Rotherham boss Paul Warne is passionate about his club, his community and mental health.
The 47-year-old coach speaks eloquently about what football means for fans and the impact of having no crowds.
He reckons the return of supporters cannot come soon enough, with EFL clubs facing financial ruin.
But just as important, he believes, is what football means in everyday lives.
The EFL and its clubs are pushing the Government for the return of supporters in a week when they are also working towards their Do One Thing campaign for World Mental Health Day.
“Football is pivotal in society," Warne, said.
“Fans work all week, may even live on their own but they have football to look forward to and going to a ground where Julie always sits on the left, James on the right, big Howard is there and they all say, ‘Great to see you’.
“It’s a way of life. It didn’t hit me until Bury collapsed. At the time, I was thinking badly run, it was inevitable.
“Then I saw across numerous evenings on Sky, fans who had been going to games for 40 or 50 years.
“If football clubs in the lower leagues had to close that would be a massive blow. The heart of every city and town would be ripped out. The programme printers, the hot-dog stands, the sandwich makers, the security – it’s never ending the people football clubs employ.
“It’s like throwing a stone into the sea and the ripple goes such a long way. You shut a football club and suddenly the taxi driver is struggling.
“People love Saturdays because they go and watch sport. Not just football but rugby, cricket and every sport.
“The importance of football clubs in our community can never be underestimated.”
His own club Rotherham are championing the EFL’s campaign to urge fans to address one issue on their mental health.
Warne’s assistant and best friend Richie Barker lost his brother Chris, who took his own life earlier this year. It made Warne think even more closely about his players’ welfare.
“Because of what happened to Richie’s brother, I think we’re even more aware,” added Warne.
“I was in the car when Richie’s brother phoned coming home from the Boxing Day after we’d won at Shrewsbury. Then we had another game a few days later and that was the day that Chris took his own life.
“Richie would speak to his brother all the time, but he beat himself, wishing he’d spoken to him more.
“Mental health is a massive thing for me. A lot of people struggle, don’t speak about it, don’t seek help.
“I had a player last week, I could tell he wasn’t right, so instead of having a one-on-one in my office, I went for a walk with him around the training pitches. I said to him, ‘Look, are you alright, mate?’
“And he just burst into tears straight away. We were only 50 yards from 22 other professional footballers and I don’t think people get it.
“If I told the average Rotherham fan then they would not get it and they’d say, ‘Why’s he complaining?’
“How much you’ve got in the bank is irrelevant. But how much sympathy do you get from the average person on the street?
“That’s a sad indictment when we are judging the worthiness of someone’s mental health on the size of their bank account.
“It’s our responsibility as a football club and a community to help people. This whole Covid thing, at least it has made us talk to each other a bit more.”
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