Football Psychology: Sam Allardyce – Us v Them!

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Football PsychologyInjustice. Anger. Frustration. The feelings of West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce, following his talisman striker Andy Carroll’s red card against Swansea City, and the subsequent upholding of the three game ban by The FA. West Ham have threated legal action to get the ban overturned, and an FA tribunal will now sit in judgement.

There are obvious reasons for The Hammers to try to overturn the ban. Firstly, Carroll is central to their struggle to remain in The Premier League. And a three game ban does not serve that cause. But more than that, taking on The FA is a classic US v Them strategy.

It creates an external focus for Allardyce’s group. An enemy that is seeking to stand against them. The enemy The FA, using their powers to deny West Ham justice.

It’s a classic Sir Alex Ferguson strategy. Creating false enemies builds a powerful sense of focus and negates complacency.

An Us v Them strategy gives the leader an emotive story to tell at ten to three. That there are forces outside of this dressing room, that do not want us to succeed. That a great injustice is at play. And the only way for that injustice to be overcome is for each and every one of you to stand shoulder to shoulder, pulling together to ensure that these forces of negativity do not win.

The Them thus become the focus of the group’s energy. And thus every player should naturally want to be part of The Us. The stronger The Them, the more focused and determined The Us should become.

That’s why Sir Alex, like Jose Mourinho, was always keen to ensure he was creating false enemies – The BBC; Referees; Rival Managers; The FA; The Press. All designed to give him a powerful dressing room, ‘good v evil’ story to empower his players.

For Sam Allardyce, a three game ban for Andy Carroll is not ideal. But, the plus side is that he will have an easy to see enemy to give his team a focus. And if they respond accordingly, that focus should engender a fighting spirit that is critical in any relegation battle.