A junior football team aim to put mental health first, with its first emotional wellbeing leader to support anyone struggling at the club.

Alex Mort – who has more than 15 years’ experience working within mental health and eight years as a qualified nurse within Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) – has joined Moss Bank Junior Football Club as under 11s coach and Emotional Wellbeing Leader.

Currently working as an advanced nurse practitioner at Wigan CAMHS, Alex brings a wealth of knowledge and resources to the club, as well as his coaching badges.

Club secretary Andy Kearney said: “Alex proposed the idea a few months ago and it was a no brainer.

“He has a wealth experience in this field and so much support to offer anyone who needs it at Moss Bank.

“We understand the importance of offering a child a safe and nurturing environment at our football club.

“This is to help children to thrive as people, not just as footballers.

“We are conscious and aware of our children’s emotional wellbeing and mental health being affected by the pandemic, the isolation this caused and the readjustment of our children as they start to mix with their teams again at the club this year.

“A number of children have been understandably struggling to readjust, so Alex offering to bring his CAHMS expertise to his role as coach couldn’t have come at a better time.”

Club founder Marcus Howarth added: “The FA have told us it’s initiatives like this, and our forward-thinking mentality, that helped us win Grassroots Football Club of the Year at the Lancashire FA Awards in 2020, and which keep us at the forefront of grassroots football in the North West.”

Alex Mort said: “I felt it was important to make everyone’s mental health our responsibility at Moss Bank – we need to make sure the wellbeing needs of our children and young people are looked after.”

Alex will not replace any CAHMS teams but will signpost and share resources when needed.

The club has emphasised that a child’s happiness is just as important as getting three points on a Saturday, which is the main reason Alex is opening up a ‘channel for people to come and talk if they’re unhappy, upset, or just need someone to listen’.

Alex Mort added: “I’ve been signposting coaches already because they ultimately know their children better than I would ever know them.

“It’s our job to make sure our players are comfortable and happy when they come to play football, and that they feel they’re in a safe, nurturing environment.

"Because ultimately, for us to improve technique in football, a young person needs to be enjoying themselves first and foremost.”

Moss Bank, which is based on Church Road in Bolton and sponsored by Leasing Options, has more than 550 registered players from the age of four all the way up to a walking football veterans’ team.

Originally formed in 2006 by a group of volunteers, the aim has always been to give children and young people from Halliwell, Heaton, Smithills, Astley Bridge and Johnson Fold the opportunity to play football in a safe, supervised environment.