Football: Plymouth Argyle – The Mental Approach

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“It’s a crazy, crazy thing. We’ve got the same players here. Definitely it’s the mental approach that’s the problem.” The words of Plymouth Argyle manager, Paul Sturrock after an unexpected 1-0 reverse at Scunthorpe. No wonder Sturrock is perplexed. A few games ago his team were the division’s form team. Not anymore. Three defeats in four have cast doubts on the Pilgrim’s ability to make the play-offs.

So what’s gone wrong? It is not an uncommon occurrence for a team to hit a reversal of form when they are in sight of a goal or target. In the Pilgrim’s case, a coveted play-off position.

In order to maintain their new found status, the team play not to lose. Play to defend their position. Play to avoid mistakes. In other words, play safe. In contradiction to the style which got them to where they are.

No wonder Paul Sturrock is tearing his hair out at Plymouth’s form. He couldn’t possibly have predicted it. But, the good news is that he has time to resolve the issue. The best way to turn things around is to discuss the matter openly with the Argyle players. Discuss the inhibitions that may have inveigled performance. The fears of not finishing in the top six. The fear of losing what they have. The purpose of the discussion is to put the anxieties on the table. Where they can be seen for what they are. Then the players can decide whether they want to be stopped by such things. Or not. Usually, good professionals won’t be.

It’s a pivotal moment in the Pilgrim’s season. They can make the play-offs. But it will require some straight talk to get their challenge back on track.