Semi-pro club reveals player’s mental health battle without his consent

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Former Chelsea goalkeeper Lenny Pidgeley is enraged after his current club revealed his battle with depression and subsequent retirement without his consent.

7th tier English club Farnborough FC was left without a goalkeeper for the second leg of its FA Cup qualifying match against Lewes on Wednesday, and in a club statement released directly before the match attempting to explain the sudden lack of a shot stopper, revealed that Pidgeley had retired.

“This is the first the club that has heard of this,” the club said in its initial statement, which appears to have been deleted. “Although the timing is shocking, we wish Lenny and his family all the best in his retirement.”

The club then released a follow-up statement hoping to shed some light on why it was criticizing Pidgeley for his “shocking” timing while battling personal demons. “The club would like to clarify its statement of Wednesday evening,” Farnborough wrote on its official website. “Specifically, that our comment about the shocking timing, referred to us being shocked regarding the sad information we received on that afternoon, whilst preparing for our FA Cup Replay. With no goalkeeper available that night we owed the fans an explanation before kick-off, which due to the timings on the night was drafted in haste and did not convey our true thoughts accurately.”

Pidgeley spoke to the BBC in the aftermath of the controversy, and said that the club’s conduct has left him furious, and that his family found out about his retirement as a result of the public statement, not from him.

“At the other clubs I was at, it never came out in the open,” Pidgeley told BBC Sport. “Recently my depression has been with me quite a lot. In the last couple of weeks I tried to play through it, but it became too much for me. By midweek, when the cup game was, I could barely get out of bed… I was almost at the point of panic attacks. When the statement came out, it put me in a dark place. The way the club have conducted themselves is not right. They mentioned my illness, which I have never been comfortable talking about. For 10 years I’ve tried to keep it undercover.

“I have never wanted this to come out, never ever.”

Pidgeley says he didn’t want to discuss this issue publicly, and now he has to do so just to give his side of the story. “I was never, ever going to speak in public about it. But it has been forced on me. Now I have to speak. Because this is serious, people have committed suicide and depression is a massive issue.”

Pidgeley, now 34 years old, came up through the Chelsea youth system and made two appearances for the club. He spent time on loan at Watford and Millwall before making a permanent move to the latter at the expiry of his Chelsea contract. He later played for Bradford City, Exeter City, Newport County, and Mansfield Town among others.