GARY Bloom has worked with hundreds of sports stars – but his time at Oxford United has given him as good an insight as any into the challenges shared by many of us.

The U’s psychotherapist has held sessions with first-team stars, academy prospects and behind-the-scenes staff since he walked through the door in October 2018.

The emotions and experiences Bloom has encountered at United played a key role in his new book, ‘Keeping Your Head in the Game: Untold Stories of the Highs and Lows of a Life in Sport’.

It follows the therapy sessions of ten fictional sports stars as they work through a range of emotions: shame, anger, fear, jealousy and envy, and love.

Clients from a range of sports inspired the book, but especially after a year spent in the clutches of the coronavirus pandemic, Bloom believes people from all walks of life can relate.

He said: “These are emotions we all feel, so it’s not just a book about sportspeople – it’s about everybody.

“There’s a lot to learn when we look at how the key emotions play out.

“Covid has brought a lot of things to the surface and none of us have lived through these extraordinary times.

“Male mental health issues have proliferated.

“People can cope with anything but uncertainty.”

One of the issues Bloom helped iron out in his first season was older players’ frustration at younger teammates tweeting when United had lost.

Football in 2021 is having to deal with a far more poisonous problem, namely the horrific – and sometimes racist – abuse being aimed at players on social media.

Bloom hopes the book shows how sports stars battle with the same emotions we deal with every day.

He said: “A greater understanding of people’s issues is right at the heart of the book and part of the job.

“Everyone’s fighting a battle that no other person can see.

“I’ve seen people who take their own lives because of the shame involved.

“This is what you’re playing with when you lay into somebody on the internet.”

Bloom has clinics in Oxford and London, but is thought to be the only club psychotherapist at first-team level in English football.

It has enabled him to work through all sorts of concerns with United’s players, like how to cope with playing in empty stadia before last season’s Sky Bet League One play-offs.

And Bloom believes the U’s are a class apart from many of their peers.

“The book couldn’t have been written without my time at Oxford,” he said.

“Not just because of people’s experiences at the club, but their experiences at previous clubs.

“Oxford United are Champions League when it comes to player care, way beyond most clubs that I’ve come across.

“There’s a lot that goes on and that doesn’t mean just the players.

“I think we do remarkably well.”