Exclusive Interview: Graham Stack

tacklingstigma talks to Graham Stack on the subject of mental health, the stigma attached and his own support network during his rehabilitation.

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Getty Images: Graham Stack celebrates promotion back to the Football League with teammate Andy Yiadom.

Graham Stack is an English born, Irish goalkeeper whose previous clubs include Arsenal, Millwall, Hibernian, Beveran, Wolverhampton Wanderers, and Leeds United amongst others. He has made seven appearances for the Republic of Ireland under 21 national team. The 34 year old goalkeeper now plays for Barnet Football Club where he is also a coach.

When asked his opinion on mental health in football, he stresses the point, “It’s not something that has been brought to my attention” and identifies it as a bit of a taboo subject. Graham has noticed that mental health is not something that we hear a great deal about but states, “I’m sure it’s present in sport and in football”. “I don’t think it’s publicised that much, I don’t think people talk about it that much” however Graham is confident in his ability to speak out. “If it is a subject I feel passionate about then I will be very open and honest”.

Last year, Stack picked up an injury early on in the 15/16 season which originally ruled him out for 2-3 months but a setback in his recovery means he has not played since Barnet’s 3-1 defeat to Bristol Rovers. He has undergone surgery on his groin which was described as a ‘rare and complex situation’ by Barnet Physio Luigi Cerullo. Voicing his concerns, Stack says, “It’s obviously frustrating and a lot harder psychologically being injured than obviously when you’re playing”. “Where I have been injured now, my routine has changed completely”.

Stack speaks of his daily schedule starting with gym work at 7 in the morning before training at 8:30am receiving treatment until 10am. He trains in the afternoon with Barnet’s first team. Stack articulates, “I’ve actually had more time to spend on my rehab than when I was playing as more of my time is taken up trying to get fit”.

Graham chooses his support network carefully stating, “You’re scrutinised with everything that you say and it all gets published whether it’s on social media or the in paper”. “You have to be a little bit clever in terms of what you say, when you say it, and who you are saying it to”.

tacklingstigma asks Graham whether he feels he has the necessary support around him in which he responded “I do, I’m very fortunate, I’m fortunate enough to have a supportive network around me but for many players they aren’t as fortunate as I am”. Stack mentions the backing of his wife, who he met at a young age, his parents, and the support he has received from Barnet Manager Martin Allen as well as his teammates.

Stack believes that mental health in Football and sport in general is being recognised and definitely improving. “It’s starting to happen, people have come out and spoken about it – people are more aware of the pressure and life after sport”. He has noticed that we are now seeing a lot more issues publically and how important it is for issues such as mental health to be publicised. “It’s all about publicity and how much publicity the subject gets that will create awareness”

tacklingstigma would like to thank Graham Stack for his time and appreciates his openness and honesty on such a sensitive subject. I wish Graham all the best in his recovery and success of Barnet Football Club for the foreseeable future.

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