcends football rivalries.
      My best mate has been in hospital with serious depression since before Christmas. I feel helpless because his wife has said he can’t have visitors, so I can’t see him to give him support.

      1. I will never apollogise for having a sense of humour. I know the seriousness of mental health and depression, it`s a shame you are blind to the first part of my comment…………..have you heard of comic relief?……… way to escape the realities of every day life and another is a charity which raises millions for child poverty/hunger across the world, I suppose some people were against Comic Relief when it first come out for comedy raising money for such a serious thing.

        I could say that the spuds were the main reason why I was depressed last season when the thought of them winning the CL was worrying the life out of me, but would you believe me or think that I was being humourous!

      2. OZZIE, an unfair attack on a fine man in Le Coq who is well known and welcome on this fine site for having an off beat sense of humour. His post was a sensible one with some welcome banter, not insensitivty though, not at all, at the every end. Compassionate and well adjusted folk are allowed to have a sense of humour. Pity some don’t realise this though! No oe was or is making fun of depression and as you, sadly,
        outline it is far more common than most USED to realise. Thanks to the welcome openness so common today, esp in the younger generation more than in my older generation(I generalise obviously, though perhaps I SHOULD NOT), most of us are more informed and in tune with the awfulness of “BLACK DOG” these more enlightend days. But a witty remark, fully put in persective as it was, should never be outlawed. THAT WAY REAL DANGER TO HUMANITY AND TO OUR OWN SENSE OF WORTH LIES. PLEASE RECONSIDER OZZIE. If we cannot laugh at our own weaknesses -and by “our own” I of course mean humanity, then we are in trouble. That is just my own take but I much doubt I am alone. Far from alone I’d suggest!

    2. They are the enemy to me!………….you can read my reply to ozziegunner, but to add………………… many spud fans would have been depressed by years of Arsenal humiliation and dominination ?…………….should we have stopped taunting them?……should we have stopped loving it that they were depressed by our success ?……….why not stop watching and supporting our club altogether if it has such an effect on another human !
      Yoyu and Ozzzie gooner can blame my sense of humour for the cause of depression to spuds or you can both look in the mirror and see the reflection of someone who has made a silly remark without thinking it through and being to quick to criticise!

  5. as somebody who suffers from depression, on and off, for many years, i really welcome any action which highlights this monster of an illness.i do not wish to go into my own life with the constant struggle of depression, but i have always found, that , speaking , to anybody, about the illness certainally has helped me in the past. too many people out there suffer in silence and are embarrassed about their condition. i suppose i am one of the lucky ones who is not afraid to talk about this, and ive never been afraid to speak out about it .the more we talk about this the more that people will become aware of this , and the more help it will be to sufferers of mental health issues. for me the minute that the games will start late could potentially save many lives because of awareness, great idea.

      1. hi OZZIEGUNNER, many thanks my friend. it seems to be under control for the past couple of years, but you just never know. and thats the sad part.

        1. Keep your chin up, gerry! I always worry mine will return.. but thankfully I’ve been ‘ok’ for many years now!
          Nobody knows what it’s like until they experience it themselves…horrible, dark days, as I call them!

          1. thank you kindly SUE, it is a dreadful illness, as you know. i am hoping beyond hope that i have banished the dark days for ever now. i guess i will never know if i have until it returns, hopefully never. good luck with yours also. to talk about this is such a relief, my wish is that more and more people would come out and talk about it .

    1. I too have depression and you are so right my friend – talk to somebody – friend, family, health professional, sometimes a stranger – it helps. Bell Canada has sponsored an ad campaign called “Let’s Talk” based around some former olympians, athletes talking about mental health.

      The flip side, at least here in Canada, is that while we have gotten a lot better about talking and encouraging people to get help, the professional resources can’t keep up. A bit of a dilemma.

  6. This is one of the reasons I find calling any of our players “mentally frail” more abhorrent than any other insult aimed at them.

    I remember per mertesacker coming out and describing his feelings of anxiety before a match and how it affected him – met with a hostile reaction by some and questioning the club “wasting money on him” and “how could he be a captain, if he was so weak?”

    I’m not sure what the delay to the kick off will achieve, perhaps a better example would be for the FA to donate money from it’s ever expanding coffers to ensure something of substance is achieved permanently – such as dedicated sites across the country with professional people staffing it, maybe based at every premier league club for example?

    If they REALLY want to bring this problem to the fore, they should be setting the example by their own actions.
    At least, they have taken some kind of action though, I agree and welcome it.

      1. gerry, having been very fortunate NOT to have suffered this illness, it might just give me a more open view on what I see as “lip service” from those organizations and individuals who could actually do something about it.

        Our society is so unbalanced with regards to wealth and fairness and we consider ourselves as a just society!!!

        I hope yo continue to hold this dark illness at bay, good luck to you, Sue and all the others who have to live with it.

    1. Good perspective KEN. I suspect that the one minute delay is little more than virtue signalling and a better way would be to have a halftime(and before too) matchday screening with such as the Ex Chairmanof the PFA, whose name I cannot recall just now, but who most fans will recognise and who has made touching documentaries about his own personal probems with depression. Fans need real INFO, rather than virtue signalling but I suppose even that is a smallstep in the right direction. But football could easily DO SO MUCH MORE AND IT SHOULD TOO.

      On thr mentaly frail jibe though I do rather take issue, as players need to be mentally tough enough to play at their best. Top level sport is an unforgiving game and it could well be argued, on a far deeper analysis of the whole business of playing top level team sport in general, that much of it is in fact merciless, even cruel. I would indeed argue that,in some ways but also I remind myself that life itself is unfair and will remain so while humans run the planet. That is surely only being realistic but that begs the wider question, which is should we ban all competions and team sports? I am firmly in the NO camp but sensitivity, with PROPER PERESPECTIVE THOUGH, is always necessary.

      I’d love your further thoughts and wish, in one way, that this site allowed much more about real human discussion. But I also see why they limit it, as there are many other sites for those who wish to use them. Better still, many excellent books and magazines witht REAL INFO.

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