The aftercare of academy players at Premier League clubs is a widely debated topic as a result of the increase in conversations about men’s mental health both in a sporting sense and in society.

In 2022, Crystal Palace became the first club in the country to offer a three-year aftercare programme to players that have been released at the professional development phase, aged 17 to 21.

The Premier League offered new guidance at the start of the season that stated all club academies should provide an aftercare plan for every player that is let go, a programme that follows Palace’s model.

Oludare Olufunwa was released by Liverpool in June 2023 after a year at the academy following his transfer from Southampton academy the previous season. The defender has embarked on a new journey since, moving to St Johnstone in the Scottish Premiership.

Speaking about the aftercare he received, he said: “The aftercare at Liverpool is incredible to be honest with you.

“At the end of last season, I injured my ankle, and my return date went into the end of the season. Liverpool provided a full rehab program for me with the physio and sports science team coming in over the holidays to support me, as well as providing transport and continuing my living arrangements.

“All the staff at the club would regularly check on me, it’s a big family club so not much changed in terms of that from the moment I got there. I honestly felt like Liverpool went above and beyond what they needed to for me.”

Liverpool’s Player Care Manager, Paul Roscoe set up the ‘Alumni project’ in 2020, a scheme designed to track and support those who have been a part of the academy after they leave. The club aims to help players pursue a career further in football or the different pathways they are interested in.

Olufunwa said: “I spoke to my coach from Liverpool and other people around me and decided that St Johnstone was going to be best for me.

“Although I was in a position where I had footballing opportunities, the club still looked at other aspects of my life such as skills I had or what other career paths I would choose. It probably wasn’t what I wanted to hear at the time but looking back it’s something they have to do, and I really appreciate that they did.”

Liverpool defender and academy graduate, Trent Alexander-Arnold announced in April his new initiative, ‘The After Academy’. The scheme aims to provide career opportunities for former youth players, away from football. Liverpool, Red Bull, Under Armour and the PFA have all committed support to the programme.

Olufunwa said: “I would put more responsibility on the establishments like the Premier League and the EFL to create more options for kids released by the football clubs and make players more aware of the opportunities that they do already provide.”

The defender has swapped the red of Liverpool for the blue of St Johnstone and has made five appearances so far this season, as the Saints sit 10th in the Scottish Premiership.

“I’ve started the season with some good performances so for me it’s about carrying that on and playing as much as I can,” he said.

“I’m at a really good club with great players so as a team the aim is to finish as high up in the table as possible.”