Aldershot Town can confirm that young defender Alfie Saunders has departed the club after reaching a mutual agreement to terminate his contract.
The decision has been made with Saunders looking to take an extended break from full-time football for the foreseeable future as he looks to prioritise the mental health issues he has been dealing with.
Alfie signed a new two-year deal back in April of this year, following a breakthrough season for the Shots Academy graduate, but by his own admission has been struggling with his mental health for some time.
The club would like to thank Alfie for his contributions as a player, congratulate him on his bravery to discuss this matter before departing, and also echo his encouragement for people to speak out.
As mentioned, Alfie has written the following statement to address the situation and the reasons behind his decision:
“I’ve worked really hard for years to get my professional contract but all whilst I was fighting demons in my head.
“It’s a crazy thing being a professional footballer, but I think for your health and your future, you need to take a break and address the things you need to. I should have addressed them a few years ago but I didn’t. These personal issues have now re-surfaced and it’s now time to finally sort them.
“I can’t do it on my own and have finally reached out for help. With the help of my family and professionals, I can finally get back to being me again and fall back in love with football.
“I need to put football second. I know I will return to football again but in a better place and hopefully enjoy it every day.
‘I want to thank Aldershot Town, all the staff, Mark – for giving me my debut against Grimsby and believing in me – and the fans. I just loved my song they used to sing.
“Thank you to all the players, I’ve made friends for life. They’ve been so supportive and I wish them every success for the future. I’ll be following them in the East Bank.
“My family and a lot of people close to me think I’m very brave to finally open up and I’m encouraging a lot of other players and other people in general to just speak out.
“I want people to recognise that you can talk and there are people out there to help you. I’m in the process now of trying to get help and we’ll go on from there.
“I’ve got nothing but love for Aldershot, the fans, Mark Molesley and everyone because they’ve given me opportunities that not everyone in life will give you.
“I’d like to re-emphasise that this decision has been made because of my own personal battles that I am fighting at the moment. The support has been brilliant from all those at the club, from front office staff to the first-team players and coaches, who have been nothing but supportive and I’d like thank them all one last time for everything they’ve done to help me get to this point.
“I’ve just got to put football second for now and try and get myself help.”
We ask fans to respect Alfie’s privacy at this time.
As a football club, we would like to remind fans that you are not alone.
If you ever need somebody to talk to, please call one of the numbers below:
Samaritans 116 123
Mind 0300 123 3393
Calm 0800 58 58 58
The club would again like to reiterate our thanks to Alfie for his contributions as a player, congratulate him on his bravery to discuss this matter, and also echo his encouragement for people to speak out.