The Duke of Cambridge sat down with Aston Villa footballer John McGinn to talk about the Heads Up mental health campaign and the football season.
McGinn, who plays for William’s team, jokes at the start of the video, which was posted to the Kensington Palace Twitter account on Sunday, that he’s never interviewed anyone before and that he’s retiring at the end of it. William replies, “You’re not allowed to!”
Speaking about the campaign, William tells McGinn that, “hopefully a few people will have seen a bit about Heads Up by now. But effectively, it’s been a season-long campaign and the idea being that we can get people to talk about mental health, kick off a conversation. I think we built a little bit of a platform with Heads Together a few years ago where we just tried to chip away at the taboo and stigma of mental health.”
Prince William also reveals that Heads Up’s focus on football was strategic, as football is one of the “last bastions of maleness” and “we felt there was a lot of opportunity…16 odd million people around the country follow football.” He said that channelling the power of the sport to “really elevate mental health to another level and allow people to have that conversation and let people know it’s okay to talk and it’s okay to not be okay.”
William then reveals his hope that the FA Cup Final, which takes place 23 May, will be renamed the Heads Up FA Cup. “I think that’s a nice thing to hang the campaign on for the year.”
McGinn jokes, “We’ll not talk about the FA Cup Final, we’ve not made that one.” He then asks the Duke about involving football and mental health.
His Royal Highness replies, “I think having all the leagues come together, I think that’s very powerful. I think uniting football behind one core message and being able to reach fans, from your fan who wants to live, eat, breathe football and play it every day to the kind of person who is on the sofa playing Fifa every day.
“I think we have to get that full spectrum of fan. I think it’s also about getting role models within football to speak out so it gives permission and approval to those fans to say ‘My heroes, they are talking about it. They are great role models I can do that too. I can go to my teacher, my family my friends and say I’m not feeling so good today I’m struggling with this or this happened at work or at home.’”
McGinn can’t help but ask William why he supports Aston Villa, and the royal reveals that he chose the team back in his school days, saying, “There were a lot of people around me who were Man Utd fans, Chelsea fans and a few others, but I didn’t want to be like the rest of the crowd.
“I had a friend of mine who took me to an Aston Villa vs Bolton when the likes of Paul Merson was playing, and I thought if people like him can play as well as he does, and knowing the struggles he was under at the time, I thought this was a club I could support.”
He jokes that he also took into account Aston Villa having won the FA Cup Final the year he was born, 1982, and considers there to be an entanglement there.
McGinn also asks the Duke of Cambridge who his current favourite player is, saying that it’s a huge debate in the Aston Villa dressing room, and though he gets a special mention, William reveals that it’s Tyrone Mings because “where he’s come from and what he’s now achieving, I’m so proud of him.
“He’s been very vocal about his challenges and what he’s done and he’s also very alive in the community. I see his tweets and I see how inclusive he is to everybody and I think he’s a really great role model.”