Gareth Southgate: 'Male footballers do not like showing weakness'

England Under-21s manager Gareth Southgate looks on during his side's match against Croatia Under-21 on October 10, 2014
Gareth Southgate says that male footballers are "bloody hard work" when it comes to opening up about mental health issues as they "don't want to show weakness".

Gareth Southgate has admitted that male football players are "bloody hard work" when it comes to opening up about mental health issues as they "don't want to show weakness".

The issue of mental health in football has been making headlines this week after it was announced that Everton winger Aaron Lennon is currently receiving care and treatment for a stress-related illness after being detained by police on Sunday under the Mental Health Act.

Addressing headteachers at the Boarding School Association's annual conference in York on Wednesday, the England manager said that he tries to encourage players to open up about their mental health issues by showing them his own weaknesses.

He is quoted by The Telegraph as saying: "I've played with a couple of players who have mental health issues. I didn't understand it fully then as a player, I have a much better understanding of it as a coach. Having handled a couple of those players, I've spoken to them subsequently and said 'I apologise because I didn't understand what you were going through'.

"We are in a sport where boys aren't comfortable opening up. The women's senior team are brilliant at sharing collectively, they share their feelings, they have a different dynamic as a group. Our men's team are bloody hard work. I would question them as a group when I started and there was silence and I thought I can't have this. I've got to step in.

"They don't want to show weakness in front of each other. I guess I try to give them permission by showing them weaknesses I have, which I think is helpful. But sharing and opening up is not a natural thing for them to do."

Lennon, capped 21 times for England, joined Everton from Tottenham Hotspur in 2015 but has not featured for the Toffees since February 11.

Everton midfielder Aaron Lennon lines up ahead of his side's Premier League clash with West Ham United at Goodison Park on October 30, 2016
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