Tape 2 Talk: Former Chelsea youth player launches 'inspirational' campaign after struggles with mental health

Tap above to watch video report by Martin Stew

A former Chelsea youth player who dreamed of playing professional football has started a campaign to raise awareness of mental health in young players.

Max Thompson was signed by Chelsea on his ninth birthday and for eight years the club was his world and players became family.

Max, aged 9, being signed by Chelsea

But two years ago with his first team options limited Max faced the agonising decision to leave.

"It is everything. You train every other day, you play on the weekend and you're playing with your mates," Max told ITV News London.

"When that's taken away from you, that's a big thing," Max added.

Only 1 in 200 young players who sign contracts aged 9 will end up playing in that club's first team. Max does not blame Chelsea, but said he struggled with his mental health.

"It's your life and when that's taken away from you, you feel like you may have nothing else to fall back on," Max said.

Max's 'TAPE 2 TALK' sock tie

With the support of his current club Watford FC Academy Max, now 18, is encouraging others to reach out for help using simple sock ties, labelled 'Tape 2 Talk'.

"People I don't even know are messaging me loving the campaign and raising the awareness," Max said.

"I feel like if I'm open about myself other will be open as well," he added.

Watford's Academy described Max's campaign as an inspiration. "If we can get more boys talking and understanding the issues they go through is common across young people and in elite sport then that can only be positive," said the academy's Martin Prickett.

Max said he felt stronger by talking about his feelings. "Talking about my own experiences and struggles with mental health has helped me as a person," he said.