Coroner records verdict of suicide at inquest of Jeremy Wisten

Jeremy Wisten was described as a "selfless kind-hearted person" at the inquest

Jeremy Wisten was described as a "selfless kind-hearted person" at the inquest

A CORONER has recorded a verdict of suicide at the inquest of former Manchester City Academy player Jeremy Wisten, who was found dead at his home in Wythenshawe in October last year.

Wisten was 18 when he was found hanged at his family home in Baguley, Wythenshawe, on October 24th 2020. Manchester Area Coroner Zak Golombeck said: "I find that on the balance of probabilities that Jeremy took his own life and intended to do so.”

Several of Wisten’s friends attended the inquest, including his best friend Tyrhys Dolan, the Blackburn Rovers forward, with whom he had come through the ranks at Manchester City.

The Coroner read a statement from Wisten’s college friends which stated how “intelligent" and "mature” he was, as well as being a “selfless, kind-hearted, genuine, down-to-earth guy”.

The teenager had been released by City less than two years before his death and their Academy Director, Jason Wilcox, was present at the inquest along with a club solicitor. Wilcox gave evidence, along with Wisten's father Manila. The hearing was also attended by Wisten's mother Grace and sister Angela.

The inquest heard that on the day of his death Wisten had been shopping with his mother to buy a present for his cousin’s birthday. He spent the evening in his sister’s bedroom while his parents watched Strictly on television downstairs.

"At 6pm his mum shouted up to say dinner was ready," Wisten’s father recalled. "He said, 'just leave it down there for me’. At 9 pm she checked his room and then his sister's room and it was locked."

His mother had to find a key to unlock the door and found her son dead, wearing his Manchester City tracksuit bottoms. “I heard a scream I will never forget,” his tearful father told the inquest.

He said his son did not have any history of mental illness and that there was nothing to suggest he was about to take his own life. He had recently turned 18 but was unable to have a party because of the Covid-19 restrictions; and his moods could be "up and down", but the overall picture presented was of someone who was happy and popular.

"He was ready to do his driving test and wanted to go to university to study forensic science," his father said. “The week in which he passed away he was completing university forms with his teacher and also applying for part-time jobs so he could go out and meet people.

“I 100% believe that Jeremy did not plan to kill himself. My reasons are very simple. He was a very proud young man who took care in how he looked and how people saw him. He was not found in a state of someone to find him. He wasn’t dressed properly.”

MANCHESTER CITY

Wisten was born in Malawi and moved with his family to Greater Manchester as a baby. He signed for City at the age of 13 but in December 2018 was informed he would be released at the end of the season.

His father said he had dreamed of one day emulating his hero Vincent Kompany, but that a knee injury sustained in January 2018 had prevented him from playing for five months, which hampered his progress.

Wilcox said the injury had not been the main reason for his release, rather that it was a decision based on his long-term potential.

The former England international, who has been with City since 2013 and the Academy Manager since October 2017, added that he had "sleepless nights" about the meetings to inform youngsters they were being released, because "I genuinely care".

When asked how Wisten had reacted to the news, he said: "He was very quiet, very non-emotional at the time. All the boys react differently when they are given the news. They feel at that moment that their career is over, and it is certainly not. It's the a start of a new journey for them."

Wisten's father was critical of the after-care his son had received from the club since leaving.

"He was still carrying injuries and he did not believe he was receiving the right support at Manchester City to find a new club," he said. “They [said they] would arrange matches at City where Jeremy would play and clubs would come to watch. That did not happen. It was not happening."

He added that video footage of his son playing was sent to other clubs, yet because of his injury there was little action from after 2018.

"I don't think that was a marketing video, I think that was a ticking of the box," he said. "It is a case that City should have done more, I know they have done more for others.

“I know they had done more for others. The statistic bandied around that 1% become professionals. It is not true for Manchester City. They almost always have their players continue at another club."

Wilcox said he believed Wisten had been offered nine trials at different clubs and had also undergone mental health screening at the club in 2018 and 2019.

However, he added: “Since Jeremy’s death, it would have been extremely negligent not to review our processes and try to improve wherever we can. We have generally improved the processes all round.”

The club introduced player exit surveys and created a "parent portal" he said "and also have an improved process of managing the expectations of parents and boys."

The Premier League puts on a residential weekend for Academy players who find themselves without a club to try and help them consider what to do next. Wisten chose not to attend because he had fallen behind with his education, the inquest heard.

Online courses are also arranged by the Professional Footballers’ Association for released Academy players, although there are inevitably questions about whether enough is done.

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