Redknapp's ex-pros were far from perfect, but it turned out Harry's Heroes were the men we needed to raise awareness of mental health

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and among the themed programmes that have been on, perhaps the most unlikely was Harry’s Heroes: Euro Having a Laugh (ITV, Mon-Weds, 9pm).

By Phil Cunnington
Friday, 22nd May 2020, 4:27 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd May 2020, 4:28 pm

Last year, cameras followed Harry Redknapp and a band of fat, unfit ex-footballers get in training before playing a team of German ex-pros.

And in a feelgood ending that would have looked out of place in a Richard Curtis romcom, Redknapp’s men came from behind to beat the Germans 4-2 – more importantly, losing weight and getting fitter in the process,

This year’s version focused more on mental wellbeing, rather than physical fitness, and all of them seemed alarmingly fragile, mentally and physically.

From left, David Seaman, Rob Lee, Lee Sharpe, Ray Parlour and Lee Hendrie, who all featured in Harry's Heroes: Euro Having A Laugh

Neil ‘Razor’ Ruddock was fatter than he had been in 2019, and had been advised not to take part in any exercise, so he played cheerleader, cajoling his 50-something team-mates into lengthy drinking sessions, part of football culture 30 years ago.

So far, so laddish, but Harry’s Heroes was about more than just watching a load of sportsmen revisiting past glories.

The strength of this format was that it allowed them to open up about the insecurities which fuelled their drinking, or gambling.

Paul Merson credited last year’s show with helping him to turn his life around, while former Aston Villa star Lee Hendrie was disarmingly frank about his struggles with depression.

Seeing these alpha males battling with their minds, and vitally, talking about it, must surely help remove stigma around male mental health.

So a show about drinking, football and dressing room pranks was a Trojan horse for men talking, and listening, to each other’s problems – and it worked.

Alcohol also loomed large in What’s the Matter With Tony Slattery? (BBC2, Thurs, 9pm). Comic Slattery has been struggling with his mental health for years, and this tender, intimate doc revealed why. Brilliant.

The mental toughness needed to excel in pro sport – and the toll it can exact – features in The Last Dance (Netflix) about Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. I’m no basketball fan, but this was an exceptional series.