Football fans need to start considering the mental health of players and stop holding grudges when posting on social media. This is visible – in Aston Villa’s case – with Orjan Nyland, who is still receiving abuse for mistakes made earlier in the season, whilst recovering from a season-ending injury. 

Words by Regan Foy | @FindFoy

Football fans can be a weird bunch. Trust us, we’re some of them.

There’s an awful lot of things that need more attention in the world of professional football. One of them is racism – something that has once again reared its ugly head in the beautiful game – especially so within the last season or so, on both a domestic and international level. Another, is mental health.

Just before last years FIFA World Cup, England international Danny Rose revealed that he had been suffering with depression, which he believes was triggered by a knee injury closely followed by a family tragedy. He spoke frankly about feeling lonely at Tottenham, a club he has played for over a number of seasons, and he was unable to get out of bed for a number of months.

Mental health is still stigmatised, but it’s now more than ever at the forefront of the footballing world. This is thanks to players like Danny Rose speaking out, as well as former Villan Stan Collymore and more recently, former Birmingham City winger David Cotterill, who recently set up a foundation after struggling with alcohol abuse.

But just because it’s more widely spoken about on social media these days, does not mean that we should be using said tools to act as a detrimental force in regards to a footballer’s mental health.

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Earlier this season, Aston Villa were playing with the first of the four goalkeepers who have occupied extended stints between the sticks this season, Norwegian international Orjan Nyland.

He’s had a mixed bag, let’s be honest. The high times such as the penalty save against Swansea City and the stellar performance against Preston North End are then blighted by an array of mistakes over a few games. Obviously, some mistakes weren’t his fault entirely. 

But during his period in the Aston Villa goal, Nyland was subject to a barrage of hate across his social media, making comments about himself, his family, and his footballing ability – all because he’d dropped a few clangers. One example that springs to mind is him wishing all of the Aston Villa fans a Merry Christmas, pictured with him holding his child and stood next to his wife. The comments section was filled with statements like “hope you don’t drop your baby like you drop a ball” and “I’d be terrified if I was your kid”. The man was just wishing the fans of the side he plays for a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday.

Shortly after this, Orjan Nyland suffered a season ending injury as he ruptured his Achilles tendon during a training session at Bodymoor Heath. News of this, and thereafter news of his successful surgery was greeted with comments from fans. The vast majority, as expected, were well-wishers wishing Orjan a speedy recovery and so forth. Others however, gloated in his injury and the fact that he would miss the rest of the season. “Stay there, you’re ****ing awful” said one fan on a picture of him in a hospital bed. “He’s ****, we don’t need him”, said another.

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How is this beneficial to anyone at all? What do fans get from posting things like this to players? Some have received death threats for high profile errors in the past. Imagine you’ve just been laid off work/made redundant, and a load of customers are commenting on how great it is because you weren’t very good anyway. It doesn’t matter that he’s a footballer, it doesn’t matter that he makes a lot of money. Money doesn’t mean happiness.

The thing is, Orjan Nyland is a good footballer and a more than capable keeper – otherwise he wouldn’t be playing, nevermind representing his country. A pathetic comment on social media won’t change that. But nobody knows what is going on in Orjan’s recovery, and with a long period on the sidelines, negativity and vitriol help nobody, especially mental health wise.

In more recent weeks, Orjan has been well on the road to recovery and has received countless comments and messages wishing him well and ushering him back to full fitness – which is great to see. However, he’s still getting the odd comment. In a post today, showcasing his suit for the End of Season awards, the first comment, since deleted, said “Did you win the award for the most dropped balls?”.

Evidently, some fans just can’t let the past go. It’s not just Nyland who faces this kind of backlash either, it’s the vast majority of players, and especially so if they make a mistake. And yes, they do read the comments. Just because you pay to watch a game of football, or support a club – that gives you no right to negatively impact someone else and their mental health.

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