Norwich City told to go for the jugular
Chris LakeyNorwich City were yesterday urged to go for the jugular to clinch the League One title. One of the country's leading sports psychologists Dr John Pates insists Paul Lambert's squad must ram home their five point advantage over Leeds and the rest of the chasing pack.Chris Lakey
Norwich City were yesterday urged to go for the jugular to clinch the League One title.
One of the country's leading sports psychologists Dr John Pates insists Paul Lambert's squad must ram home their five point advantage over Leeds and the rest of the chasing pack.
Pates has worked closely with Ryder Cup stars such as Ian Woosnam and Darren Clarke on the mental side of top-level sport and is adamant the free-scoring Canaries should go for broke ahead of the decisive run-in.
"I've seen golfers blow big tournaments when leading because they get into a defensive mindset," he said. "They don't go for their shots and instead try to protect what they have. What they're effectively attempting is to stop doing the things that got them their in the first place.
"Norwich have to continue to attack - not to go defensive, don't change formations or the players where possible because that is what has got them into this position. Players themselves don't have to think about outcomes or get too far ahead - just the processes and tasks of what they need to do to get the job done. If you're a forward it's not about, 'I need to get into space to score a goal,' but 'I need to find space.' That is the only issue because then you won't make the wrong decisions.
"If the manager gets them playing with no consequences to their actions then they will fulfil their potential. They won't be inhibited. You see it in training all the time that players can be fantastic because it doesn't matter - so to a degree it's about replicating that mindset on the pitch when it does."
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Pates believes Lambert is now the key man in Norwich's promotion push.
"He needs to know his players more than ever at this stage," he said. "What works for one person doesn't work for another. The likes of David Beckham or Paul Gascoigne responded to criticism in the perfect way with their performances. But others need an arm around the shoulder - the bottom line is you need to relax your players. They have to be excited by the challenge ahead and respond to it positively and not to be in fear - that is what separates the really top players.
"The successful managers keep the same processes, the same training drills, the same warm-ups and of course winning breeds that confidence. It's a great skill for any manager. I know Martin O'Neill well. I play golf with him and I've said in the past he should let me come in and do some work with the Villa players but he feels that is an area that he is actually good at. The mental side. Look at the best managers and they all have that. Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Bobby Robson. Those type of characters."
Pates insists City's squad has already shown its mental resolve to bounce back from an horrendous start to their first campaign in English football's third tier for half a century.
"The mental side now plays a massive part in sport," he said. "Look at Leeds recently who managed to beat Manchester United. Why was that possible on a one-off occasion? Because all professional footballers have a degree of ability and technical skill but it's harnessing that mental edge and re-producing it on a regular basis.
"That's what the Premiership player has. Wayne Rooney thrives on the pressure to peform, Jack Nicklaus thrived on the pressure to perform. Those individuals see it as an opportunity to show what they are capable of. It's not about sitting all the players down for some motivational speech because some might take it on board and some might switch off. By the same token worrying about things like what other teams are doing or what the crowd expects should not influence how they go about the job.
"Seasoned professionals don't tend to worry about the crowd. Chris Nicholl is one of my best mates and he used to say even if you were playing at Wembley it became background noise. Maybe a young professional might be affected but really things like the crowd or what your rivals are doing are all extraneous factors."