Pericard: I’ve stared into the abyss - now I want to help others

Vincent Pericard wants to pass on his experiences to today's professionals

Vincent Pericard wants to pass on his experiences to today's professionals

Former Pompey boss Frank Burrows

Knight: Gone are Pompey pre-seasons of dodging nettles and brambles

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His career was one which took in a European footballing giant and games at the highest level in England.

Among the glory and success came a life which spiralled into depression and a stint in prison, however.

Now, at the age of 29, Vincent Pericard’s time as a player is at a close.

But there are few people better suited to pass on the pitfalls and perils of what footballers face than the French striker.

And that is exactly what Pericard is now doing.

The man signed by Harry Redknapp for Pompey for £400,000 in 2003 from Juventus has chosen to pass on his experiences after setting up his own company – Elite Welfare Management.

His lowest ebb came in 2007 when he spent a five-week stint in prison for perverting the course of justice, after falsely stating his stepfather was driving his car after a speeding incident.

There’s no doubt Pericard has stared into the abyss and felt the bleak lows.

‘My career has been well documented – coming from Italy with talent at the age of 18 to retiring at 29, which is not normal,’ he said as he reflected on his time in the game.

‘I had to look at myself, look back at my career and assess what went wrong.

‘Depression was a big factor. Depression is a result of everything that happened before. It’s a domino effect.

‘It can start with something simple and put you into a vicious cycle.

‘I had that when I had the injury at Portsmouth, when I moved to Stoke and couldn’t adapt to the football style, when I went to prison and also when I was facing the end of my career and was injured.

‘Prison was something which affected me because I was naive.

‘I didn’t think I would go to prison for a white lie.

‘Looking back, it’s something I deeply regret and I realise it was serious.

‘But the psychological consequences were extremely, extremely hard.

‘It’s not something I would want to experience again.

‘You are cut off from the world, cut off from your friends and what you love – like playing football and your family.

‘It was extremely challenging mentally and extremely difficult to come back from.’

Now the challenge for Pericard is to stop players falling foul of the same difficulties he faced.

‘When I look back at my career I realise there were key elements that were missing,’ he added.

‘Education and education of what it’s like to play abroad was one thing – and also the risks.

‘A football career is also a short career and you have to prepare for that.

‘There are psychological aspects, too – the pressure of the fans and the pressure of isolation.

‘Also, when you go out, people will try to take advantage of you because you’re a football player. It’s easy to get caught in situations.

‘People will also try to give you advice that is not in your best interests and try to make you make investments.

‘Those things shouldn’t happen but they lead to problems. There were hard times for me to deal with no one to call.

‘I’m strong minded but would go home, lock myself away and not talk to anyone. I’d train, get the job done and then go home.

‘Now I want to provide my knowledge and experience to help people in this position.’

Although at an embryonic stage, the early signs for Pericard’s new venture are promising.

He has already met with a Premier League club about the services he and his team can offer.

It’s clear there is a niche in the game for helping those players who suffer difficulties.

And all the while it is providing the man who scored 10 goals in 49 Pompey appearances with purpose, where there would otherwise be a void.

Pericard said: ‘Maybe, after my experiences, I’m the ideal person to provide the services I’m trying to launch.

‘How much time do players spend under the club’s supervision? It’s just training and games.

‘What happens when you leave the training ground?

‘Most of the time they are left unattended to deal with everything that life has to throw at them.

‘This season has perfectly shown that.

‘There has been the case of Luis Suarez, Stephane Sessegnon and players who have tried to commit suicide because of depression.

‘There’s no-one to look after the players and back them up.

‘That’s what is missing, especially for foreign players who are more vulnerable.

‘There’s the language barrier, cultural differences and most of the time the family is left behind.

‘When you finish football it can be so depressing waking up in the morning and having nothing to look forward to.

‘If I didn’t have this I don’t know what I would be doing but it’s an area I can fully focus on and provide my knowledge and experience.

‘The problem is there for everyone to see – and we are trying to provide the solution.’

For more details on Elite Welfare Management, visit elitewelfaremanagement.com, e-mail info@elitewelfaremanagement.com or call 07794 843696.

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