It won’t shake the foundations or hold the headlines like the dismissal of Jose Mourinho or the will they, won’t they sack Louis Van Gaal saga, but hidden away in the sports sections of newspapers today is the news of another managerial casualty in the dog eat dog world of English football. This one involves Martin Ling.
As I say, unless you know your football a bit or live near (or support) Swindon, this bit of news won’t really register. The fact is that Mr Ling wasn’t sacked – he resigned. He resigned not because of bad form either. He’d only been appointed on November 3rd – his first managerial role since leaving as manager of Torquay in 2013. He’d won five of his first six games in charge but had suffered back to back defeats over the Christmas period. Hardly resignation form. The issue here isn’t a bad run of results, but that unfortunate last taboo of health care – mental illness.
Earlier this year I read the excellent book Living on the Volcano by Michael Calvin within which the story of Mr Lings unraveling mental health was described. As a fellow (but luckily, so far, not so severe) victim of the curse of the black dog, it made a massive impression on me. The book itself is a fantastic read for anyone interested in looking at football from the managers perspective, but the story of Martin Ling is particularly worth reading as is this excellent piece from the Independent earlier this year. He describes his illness as a ‘coffee stain’ on his record.
As a well admired ex-player for Swindon I assume he was a popular choice and 15 points out of a possible 24 from a very poor start before he left. When he arrived they were 2nd bottom and looking relegation in the face. He leaves them in comfortable mid-table. The reason for his resignation has been given as health reasons. Obviously I’m drawing conclusions that this relates to mental health issues returning. He stated when he took over at Swindon that his “depression had gone”.
Whatever the reason, Martin Ling has real ability as a manager. It took a club that held him close to their heart to give him another go – especially after the awful way he was removed by Torquay. But the big question is still how little we understand mental illness and how we shy away when presented with people who suffer. It is almost like they have some horrendously contagious disease. The high pressure world of football must be ample breeding ground for this insidious illness to fester and unfortunately the football community, particularly the terraces, still has the reputation as an uncaring environment for those that suffer.
I wish Martin Ling the best for whatever the illness is that has brought this particular chapter of his life to a close. I truly hope he can move on from here to a life that is rewarding and fulfilling and where he no longer has to talk about his illness as a coffee stain.
Has mental health problems impacted on you either in person or through a loved one? Why not share your story. As someone with experience I know it can help to share and often this is easier through a computer screen than in person.