An anger management expert who has worked with David Beckham and Wayne Rooney said last night that Luis Suárez could need a year of treatment to fully address his behavioural problems.
Jeannie Horsfield, director of training at Steppingstones UK, who advised Rooney as a teenager following his move to Manchester United and was also said to have helped David Beckham after his sending-off for England against Argentina in 1998, said it was clear Suárez had “unresolved issues” and was in need of help.
The Professional Footballers’ Association has offered to arrange anger management sessions for Suárez, and Liverpool already employ sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters.
Horsfield said: “The signs are the kind of things that were demonstrated on the pitch on Sunday and the outburst in 2011 against Evra, the racist comments. Those are in-your-face signs that there’s something at play. To have the level of outburst where somebody actually gets physically aggressive and bites somebody in that way, that would suggest there are some unresolved issues at play. When violence or aggressive behaviour comes out, it’s often out of proportion with the event.
“Unless they’ve been physically attacked and need to defend themselves for real, it tends to be to do with what we call regressive anger, or regressive emotion.”
Horsfield says it can take up to three months to fully identify and address the “triggers” which lead to someone losing control, with mastery of the techniques involved often taking much longer.
She said: “It depends on the individual circumstances, the readiness to look at things and make changes. It can take six to 12 months. It depends on the person very much.
“In sport, it’s not acceptable for people to show vulnerability and weakness because it is actually very competitive. So for people to own up that they’re struggling, it’s not an arena that is very open to that and that can drive it underground and leave people a bit isolated.”
PFA chairman Gordon Taylor added: “We’ve made an offer to Liverpool of trying to help the player with anger management counselling. We’ve seen with players like Paul Gascoigne with his problems – things have improved and then he’s gone off track again and many people would say give up but that’s not the attitude I have or that of the PFA.”
Taylor said the timing of Suárez biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic was especially regrettable. “It was a particularly important day with the owners of Liverpool’s being associated with Boston and obviously the tragedy of the last week, so from that point of view it was the worst possible time for this to happen. It should have been an emotive and significant occasion in the football world for positive reasons not for negative ones,” added Taylor.