Mark Kennedy has revealed how he turned to the help of psychology after he ‘hated football’ for a time at Wolves as a player.
The 44-year-old is currently back at Molineux as caretaker Under-23s coach and is enjoying his return to the club he graced for during five years from 2001-06.
Former left winger Kennedy memorably helped Wolves into the Premier League for the first time, scoring in the Championship play-off final 3-0 win against Sheffield United in 2003.
But it wasn’t all success and happiness during his time at the club and the former Ireland wideman revealed he went through some dark moments.
He was helped through it by Dr Tim O’Brien, a psychologist who came to work with Dave Jones’s squad on a part-time basis.
Kennedy, who was signed by Jones from Manchester City for £2m, was becoming overwhelmed by thoughts about football and he said it got to a stage where he didn’t even want to play any more.
O’Brien taught Kennedy to break down each game into small sections so it didn’t seem so daunting.
“I remember being a player myself at Wolves when I hated football,” said the Dubliner, who made 187 appearances in gold and black, scoring 14 goals. “I was playing in the Premier League, I was on lots of money, I was a good player in a good team, and I didn’t want to come in and train every day.
“You see the big clock on the stand? (South Bank) I used to come out and split the game up into 15-minute sections. At three ‘o’clock I thought ‘Can I get to quarter past three?’
“I used to go into the toilet and read notes and they’d get me going. The only problem is after two games the notes don’t work anymore because you’ve read them before! So you need new notes.”
Nowadays, as a coach of young players and with the wisdom of added years, Kennedy recognises the importance of mental health and the impact of how people come across as different personalities much more than he did when he played.
“I don’t know Wayne Rooney but I bet when he was 18 he’d have walked onto that pitch and thought, ‘I’m the man, and now I’m going to show you I’m the man’,” he reflected.
“That is not a personality a lot of young kids have. I’ve got three lovely young kids.
“My eldest will be eight next month and he’s a very shy and sensitive boy. As he grows hopefully he’ll learn with different experiences.
“All we can do is help. We (Wolves Under-23s) have a really lovely psychologist who works with us. I think it’s a huge part of modern day football now.
“Equally as important as the tactical side, your in-possession coach, your out-of-possession coach, psychology is a huge part.
“I’m a huge, huge advocate. It can really add so much to your game.
“It’s like anything in life – whatever you do, everyone needs a little bit of help.”