AS usual Aidan Smith was getting involved in the WhatsApp group banter – yet one voice was absent.
The Newmains United development goalie noticed best pal Jack Clemenson was reading the messages but not replying.
It was unusual but Aidan put the silence down to tiredness or the fact his buddy from Bellshill was busy.
A few hours later Jack, 17, took his own life.
In the seven months since that fateful Friday afternoon in February Aidan has asked himself question after question.
He’s looked deep inside and wondered why Jack couldn’t have just spoken to him or anyone about how he felt.
He wouldn’t have been human if he hadn’t.
How much he still misses him is shown by the ankle bracelets he wears in every game with Jack’s name etched on them.
This week is Suicide Prevention Week and in conjunction with United’s sponsors Breathing Space Aidan has bravely chosen to talk about Jack’s plight in the hope it helps others open up if they’re feeling down.
Aidan, 18, said: “Jack was just a normal, happy boy. That’s how everyone saw him. He was a good laugh.
“I first met him in first year at Cardinal Newman High School in Bellshill and he was one of my best mates. We just hit it off right from the moment we started talking.
“Everyone was just so shocked to hear what he had done. Nobody knew he was feeling down like that. There wasn’t a single sign.
“It was February 15, the day after Valentine’s Day. On that Friday morning on the day he died the group chat was on the go.
“We were all talking about football. Jack was just reading the comments and not replying. Normally he’d be one who would reply. You could just see he had looked at it.
“I thought he must be tired or something. Then a few hours later he did what he did. I was in my room and got a call off his girlfriend asking if I was ok.
“I said I didn’t know what she was talking about and asked her how she was. She then asked if I’d heard about Jack and she told me he’d done it. It was about 5pm and his dad had found him at 3pm.”
After the initial shock passed the devastating magnitude of what had happened washed over Aidan.
He said: “It took a couple of months for it to sink in. It’s now seven months since it happened. You look back all the time and think about things. You just wish he could have told you.
“He’d have got all the help he’d have needed if he had. I’ve been playing my football with Newmains and doing an mechanic apprenticeship with Mercedes Benz.
“What happened affected me. I suppose I wanted to make him proud and sometimes that put me under pressure. But now I know he’ll always have my back even though he’s no longer here.
“It makes you look at life in a different way. Some boys don’t care but it’s made me a better person.”
Playing for the United development team under John Campbell has given Aidan a focus. But wherever his football takes him, he’ll always have Jack with him on the football pitch.
He said: “We’ve all been shocked but we’ve all stuck together though and we’re all really good friends now. Every single day I think about him.
“I’ve got these ankle bracelets I wear when I’m playing which have his name on them. I wanted a way I could show him a bit of respect and he’ll always be there with me when I’m playing.
“I’ll always wear them, even if I make it into the first team. Jack wasn’t very good at football. He was always interested in coming to my games and watching though.
“The coaching at Newmains has been brilliant and John has the experience to improve us to the point we can go even higher.
“If anyone wants to come and try it they should. We’re a good wee team, it’s just some of the boys are still getting used to facing adults.
“But you can tell once that gets better we’ll be a really good side. I’m happy the co-manager of the first team Paul Davies comes to watch a lot of the games too.
“I want to play for Newmains United’s first team and take Jack out onto the pitch with me. He’d be happy with that.”
Aidan arranged a game in Jack’s honour at the Sir Matt Busby Sports Complex in Bellshill earlier this year. Now he’s urging anyone who feels like they need help to speak up
He added: “I’ve always been close to Jack’s mum and dad and his family. When he died you saw adults crying.
“They’d lost a boy and I’d lost my best friend. I asked everyone if they’d noticed anything they could look back at as a sign but nobody saw anything.
“The match we put on was brilliant. Another guy Alan Boies helped me to do it and there must have been 250 folk at the game.
“If you need to speak to someone because you’re not feeling right it’s not a weakness. It’s a strength. People do care and it’s important to remember that.”
Tony McLaren, Breathing Space National Coordinator, said: “Suicide Prevention Week highlights the importance of talking about how you’re feeling early on, before things become overwhelming.
“Whether it’s with friends, family or a helpline such as Breathing Space, talking things through and being listened to can really help.”
If you need someone to speak to you can contact Samaritans on 116 123 or Breathing Space on 0800 83 85 87.