Jude Winchester reveals mental health struggles as midfielder joins Crusaders

Jude Winchester has opened up on his mental health struggles after leaving Ballymena United to join Crusaders in a three-and-a-half year deal.

Thursday, 13th January 2022, 9:21 pm
Updated Thursday, 13th January 2022, 9:31 pm

Midfielder Winchester, who has played for Cliftonville and the Sky Blues over the past seven seasons after returning to Northern Ireland from Kilmarnock in 2014, issued an open statement to supporters yesterday.

The 28-year-old said he had not taken the decision to leave Ballymena lightly.

“This is a decision that I’ve taken in consultation with the club and my family, and wasn’t one taken lightly,” he said.

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Jude Winchester pictured at Seaview after signing for Crusaders on a three and half year deal from Ballymena United. Photo by Stephen Hamilton

“Over the past year or so, whilst on the pitch things have been going great, off the pitch I’ve been struggling with my mental health and it got to the stage where I felt I had to sit down with my family and with David (Jeffrey) and have a full conversation about it.

“David made me an offer to stay - it was a brilliant offer, which others would have bitten his hand off (for) and in different circumstances I wouldn’t have thought twice - but for reasons off the pitch I couldn’t agree to a deal.

“For me and my family it was best for my career and mental health that I could work closer to Belfast and allow me to be at home more. We had long chats over the last couple of weeks about what’s best for Ballymena United and for me, and the conclusion was that I move on now.”

On the decision to allow Winchester to leave, Ballymena manager David Jeffrey said he had to consider what was ‘best for the club and player’.

“This is ultimately one of those occasions where we found ourselves in a situation of needing to think what was best for the club and the player,” said Jeffrey.

“Obviously Jude had made it clear that despite a substantial offer on the table that he wasn’t looking to stay beyond this season. There were other issues and circumstances that we had to be open and receptive to that’s personal to Jude, and he’s been very honest about these himself.

“Ultimately we reached an agreement with Crusaders to allow him to move to them earlier in the hope that him being closer to home is a greater help to him and his family.

“We thank Jude for his contribution during his time here, he is wonderfully talented as we got to see over the past three-and-a-half years and we give him every best wish not just for his career but predominantly to him as a person and for his family too.”

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