West Bromwich Albion’s Slaven Bilic has told Prince William that players want to be “macho” when on the receiving end of social media criticism.
The prince, the FA president, met the Championship outfit’s players as part of a campaign to get across the importance of mental health.
During the visit to the club’s training ground in Walsall, the prince said men were “really bad at talking about it”.
He also spoke to Jake Livermore, whose baby son died in 2014.
The Duke of Cambridge asked Bilic: “Do things like social media criticism – does that bother you, does that get to you guys?”
West Brom head coach Bilic replied: “It’s like what you say, you want to be a macho man, ‘it doesn’t affect me’ – it does, it does.”
Out on the training pitch, Gareth Barry told the prince players had become “more aware” of how to handle mental health, while fellow midfielder Livermore said “it’s definitely going in the right direction”.
As FA president, the duke is spearheading the Heads Up campaign, which is trying to get across the importance of mental health, particularly among men.
Men are three times more likely to take their own lives than women, with suicide the most likely cause of death for males under the age of 45.
Prince William said: “The stats are bad about men and mental health, really bad.
“Girls are pretty good, but guys are really bad at talking about it.”
He added: “It’s also not just about the footballing community but about guys who are out there watching… trying to get guys to be a bit more open about it.”
There was some good-natured joshing of the second in line to the throne on the basis of his allegiance to West Brom’s local rivals Aston Villa.
Baggies chief executive Mark Jenkins mentioned that club captain Chris Brunt had “played well against Villa” in the past.
Midfielder Brunt, who has turned out more than 400 times for the Baggies, replied: “I wasn’t going to mention that.”
Anyone needing support can text HeadsUp to 85258 to connect with a trained crisis volunteer.