The former Nottingham Forest skipper’s social media message...
FORMER Nottingham Forest skipper Chris Cohen says ‘idealistic’ social media is giving young players unrealistic expectations.
Cohen, 31, retired in April after a cumulation of serious knee injuries ended a decade of service at the City Ground.
Now coaching the club’s Under-23s under ex-Watford striker Jimmy Gilligan, he says the pitfalls facing the current crop are a world away from his own days as an academy graduate at West Ham.
“When I was coming through, we could get away with a lot,” says the midfielder, who scored 21 goals in 364 EFL games for Forest, Yeovil and the Hammers. “In fact, nobody really had a clue who we were.
“Phones were just taking off. None of them had decent cameras. Social media was coming in, but you’re talking MySpace nothing like it is now.
“Now, anything they say or do, there’s thousands of people judging them on twitter. Then they go on Instagram and all they see is an idealistic version of everyone else’s life.
“They see other young lads getting contracts or loan moves, training with the first team. And they think ‘Why isn’t that me?’.
“But nobody ever posts an instagram photo when they didn’t train with the first team or didn’t get a loan move. It can create huge, unrealistic expectations.
“I’m not saying we had things better. As a player, I hated it when a coach said ‘This worked for me so it’ll work for you’.
“You have to move with the times. There’s no point saying ‘Don’t use social media’ because it’s how they communicate. It’s like banning conversation.
“But you do have to of- fer guidance, explain the dangers. And you have to understand the issues to know why they act in certain ways. Because underneath it all, most of them are really good kids. It’s just that the advice they get from other people isn’t always the best.”
Cohen has also spoken of the moment he knew his career was over. Between September 2011 and September 2016, he suffered three ruptured knee ligaments and spent 34 months out of action. A serious groin injury stole a further four.
The East Anglian battled back, playing through constant pain to eke out two solid seasons. By the end, however, he was barely able to support his infant son, let alone slog through a 46-game campaign.
“It was a culmination of the injuries, the way I trained, the number of games,” explains Cohen, who played 303 games for Forest and won promotion from League One in 2008.
“I had arthritis, basically. All the operations, bones rubbing together and bleeding. I’d played in quite a lot of pain for the last few years and I never felt it debilitated me as a player.
“But the summer before last, everything went downhill. I was struggling to get out of bed, to pick my little boy up. I couldn’t put back-to-back training sessions together, never mind games.
“I went to meet Andy Williams, the surgeon. I’d seen him for four big operations, countless injections and flushes. And it was the first time he sat me down and said ‘Listen, you need to consider retirement’.”
A year on, upset and anger has turned to acceptance. “There’s a lot worse things going on in the world,” says Cohen. “I can look back on my career and say I might have worked a bit smarter, but I couldn’t have worked any harder.”
And that is now the message to young charges including highly-rated midfielder Toby Edser and England Under-18 winger Arvin Appiah. “Part of my role is to make them realise what special lives they can have. To seize every day and make the most of this amazing job. It might come to nothing, but don’t give yourself a reason to regret anything,” he said.
GOOD TIMES: Chris Cohen in his playing days with Nottingham Forest
ONE TO WATCH: Arvin Appiah scores for Forest against Burton in the Carabao Cup last month