We caught up with former Ireland and Halifax forward Luke Ambler on his work with Andy’s Man Club.
Ambler made his first team debut for Salford in 2008 and made the switch to Leeds Rhinos, where he played 10 games before being released.
The back-rower joined hometown club Halifax and went on to play 141 games for the club in a six-season stint. He played for Ireland 16 times but hung up his boots aged just 28.
Ambler had his own business, Alpha Training Ltd, while playing rugby and decided to retire from playing to follow his career in helping people with mental health issues.
In the first chat of a two-part feature, we spoke mainly about Andy’s Man Club, which he founded…
Are you surprised with how much Andy’s Man Club has taken off with the public?
“I have got a business doing public speaking and then I have got Andy’s Man Club which I do voluntary. On Saturday, we had a two-year anniversary party at The Shay in Halifax where it all began and to be sat where we are now in helping over 1,000 men a month every Monday.
“What is beautiful is that nothing has changed since day one, we are still completely raw in the philosophy’s in what we are about – we are just helping people. We are not about money or anything like that. It is mad how popular it has got.”
Did you personally ever think it would be as big as it is?
“In all honesty, I didn’t think it was going to be as big as it is now. The first meeting at Andy’s Man Club was at my business and we just put some coffees out and nine men turned up and suddenly the numbers just rocketed.
“It’s one of the biggest mental health movements on the planet and we will never forget why we have it, because it is in memory of my brother-in-law, Andy, who committed suicide.”
A lot of work goes into Andy’s Man Club doesn’t it?
“Andy’s mum pretty much runs the ship and there are lots of volunteers. We have only actually got one member of staff and that is a lady in the office and she only started getting paid two months ago and that is through some funding we have got.
“Every penny that we get goes into our cause and we are one of the only charities that can say that. We have got hundreds of volunteers now.”
The stigma attached to men about mental health seems to be on its way out now…
“Whether that was through ‘it’s okay to talk’ campaign and whether it is coincidental, mental health has started to get really big awareness and especially in men. It is great to see.
“We have got such an amazing team behind Andy’s Man Club who just push the movement forward.”
Do people ever get in touch with you personally over mental health?
“I honestly couldn’t tell you how many messages I have had, with people praising the work that I do, but I had some very tough messages as well.
“I had a young woman from India message me talking to me about social depravation and stuff that I had no power over and that they wanted to kill themselves.
“It can be difficult to deal with at times but what greater gift is there in life than helping people? No awards or praise can come close to the feeling of actually helping someone.”
What is the future for Andy’s Man Club?
“We have got a new club which is going to be opening up in Peterborough and we are in talks of possibly opening up a few in Australia, America and Toronto.
“Our ultimate goal is for every man to have access to a local Andy’s Man Club.”
Keep your eyes peeled next week for Part 2, which is a more personal chat with Luke.
Visit andysmanclub.co.uk to see more of the inspiring work Luke does.