Listen to football psychology expert Dan Abrahams being interviewed by Jason Cundy and Ray Houghton from Talk Sport Radio on how football psychology may play a major part with the England football team’s preparations for Euro 2012. Below the audio player is the written transcript for those that wish to read rather than listen.
Talk Sport – Let’s turn our attention back to football, and joining us on the phone now is top football psychologist Dan Abrahams. Good morning Dan.
Dan Abrahams – Good morning guys how are you?
Talk Sport – Very well indeed. Now we all know how much the game of football is mentally in the brain. What about the footballers? What will they be going through at the moment in preparation for this football tournament?
Dan Abrahams – Well I think definitely there is the elephant in the room when it comes to English footballers, the players propensity to play with fear. At the moment they may be a little bit nervous and a bit apprehensive, so Roy Hodgson is going to have to be doing everything he can do to help the players play with belief, with certainty and to feel comfortable in and around the training grounds. That’s what Roy Hodgson’s task is going to be.
Talk Sport – Dan, when you work with footballers, how much do they think about what the media say about them and how much the fans say about them? Does that interfere with their game?
Dan Abrahams – I think it does. I’ve worked with a few England footballers and it is something that plays on their mind. You know, they go into football tournament and they want to win, they want to perform, and they know that there is a burden of expectation on their shoulders. Quite often my advice to them is to actually change the direction of expectation. Instead of expecting to win or expecting to lose, all those players can do, and this is my message to them, all they can do is expect to play football with confidence and play football with focus in their role and responsibility. If they direct their expectations in that direction, that gives them the best chance to be the best individual that they can be and the best teammate that they can be.
Talk Sport – Dan I’ve worked with psychologists before myself and obviously have your part to play. You mentioned about the advice you would give to footballers. What about the advice you would give to players when they have lost the game, when they are at their lowest ebb. They then know the next football game is vitally important, particularly in the football competition when they have only three games to get the qualification. Now how do you get them over that hurdle of losing the first game and try also at the same time to take the pressure off of them knowing the second game is so vital for them?
Dan Abrahams – Will it doesn’t take the ownership of a psychologist couch to know that after a lost game the players are going to be thinking about the things that went wrong, they might be rehearsing negatives in their mind. Really my job is to help reframe their way of thinking, so for example what I would do is ask them some pretty confident questions. So actually what went well? You lost the game but what went well for you today? Two or three things that went well, two or three things that you want to take into the next game? And then finally what are two or three things that you want to do better next time? In that way you change their mind set from one of looking at negatives to one of looking at positively towards the next game.
Talk Sport – And what about the manager? We often talk about the players and how they need help mentally, but who motivates the motivator?
Dan Abrahams – I’m not too sure what’s going on in the England camp in terms of their football psychology, whether Roy Hodgson uses anybody. I know having done a brief stint at Fulham football club at the Academy he didn’t use anybody then. Obviously bringing in Gary Neville is quite a prudent thing to do. He is roundabout the same age as some of the players, perhaps a touch older. But I’m going to say something quite left-field here actually. I think that Roy Hodgson should, if we are talking about the elephant in the room being fear when it comes to England’s footballers, and mark my words fear lessons movement, it slows down anticipation and awareness, the England footballers play that split second slower than they usually do back home for their clubs. I think the message from Roy Hodgson needs to be play football with freedom. I think Roy Hodgson needs to give the England footballers permission to make mistakes. You Ray earlier mentioned that you want to see the tempo being faster, you want to see England players creates opportunities. Well they are not going to do that playing in their shell. They are not going to do that playing with fear. The opposite football psychology message is get on your toes, get your head up, find spaces, communicate, do so loudly. I think that needs to be the message from Roy Hodgson.
Talk Sport – Okay Dan, thanks very much for joining us.
Dan Abrahams – Thanks very much.
Talk Sport – Dan Abrahams there, top football psychologist there on how England may prepare for the Euro 2012 finals.