Since leaving Tottenham Hotspur for Everton in 2015, Aaron Lennon has been dealing with the stigma of having temporary mental health issues. Last year, Lennon was detained under England’s Mental Health Act in Salford after bystanders became concerned for his safety, and the midfielder has since spoken out about his own experiences dealing with mental illness.
Ahead of Tottenham hosting Everton at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, Lennon was praised by his former manager Mauricio Pochettino, who called him an inspiration for the way that he has been open about dealing with the stigma of mental health and for seeking help when he needed it.
“When a public person like Aaron is talking so openly to the media, to the fans, to the people, it is always very helpful to many people who might have the same problem but it’s impossible to see. The fact Aaron spoke publicly about the issue can inspire people around he world, not only in football, through him or through his behaviour, to get some help.
“Because Aaron spoke publicly that there are a lot of people ready to help people with temporary mental [health] issues, it’s good for him to get the love from the fans and inspire people to get the same help and talk about it.”
Mental health is a topic that is difficult to talk about, especially in your second language, and for that reason Pochettino opted to present his remarks in Spanish, with assistant manager Jesus Perez translating.
The 30 year old Lennon made 266 appearances for Tottenham over ten years, scoring 26 goals. He’s still very much a fan favorite amongst Spurs fans and is sure to receive a very warm welcome by the Tottenham faithful when the teams take the field at Wembley on Saturday.
Pochettino also went into more detail about Lennon’s departure in 2015, when was one of Spurs’ longest serving members of the club at the time.
“He was good. He was always respectful and professional -- there’s nothing to say. From the beginning he played -- my first game he was in the starting XI -- and little by little I trusted in different players and then we changed the style of play of Tottenham and then started to use [Erik] Lamela and [Christian] Eriksen in his position.
”He left because of the style, of course. And then when a player is for a long period at the club [where] he played for nine or 10 years, the player needed a different motivation and challenge. Sometimes you want players to stay but the player says, ‘no, gaffer I need to change, I need to wear different colours.’
”Everyone needs that. That is the problem sometimes. The players need new challenges, like managers or maybe you [in the media] change newspapers or websites? We are human. It’s not always about money or playing. They need new motivation and challenges.”
Since sustaining an injury at the beginning of the season, Lennon has been a regular player for Everton, both under Koeman and Allardyce, playing in his customary position on the right side of midfield. He hasn’t scored, but has two assists this season for the Toffees.