Will Smallbone is a professional footballer who currently plays for Stoke City and represents the Republic of Ireland in  international games.

Will was diagnosed with alopecia areata in 2021 whilst recovering from an injury. 

We were thrilled when Will became an Ambassador for Alopecia UK in December 2022. In this interview, we find out more about him..

Will, tell us a little about your experience with alopecia..

I first started losing my hair towards the end of 2020 with a small patch appearing on the back of my head which slowly got bigger and bigger. And then I would say within 3 to 4 months I had started to lose hair all over my head and then decided to shave my head. It then eventually stopped growing back and has left me how I am now. I was very sad at first and it was quite a traumatic time, going from having loads of hair to suddenly a patch growing on the back of my head to then all being completely gone within a few months. 

What would you say is the hardest thing about having alopecia?

I’d say the hardest thing about having alopecia has been the impact on my confidence. At first I wouldn’t ever leave the house without a hat because I felt embarrassed about what had happened and how I looked which I would say I have now overcome! . 

Did you feel any additional pressures with losing your hair when in such a public profession? 

I definitely felt added pressure with the thought of going back to playing in front of crowds after everything that had happened. People can be ruthless at football games but it hasn’t bothered me one bit what people have said during games. It was something I was worried about, coming back from my injury, but the support from my family, friends and especially my girlfriend helped me to deal with all of it

Why have you chosen to become an Alopecia UK ambassador?

I want to help other people going through a similar thing to what I was going through. I want to be able to use my public platform as a professional footballer to help other people with the same problems in a positive way and raise awareness. I want to show people alopecia isn’t something to be embarrassed or ashamed of and that you can still achieve your dreams. And if I can help only one person then it would mean a lot to me. 

What is your biggest ambition for the future?

I want to have the best football career that I can possibly have, playing at the top level of both club and international football. Off the pitch I would like to help as many people as I can struggling with alopecia as I know how stressful and upsetting a time it can be. 

What advice would you give to any young people wanting to play at top-level in their chosen sport?

Follow your dreams and believe in yourself. Anything is possible if you set your mind to it. Don't be put off by bad days as they are bound to happen at some point - everyone experiences them. 

What advice would you give to any young people struggling with their alopecia?

I would say remember that whilst it is something that is out of our control, it is also something that brings us all together in a unique way and that we should be proud of and try to embrace the best we can. I thought people would look at me differently or treat me differently because of what happened but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. If people do view you differently because if alopecia then it says more about them as a person than it does you. To deal with alopecia you have to be so strong and I would like to be an example of having alopecia shouldn’t stop you from achieving your dreams because it is possible! 

Thanks to Will for sharing his story. Find out more about all our Ambassadors here.