Focus Minds On Success

SHOULD Boro’s first big summer swoop be for a shrink? The club have spent heavily on quality players but we need to maximise their potential and squeeze out that little bit extra out to get the kind of coherent and consistent displays that the outlay demands.
We need to toughen the mentality and instill a shared will to win that can bridge the quality gap between Boro and the big boys and open one between our heroes and the dead wood. We all know that.
So is it time for a new Bill Beswick?

Twice in the past month the boss has pointed the finger at the team’s lack of mental focus after disappointing displays at either end of the ‘typical Boro’ spectrum. Firstly after the sickening no-show against Cardiff when Boro, by Gareth Southgate’s own admission, “froze” when they felt the hand of history on their shoulder. He explained:

“Whether we froze or whether the occasion was too much for us I don’t know but we didn’t perform. I’ve got to take responsibility as a manager because whether I’ve pitched it right to them, whether we’ve tried to take some of the pressure off, whether we needed to put more onto them I don’t know. I’ve got to look at everything I did because I know I’ve got a group of players who give everything and they weren’t able to find that and whether that was the occasion, because sometimes in big matches you can’t find the energy, that’s pressure and maybe we weren’t able to deal with that today.”

The reasoning was that Boro perform better as underdogs and that when they were the strong favourites they crumbled under the weight of expectation. On paper man for man they were far superior to Cardiff, with a team packed full of internationals. Bar a few sentimentalists who would opt for Jimmy for old times sake, no one would select a single one of them ahead of a Boro player. Yet when it mattered Boro bottled it.
And there is an argument that it was not just on the pitch that Boro lacked mental strength, a total conviction in a positive outcome and a willingness to dig in and work towards it. The crowd too lacked it. There was a certain fear in the air, partly born of a lack of belief among some that this team has the edge, the ruthlessness or the quality to succeed when the chips are own, partly because of an age old ‘typical Boro’ cynicism that stems from previous kicks in the team delivered at the games against Orient, Wolves, at Wembley and at Eindhoven. Whatever, the crowd didn’t have the tangible confidence shown against Steaua when the odds were against us. For my part I expected to beat Cardiff and beat West Brom in the semi but lose to Chelsea in the final… them losing to Barnsley on the Saturday threw the world into flux. And if the crowd was riven with such uncertainty maybe it is to be expected that the team reflected that.
The question of mentality was raised again by Southgate after this weekend’s trip to Stamford Bridge when an awestruck Boro appeared to stand off Chelsea and “give them too much respect” and allowed them to bag an early goal.
Later when Boro got their act together and gave it a go they created enough to suggest that had they been totally focussed from the first whistle then they may have hurt the Blues and got a point, or even three. This time he said:

“The biggest thing we have to change as a club is our mentality and we can’t go away from places like Stamford Bridge thinking ‘well, we’ve only lost 1-0 at Chelsea, great’. We should go to places like that believing we can get results. One of the reasons we are where we are is because our mentality has to change. I thought first half we had just come to admire Chelsea and swap shirts at the end of the game. We said we didn’t want to have any regrets and that was the case in the second half when we had a real go.”

Again, it was on the psychological level the manager believed the game was lost, this time by the other side of the coin with Boro resigned to being battered by the technically better team and unable to produce the defiant spirit of the snotty nosed underdog that Cardiff had managed.
So is that where Boro are losing games? In the changies?
Clearly it is not just about mental states. More importantly are training, tactics, fitness, preparation, organisation, the skill levels of the personnel and the ability to translate that onto the pitch. A team – whether Boro or Cardiff or the Dog and Duck – can’t win just because they are highly motivated. Being pumped up by gangsta rap and having a boss who gives out a stirring pre-match message that is Churchillian in tone but delivered with a side of expletives isn’t a recipe for automatic success and it is no substitute for the more mundane business of building a dynamic side at the top of its game. Nor are John Beck dirty tricks and painting the away team changing rooms monochrome dirge going to deliver victory every time.
But the development of strategies to focus the mental strength of individuals and the collective are hugely important in turning out a team that is greater than the sum of its parts. Competitive sport at the top levels is determined by the thinnest of margins. Teams are closely matched in terms of skill, stamina and shape so if fine-tuning the psyche can squeeze out even an extra one per cent in performance it can be decisive.
Which brings us to Bill Beswick. The sports psychologist had worked with Steve McClaren at Derby, then Manchester United and was brought in at Boro as Mac’s assistant manager, guru and sounding board amid much talk of a revolutionary new cutting edge approach to off the field matters but with no football background (he had been the GB basketball coach) was an easy target for the traditionalists.
He became increasingly closely identified with the boss and was credited with creating his unpopular aloof public persona – the pair would go into a huddle before half-time team-talks or before the manager addressed the media – and eventually was seen as a joke figure at the Riverside among fans sceptical about his trade or hostile to its totemic role in the what became seen as the manager’s strait-jacket of scientific professionalism.
Beswick was the first victim of the post-Mac purge when Southgate took over at Boro and when the nationals started to put the knife into McClaren as England chief the semi-detached shrink became a proxy scapegoat for the media despite many clubs continuing to consult him.
But for all the ridicule aimed at his methods the prospect of increasing performance levels is an attractive one. Sunderland are the latest club to bring him in, offering the godsend “Keane goes mental” headlines, while most other big clubs are acutely aware of the possibilities.
If Boro have identified mentality as and area of weakness – and the public pronouncements of the boss clearly show they have – then it must be urgently addressed. We can not be deterred on the basis of “once bitten, twice shy” and it should not be seen as a retreat back into teh drak days of McClarenism. It doesn’t have to be Beswick either – politically that would be unacceptable for many reasons – but the best available talent should be secured for that role.
Psychological warfare is crucial in securing victory. It can maximise performance from our side and undermine the confidence of the opposition. It can swing the underlying dynamics of what is ostensibly an even competition our way and offer a small but significant advantage. After that it is down to the team – but we should give them all the help we can.


28 thoughts on “Focus Minds On Success

  1. An interesting article AV
    I think its fair to say that many young players (and remember most of this squad are still learning ) are ruined by overbearing,family members,or coaches with a draconian way of belittling players to feed their own inflated ego.
    Many times one on ones with someone (could be an ex-player) can help you through tough times both professionally and personally, so you are right any time you can bring an extra ingredient to the cause I’m all for it

  2. I think you may have a point AV and the team’s performance must be down to how the players approach the game – do they go into big games trying to win them or trying not to lose them?
    I suspect the latter, as the trend for Boro seems to be a promising adrenalin-fueled opening 10 minutes followed by a cautious and passive 35 minutes, which is inviting the prospect of chasing the game in the second half.
    However, I believe that this behaviour is symptomatic for all teams when the price of defeat heavily outweighs the price of victory.
    So teams at the bottom of the league who desperately require points tend to fear losing more than teams at the top. This is further skewed by the fact that winning teams tend to believe they can win and losing teams tend to expect defeat and crumble easily if they go behind.
    So, could a Bill Beswick figure address this problem? I suspect it’s a cultural thing and to suddenly introduce a player to this approach is more likely to bring sniggers in the dressing room than a feeling of Zen confidence.
    Though we shouldn’t forget that Boro usually end up with players that are probably in parts mentally defective, otherwise they would be snapped up by bigger clubs.
    So can this lack of confidence be fixed by Psychological coach? Unfortunately the answer is, probably only if they believe in themselves.

  3. In the scientific management era of Steve MacBlackadder and Bill Baldrick we had many cunning plans.
    The most startling was the lulling of european teams by going 3-0 down before coming back to win 4-3.
    The failure to get off the team bus occurred just as often with a sports trick cyclist as it does now. Think back to that season where we kept losing 1-0 away from home where we came out asleep, went 1-0 down then attacked for the last half hour.
    Just because it didnt work for us then doesnt mean we cant improve what we are doing now. We all know that our coaching team are inexperienced, excellant blokes though they are, Gate and Coops are new to the job. It is possible someone more experienced could improve things. Someone who has seen it before, who can rattle some cages, massage some egos.
    Whether that is an experienced manager or someone to work on the mental side is not for me to say but we do need to try and get away from this Jeckyll and Hide approach.

  4. Ensuring competition for places so that no player is guaranteed his place in the team will up performances.
    If you do not produce the goods you are out of the team.
    C’Mon Boro

  5. They don’t need a shrink, they need someone who is not scared to give them the hairydryer and a kick up the bum when they need it.
    Gareth claps like a seal, Crosby is one of life’s geography teachers and how can Cooper scare them when he is dressed like an over-sized mascot?
    They need to bring in a nasty get who does not respect their reputations and who can sting them into action.
    Fear is a better motivator than pyscho-babble slogans.

  6. For certain psycology is an important part of any top level sport and Boro as a club have always lacked self belief because belief comes with success.
    GS to me shows excellent leadership qualities and I’m quite sure he has the mental toughness to work out and apply what is needed to get his teams mental attitude right.
    The problem is being a new manager he is constantly learning from his mistakes. However at least he is learning.
    We’ll get there in the end.

  7. It is the Boro fans who need shrinks not the players.
    Until they can break from the self destructive cycle of pessimism and cynicism that leads them to panic and scapegoat the players at every set-back this club is going nowhere.
    Positive thinking applies to mass crowd psychology as well as individuals. Thats why governments rely on the ‘feelgood factor’ to drive the economy and marketing people are so aware of public opinion – because the public have a massive effect on how the people who are supposed to shape events actually perform.
    Boro’s crowd is dysfunctional. They have persuaded themselves they are not worthy of success, that their natural condition is mediocrity and they wallow in me me me self-pity. They are waiting for failure and expressing that vocally gets to the players.
    Thats why Boro are better away where they are not worried about making the one mistake that will set the whingers off.
    Until the supporters start to believe success is possible and pulling their weight we will never start winning.

  8. Any player earning vast amounts of money that do not fully apply themselves for every game do not need a shrink, rather they need instilling with a good old fashioned work ethic.
    This namby pamby approach is unbelievable.
    How about: ” Right lads, time to earn your phenomenal wages and you all know what is required. If you are rubbish or not trying, you will report to Rockliffe every morning at 6am until you can show that you can justify your worth. If this applies to you, I will see you at the match after this, wear your nice suit to support the team because you will not be playing”

  9. Never happy reckons that increasing competition for places and threatening players with being dropped if they don’t perform will improve perfomances.
    I agree that competition can only be a good thing, however Adam Johnson said in an interview recently that it is easier to perform to your best if you know you will get a run in the side as it shows the manager has confidence in your ability and you won’t be dropped the second you slip.
    Clearly, some sort of balance has to be arrived at between the two positions.

  10. Bill Beswick did a fantastic job when he was here didn’t he? R D is spot on, the players don’t need shrinks, just a reason to pick up their hefty wage packet.
    Performance related pay is the way to go, don’t perform, don’t get paid meg-bucks, easy as that.
    **AV writes: But top players – the people we need – won’t sign a deal with performance related pay. No chance. And in the closed community of football where everyone talks and texts all the time, punishing people financially is a sure way to deter even medium ranked future targets.

  11. Totally agree with John Powls formation line ups.
    Tees Exiles comments about the crowd are well observed too, certain sections of the crowd think they are in a library that is about to collapse for gods sake!
    I think we should get a quality attacking coach, attack is positive and the best form of defence too.
    Who knows, the right guy could turn Cattermole into the attacking midfielder we strive for, the Boro Stevie G , its all about perception and confidence.
    We have been too negative by far in most of the games this season.
    Alves must be played !

  12. People knock Mac and his sidekick for their reliance on science but when they first come to clear away the debris of Captain Lager’s circus it was exactly what the club wanted.
    And, whatever you think about their public image and stupid foot in mouthisms, they delivered: Carling Cup, Europe through the league, Eindhoven. All the shouters and screamers in the past never did that.
    Boro never bottled it at Cardiff.

  13. AV:
    I’m confused! (But I don’t need the services of a psychologist for my confusion – maybe for other aspects of my life, but not for this!)
    As readers of your blogs may have noticed, I’m a strong advocate of psychological reinforcement, having posted on it after the Cardiff match and on several occasions previously.
    It was with a mixture of relief and a degree of satisfaction therefore, that on listening to BBC Tees on Sunday after the Chelsea match, I heard a fill-in interview by BBC Tees in the after-match review, of a (Sports) Psychologist who, as I extracted from the interview, is being retained by Boro.
    I can’t remember the guy’s name, but he spoke very well both articulately and knowledgeably. His CV includes being a past president/chairman of the Professional Jockey’s Association – or some other horse-racing related organization.
    He acknowledged some of the skepticism there is in dressing rooms about the psychological “processes” and the reluctance by some people to engage with it.
    So my confusion is grounded in the apparent retention by Boro of this guy and the appearance of your article now advocating a psychological element to Boro’s approach to developing players, but without mentioning the appointment? Perhaps you could clarify if this appointment has been made?
    Having spent a significant part of the last eight years of my working life in a people-development capacity, I have seen the full spectrum of reaction to psychological development. The range of response reactions to your blog rather typifies the population, albeit through a small and probably not too representative sample (with only 9 postings so far, not including this one).
    There are a number of reasons why people may show reluctance to engage with psychological development:-
    Lack of understanding or knowledge
    Inherent bias and skepticism (lack of belief, ironically!)
    Ego and pride
    to mention just a few. All of these are related and all are due to functions of the human organ responsible – the brain. Although not viewed as such by the vast majority of the population, it’s like a muscle – it can be trained.
    Bringing an awareness of some of its workings into the conscious thoughts of the “ownerâ€? can assist in its training. And even if the processes remain in the sub-conscious, assisted development can and does affect beneficial change.
    The beneficial effects of taking a positive approach to psychological preparation and psychological self-management can be demonstrated in all walks of life, including sport.
    The difference between competing athletes isn’t only due to the physical preparation, but the crucial difference between winning and losing can be in their respective mentality – the psychological state – of the opponents.
    Awareness of psychological processes and the brain’s reaction to stimuli can also enhance anger-management, which may help reduce on-field indiscipline and adverse reaction (particularly helpful to, but clearly not confined to youth). (I wonder who I might have in mind here!)
    And like it or not, psychologists can and do help those processes, not by being manipulative or scheming, or by hypnotizing, or drugging or any other subversive “occupationâ€? of the subjects “brain-spaceâ€?.
    Not by mesmerizing them with the defamatorily-referred “psycho-babbleâ€?. It’s done by reinforcing their self-belief, by engaging with them in their positive (and constructive) thoughts (as opposed to their negative – and therefore energy-sapping and disabling or destructive thoughts). They do the work. The psychologist merely helps the job along.
    As I wrote that last paragraph, I could see in my mind’s eye, many readers cringing at the thought. What I’d ask such readers to do though, is to reflect, privately and honestly, on their own personal reasons why they may find such matters uncomfortable.
    The outcome may be enlightening for them – and maybe not!
    If they have sufficient ability and self-awareness already developed, the chances are that they are already able to see the effects of a psychological element to personal development.
    If they can’t, and if their reaction remains hostile, they’ve probably not yet had the opportunity to benefit and they remain skeptical for reasons they don’t yet truly understand!
    To enable the process, they may have to suspend their ego and open themselves to uncomfortable honest truths. Only then can they deal with it and hopefully gain benefit (yes, a bit like recovering alcoholics!)
    **AV writes: Richard, I believe Gareth Southgate HAS created links with a sports psychologist on a semi-detatched, freelance basis in the past few months… but that has not stopped him going public twice pointing to the lack of mental preparation for big games which suggests he still believes that it an area of pressing concern.
    I think part of the legacy of McClaren and Beswick may be some political resistance within the club with institutional scepticism reinforced by the experience. Maybe he is trying to underline the need to develop this area.
    It should be noted that the axing of Beswick was one of the first acts after Southgate took over but he was not replaced like for like at the time. Maybe Southgate is only now feeling his way towards that side of the job and is looking to make a public point in his pronouncements.

  14. Richard, excellent post, as someone who uses a ‘professional coach’ at work I concur with everything you say.

  15. I really dont agree with this at all.
    Was it then Beswick who won the Carling Cup and not MFC or the players or the manager?
    For me the more times you tell some one something the more they start to believe it. Is Ronaldo as good as he is because he thinks he is an average player in a good side?
    No he isnt. It is because he wants to be the best in the world, he wants to win and will stop at nothing to get a result. That is why he would cost £100,000 million because he is a born winner and a truly amazing talent.
    For me the problem lies with individual players and there preparations for a game. One may have looked at Chelsea on Sunday and thought Drogba, Essien, Cole, Ballack… we are going to get done here five or six.
    But you know what I saw? Boateng – “Im not bothered if you’re Ballack, whack have some of that, I’m George Boateng nice to meet you” and “Drogba hey, you’re not scoring today thanks very much, I’ll keep my own shirt.”
    Its about individual players wanting to be better and wanting to win, not psychology not anything to do with anyone else.
    How can you motivate a millionaire who can cry and go play somewhere else for the same if not better money?
    If we are to change out mentality then we must bring in players who have a winning mentality that will bread confidence throughout the side.
    I’m not talking about full internationals but kids who are winning youth trophies, tournaments and playing youth team football and winning. These kids are all over the world and will breed the confidence of the club.
    Yes senior players may aswell but when are Boro going to sign a player who has won a major trophy in the last two or three years to help with that mentality?
    Alves £13m but what has he won?
    O’Neil – £4mil whats he won?
    Mido £6m – whats he won?
    Downing, England international – whats he won?
    Pogatetz international for Austria – whats he won?
    Tuncay, turkish titles – yes but how often?
    We need players with the winning mentality not a psychologist and to get these players we have to got to spend the money…
    COME ON BORO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. Pat Mc, Dubai:
    Andy Murray’s living a mental & psychological nightmare at the moment, positively bottling it for Scotland, so “Team Murray” (a motley assortment of part-time coaches, friends, fitness advisers, his brother (when he’s not playing in a different event) – & his mum!), with which he has surrounded himself since he gave Brad Gilbert the old heave-ho after only 16 months, is perhaps not the best example to hold up as a model for getting the Boro show on the road to consistent success.
    Sure, Murray has won a couple of titles this year, even beaten Federer, but he’s failed more often than he’s succeeded. Many fans are beginning to question the wisdom of his decision not to have a single coach & I personally am beginning seriously to doubt he actually has what it takes to become a Grand Slam or even Masters champion! 😦 Now Brad Gilbert, on the other hand…
    Apologies for going off-topic now, but my other points are not exactly unconnected with what Boro should do during the summer to try to ensure a more successful campaign in 2008/09:
    “gt wrote… [on the “Alves will come good” blog]
    After a number of liquid refreshments and a great deal of thought, or should I say laments, if SG gives GS a £20m war chest in the summer, I say don’t screw around – £18m for David Bentley and that will do. That one quality player who will make the difference.”
    I was reminded of the above post when I saw this on the Beeb’s new-look site yesterday:
    “Bentley hints at Blackburn exit
    David Bentley says he has not ruled out leaving Blackburn to further his goal of becoming an England regular. The 23-year-old is in talks with Rovers over a new contract but admits he wants to play regular European football in order to gain England recognition. Rovers are still in the hunt for a Uefa Cup spot, but Bentley said: “Time will tell over the next few months what will happen. It’s a big decision in my life. You never know in football. Sometimes you have to make strong decisions.”
    Bentley has shown in the past he is willing to take difficult decisions, handing in a transfer request at Arsenal in 2005 in pursuit of first-team football.
    He also caused controversy by making himself unavailable for England Under-21s last year, citing tiredness and his desire to extend his international career in the long term.
    Blackburn are seven points behind fifth-placed Everton in the race for a guaranteed Uefa Cup spot. Asked if Blackburn missing out on Europe would precipitate a move, Bentley – who has been linked with Liverpool – added: “I won’t answer that. I’ll leave it up to you to decide. I want to play European football, I want to play at the top of my game. I want to go to the World Cup in two years and I want to be starting.”
    Bentley must force his way ahead of David Beckham, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Aaron Lennon if he is to become a regular on England’s right flank. But he said: “I’m in the early stages of my England career. I’m going to have to work hard, it’s up to me to take the position. There’s a lot of good players in this country, but if I perform then I believe I can take it, so we’ll have to see.”
    Bentley came off the bench to replace Beckham for the last half-hour of a drab 1-0 defeat by France in Paris, but said he did not particularly enjoy the experience. “It was a strange game. It wasn’t very enjoyable. It wasn’t the best of games watching from the bench,” he said.
    “It’s the stage of the season we’re at. I don’t think there should be a game like that anyway. I think it was a difficult situation. A lot of the lads are preparing themselves for the Premier League and the Champions League, so it can be difficult to play a game like that for both sides.
    “It was a half-hearted, 50% effort. Everyone wants to play well for England, but sometimes it just happens like that. It wasn’t enjoyable for me, but you try to have an effect on the game. You go out there and try to have an effect, but it is difficult to get into a game like that.” ”
    So, Bentley IS apparently unsettled, BUT nothing on earth is ever going to persuade a player like him to sign for a “children of a lesser god” team (to borrow Richard’s memorable description! Love reading your posts/rants/analysis, Richard! Keep up the good work! 😉 )
    He won’t move to Boro, not when the possibility of a move to a club like Liverpool is potentially on the cards, at any rate – more’s the pity! Now, if Boro had but beaten Cardiff…
    * Re the possibility mentioned by others of a bid by GS for Jimmy Bullard, if Fulham go down (which I personally think would be a good move), according to one of the London evening freebies yesterday, he’s apparently told insiders he’ll stay if that happens! 😦

  17. You will rarely win a game if you put on such a defensive formation. I know a team needs balance but I think the shortage in numbers of strikers on at the same time is a disgrace. Having Alliadierre on his own up front is not going to get us a 3 nil win.
    We need an attacking coach who knows what he is doing.
    Team balance is so important, recently I watched Birmingham Newcastle match and Birmingham were destroying Newcastle in the first half with strong attacking play and Newcastle were loosing confidence
    Then Nicky Butt crocked Seb Larson who was on the left doing a downing and all of a sudden Brum lost the initiative and the second half was all Newcastle!
    We need to play with more attacking players on the pitch for more of the time and tell one of the central midfeild to go forward as much as poss and the other to hold.
    Fear is holding us back!
    Buy a shrink
    Buy an attacking coach
    Buy Bentley for the right to balance Downing.
    Buy an attacking midfielder as we are not allowed to play Mendietta
    And play Alves in!

  18. There was one other point I wished to make (and to be fair it’s something that you did also argue was important AV).
    You said that:
    “if fine-tuning the psyche can squeeze out even an extra one per cent in performance it can be decisive.”
    Then surely employing an experienced coach and manager would give a team a lot more than an extra one percent in performance – more likely 25 percent!

  19. David Morrison:
    I refer to the mythical £250M that Steve Gibson has hidden under his bed and has obviously forgotten about! (See an earler posting on “Alves coming good”).
    Ah, David! Were it only as simple as buying the complete set of articles off the shelf within Boro’s budget constraints!!
    As a general rule (there are exceptions around), players such as those that Manchester United and the other top teams can afford to buy and pay, come closer to being the complete article, in their skills, their physicality and their mentality, than the players that the likes of Boro can afford.
    That’s why Manchester United and other Champions League Teams buy them – and why Boro don’t. Boro can’t afford them!
    And Boro, as a club and location in which to spend a significant part of your early life with demanding WAG in tow, is hardly up there with Bond Street, or Ramblas living, is it? So even if Boro were able to match the money…….???
    If players have the attributes already built in, it comes naturally to them and they’re intrinsically better players for being the mix that they are.
    It’s what, outside of football, “head-hunting” is about. It’s why there are many transfers of “top talent” in industry. Companies will “buy” top managers/ leaders because the best comes at a premium.
    Similarly, the best footballers have a “natural” gift of the blend of skills and let’s call it “attitude” (although that can and is, necessarily, broken down into components within psychology).
    Top talent such as Christiano Ronaldo, let’s face it, are rare. And in today’s commercial world, won’t be found playing for the Boros of this world.
    Unless Steve Gibson’s mythical £250M suddenly materialises! Then, and only then, might Middlesbrough and Teesside’s erstwhile well-disguised, but fundamental attractiveness register in their psyche – not to mention their bank accounts! But, as I have already pointed out – there’s the small matter of a regional image and geographical location issue!
    David, you concluded your last post with, “We need players with the winning mentality not a psychologist and to get these players we have to got to spend the money…”
    I’ve tried to address this in this response posting.
    We have to get the best out of what talent we can attract to Middlesbrough.
    It is my contention that using the services of a sports psychologist or a personal coach can have a part to play, for those who are open to it and who genuinely wish to improve.
    Improvement’s not guaranteed, of course. That depends on many factors, but it’s no reason not to try!

  20. If after the Saturday results with Man Utd going out that wasn’t motivational then I don’t know what is!
    I wonder if the players truely understand the magnitude of that result against Cardiff and the way it was gained.
    One things for sure, I will be very surprised if such an opportunity as this years turns up again.

  21. “they delivered: Carling Cup, Europe through the league, Eindhoven.”
    What exactly did Boro deliver at Eindhoven other than a humiliating UEFA Cup final mauling, mate. Am I missing something!
    As for Europe through the league……Jeez, I suppose that will nearly be as good as finishing higher than Newcastle to you.

  22. There is no problem having all manner of people at a club to help out. The MacBlackadder Bill Baldrick model may not have worked and we have spent enough time debating pros and cons that we dont need to revisit the debate.
    What we know is that in certain areas the club appear to be lacking. Some of the areas are the same as under MacBlackadder.
    Richard talks about coaching of people and not in the football sense. The question to be asked in our situation is who is coaching the coaches? Who is providing the skills and experience to help Gate and co deal with situations? It appears they are learning on the job, making mistakes as they go along. If so it cant be right.

  23. How many top class or world class teams such as Barca, Real, Man U, etc. have put their success down to a Pyschiatrist?
    Or looking at it from a different perspective do Fergie, Mourinho, Wenger and co. need a Pychiatrist backing them up.
    Taking Benchmarking a step further (or backwords in time) Shankly, Revie, Busby, Stein, Paisley, Cloughie and even Sir Alf did not have a Psycho on the bench.
    Put simply a good Manager can do most things reasonably well but a great Manager can do a lot more including motivate his or her staff. The “Hairdryer treatment” is not performed by a technical support coiffure on standby.
    The famous “Football is not a matter of life and death – its far more important than that” statement was not some profound Psychological statement cleverly scripted, it was a deep passionately held belief that came from the heart not the head of the late great Mr. Shankly.
    Fergie’s and Wenger’s clever manipulation and pre match intimidation of match officials is downright unsporting but it gives them an extra 9 points each and every season.
    Just listen currently to how Ronaldo is “unprotected” by English officials (cue Man U penalty or obligatory free kick 20 yards out on Sunday).
    Just watch the “watch antics” from the Master on Sunday, and all without the aid of a safety net (sorry meant psychologist).
    Martin Atkinson and Keith Hacket have been slaughtered on the satellite altar just a few weeks ago. I wonder what happens next time Mr. Atkinson referees a Man U game?
    Gareth came the closest I have seen to making this breakthrough after the Chelsea game by actually stating the obvious truth about the 1st half and the reality of the second to showing that maybe, just maybe, he is learning the real art of Management and realises that success begins with realising whats wrong in the first place.
    Correction of the wrongdoings means taking responsibility and sorting out the mess and that includes making damn sure everyone knows (ala Shankly, Busby, Cloughie etc.) who is calling the shots, including the David Beckhams (dressing room mysterious cut eyebrow incident!).
    A £250 million Summer treasure chest would not guarantee anything without strong leadership and direction.
    Gareth needs to take up the mantle and start playing Wenger/Mourinho/Fergie mind games with the staff, officials and yes even us the supporters, just look at the anti Grant fervour simmering around the Bridge right now and the deep desire of the Blue masses to see the return of Mourinho.
    People will instinctively follow great leaders and believe in them. Gareth needs to believe in himself and then the players and the fans will believe in Gareth, its a simple (perhaps even arrogant) but self fulfilling prophecy.
    Sunday is an ideal stage to show before the worlds cameras and assembled Boro faithful that we have the Management and Players with the belief and passion to win and not merely avoid getting beat.

  24. Have I missed something? Has SG suddenly found £250million or did someone slip when typing £25 and turn it into £250?

  25. Nigel:
    Sorry. I’m guilty! Sorry to have inadvertently to have raised your hopes! I first referred to £250M in a previous blog and then subsequently referred to it (described as a mythical stash that Steve Gibson had forgotten he’d hidden under his bed!)in a posting earlier in this blog.
    It’s been carried forward as a “Chinese whisper” and has taken a new life of it’s own! It doesn’t exist I’m afraid – at least as far as I’m aware!
    Shows the power of rumour though! Blimey!

  26. This article is a shocking admission that Gareth Southgate and co are not the right people for this football club.
    Gareth Southgate = Not Ready To Be A Premiership Manager.
    Sorry, is GS new to this club or has he been here longer than I’ve had hot dinnners? Has the bleeding obvious only just dawned on him?
    How many times have I raised this point? How many times have others raised this point? Are we managers? No, but then we’re not idiots either. Clearly others aren’t as savvy as we are and that’s why they should go.
    Even Xavier was saying this publicly when he returned for his second stint and the powers at be at the club ” allegedly ” read him the riot act for his troubles.
    Thankfully, GS can read the words of Ian Gill who talks from the same sheet as I do and have done since day one of my arrival here.
    ” Ian Gill wrote…
    …Richard talks about coaching of people and not in the football sense. The question to be asked in our situation is who is coaching the coaches? Who is providing the skills and experience to help Gate and co deal with situations? It appears they are learning on the job, making mistakes as they go along. If so it cant be right. ”
    Barnsey, H, and others should have gone a long, long time ago. Their CV’s speak for themselves and they are CV’s which are not good enough for this football club at this moment in time, in my opinion.
    Unless I’m very much mistaken Barnsey had never coached before he came to the club and was taken straight from Teesside Uni where he was lecturing. At the time he may have done a good job, but then times have changed and with him still in the hot seat it’s clear that the club hasn’t moved with the times.
    How can I prove this? Easy.
    What time do you guys wake up in the morning? Why do you wake up at that time? Simple, you do so because over a period of time you’ve programmed your brain to make sure that your body is wide awake at this time because you have to then go to work and perform.
    When do we play most of our games? 3pm. So why don’t our players train at 3pm so that their brains are programmed to ensure that all the functions of their body’s are as wide awake as possible at this time, ready for them to then go to their work and to be ready to perform at their highest output level possible?
    Our players STILL train at 11 o’clock which is absolutely senseless and mindbogglingly out of date.
    If you play at 3pm on Saturday then in that week you should play at 3pm, and then if you play at 1pm on Sunday then in that week you should train at 1 pm. It isn’t rocket science, just common sense or should I say up to date, modern knowledge.
    To cut a long story short we need better than he can offer. We need someone who has achieved at the very highest level, has all the experience and who wants the new challenge of doing it again with us.
    Going back to GS.
    How’s it possible that he’s just arrived at his conclusion?
    Where the hell has he been in all this time and what the hell has he been doing? Coaching badges? Do me a favour.
    Our league position says it all and so does the fact that Gibson had the balls to put him in the hot seat in the first place and to then stand by him no matter what just so that he can be applauded for doing so.
    Am I wrong? Show me the CV of the main man at Bulkhaul.
    For sure, stand by your man, but at least do so based upon the fact that your man has the CV which proves he knows what he’s doing.
    A winning mentality doesn’t come from employing a mind guru. Yes, that’s a great help for sure.
    A winning mentality is born from the Chairman and is passed down right to the tea lady.
    Winning. A word that is repeated and repeated and repeated at every single opportunity and is done so in the utter belief that the organisation can win, will win and must win.
    Winning. The ethos that underpins every single aspect of every single thing that an organisation does and seeks to do, no matter what. The absolute and utter belief that all and any problem can, will and must be overcome no matter how long it takes.
    Winning. The never ending search for ever higher and higher levels of performance at every single level and department of an organisation.
    Winning. A hunger that never dies in which the organisation remembers where they came from and who they are, celebrates but doesn’t rest on past glories, through images plastered all over the walls of the organistaion so that the current crop of employees are never able to forget that they are there to emulate those that came before them, but always, always looks to the future. ( Just as you will find when you take a tour of Milan Lab, widely regarded as the most advanced training facility in the world. I’ve been there, have our coach’s? )
    These things do not exist at this football club on a regular basis or to the extent in which they become infectious to those which it surrounds.
    Any sports psycologist will only ever have a limited effect unless this winning atmosphere exists from the very top of the club, to the very bottom, day in, day out, 7 day a week, 365 days a year, year on year.
    Without this a sports psycologist will only ever be working against the existing machine.
    AV is an award winning journalist for the Evening Gazette. He wouldn’t be if he wasn’t encased by this organisation that demands, promotes, and nutures his talent through their ” Winning ” mentality and ethos.

  27. Is it not managers job to get the best out of the players,by instilling the confidence and correct mentalities which serves to improve their collective psyches?
    Gareth Southgate stated he has more confidence in the players than they have in themselves but the Adam Johnson experience contradicts him on this score.
    This lad earned rave reviews at Championship level (no sneering at them, they did produce three semi-finalists), and stars at under 21 international level but can not get a run in a mediocre Boro midfield. A sure fire way to destroy the confidence of a young talent.
    This disappointing mismanagement of talented young players proves, in my view, that Gareth Southgate does not possess the necessary skills required to be a successful manager at the top level.

  28. On the subject of team psychology etc, it was very damning on Saturday that not one Boro player went to Jonathan Grounds after his own goal.
    It would have taken nothing for one of the senior players to just put their arm around him to console him or at least to show that they did not hold him responsible. That is an important part of the team ethos that should have been there.

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