Former Arsenal and England defender Viv Anderson has revealed the struggles he faced adapting to life after football as part of World Mental Health Day.

Anderson talked openly to Nuffield Health and praised how the game is now dealing more openly with mental health issues.

The first black male player to represent England, Anderson spoke about the difficulties players face in retirement.

Islington Gazette: Viv Anderson on his England debut as the first black male player to appear in a full internationalViv Anderson on his England debut as the first black male player to appear in a full international (Image: PA Archive/PA Images)

He said: "Once it stops, it's very difficult to adjust. It's something you build, you get your career to build up to a crescendo of winning something and then it all stops.

"What do you do after that? It's very, very difficult.

"The transition between playing and being a ‘normal’ person is very traumatic. It's a very, very hard time. The camaraderie of the team is a really important part of it.

“When you’re playing you've got a strong bond with this group and 20 other mates, but when you physically retire, you’re on your own. You keep on waiting for the phone to ring, and then it never does. Then you've got to think, what am I going to do now for the next 30 years of my life? “

After coming to terms with the realities of life after hanging up his boots, Anderson moved into coaching, punditry and ambassadorial work and is enjoying an active lifestyle in retirement which he credits for maintaining both good physical and mental health.

“I was lucky. I kept active. I had somewhere to get up and go to which is really important," he added.

"It wasn't a case of sitting in bed until one o'clock in the afternoon. I think it's really important to have something to do mentally, as well as physically.

"You should do something, even if it's just walking up the stairs to go to the floor that you need to get to instead of using the lift. I know everybody can't take an hour off out of the day, but you have a lunch break, so just walk around the block for 15 or 20 minutes.

"I've got a bike, I'm not doing that so much now, but I always try and walk at least three or four times a week.”

Nuffield Health Senior Personal Trainer, Stephen Trussell, agrees that following a light exercise regime in retirement is vital if you want to make the most of life and continue pursuing the things you enjoy.

He said: "The benefits of exercise in retirement aren’t just physical. Exercise can boost your quality of life in many ways. A recent review of studies, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that individuals over 50 who take regular, moderate exercise showed improved thinking and memory skills.

“Mixing with like-minded people in the gym and establishing a supportive relationship with a personal trainer can also be an effective way to develop a new network when you’ve finished work.”

In recent times, the importance of good mental health is something that has gained greater traction within football, as player welfare has become an integral part of the game. It is something Anderson has been pleased to see develop.

“The mental side [of the game] was never talked about when I was playing," he added.

"If anybody thought that you had a mental problem, you'd be castigated, and there must have been people at the time who were mentally ill but wouldn't show it.

"Now I think it's important that people just talk. People are more aware of it now than they ever were, and you can talk about it. So, talk to whoever it may be, whether it be your manager, one of your coaches, somebody at school, whatever it may be, you should talk to people and try and help to alleviate the problems you've got.”

*Nuffield Health is proud to be the Official Health and Wellbeing Partner of the England Teams, uniting with The FA on a joint ambition to help build a healthier nation. As the nation’s teammate in health and wellbeing, the partnership will build on the mental and physical benefits that football brings to improve the wellbeing of individuals and communities. To find out more, visit