Rugby: England – Beyond 36-0

As England prepare to face South Africa in the World Cup final, one of the big questions being asked, is how do England put behind them the 36-0 defeat imposed on them by their opponents, a few weeks ago? Surely it will have shaken them psychologically? Surprisingly, it may turn out that the 36-0 has benefited England more than it has South Africa. 36-0 saw England at rock-bottom. The World Champions faced returning home – embarrassed; ashamed. No ticker tape welcome this time. No Heathrow airport jammed to overflowing. The fear of that shame galvanised the squad into action. Rock […]

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Rugby: England – Supreme Belief

The bookmakers have spoken and South Africa have been installed as 3-1 on favourites for the World Cup Final. Unbeaten in the tournament, 36-0 victors over England in the group game and beating Argentina in the semi’s with plenty to spare. Surely they justify the status of favourites? On paper – yes. But this is the World Cup Final. And England are the holders. And now the holders have discovered a way of playing that suits them. This is a team who will relish the status of underdogs. They may be favourites, but will South Africa be able to match England’s […]

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Rugby: France – Fear Of Failure

It was the chance of a lifetime. Hosts of the Rugby World Cup. A semi-final against a beatable England. Confidence high after beating the All-Blacks. Surely France would break through their stop situation and win the World Cup? Or at least make the final? No – this was a team that could not break free of the shackles. The shackles of fear of failure. A team that went against it’s DNA. The code by which it tries to play the game. The French got sucked into England’s way of playing. Dragged down. As if playing a game of fear. The […]

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Sir Bobby Robson – The Broken Dream

For three years we have witnessed him at St. James’ Park, elbow resting almost jauntily against the dugout roof, history and passion at one with dignity. This is the demeanour of a man, searching for the football moment of pure joy and liberation, when heaven smiles and the gods of football shine down upon St. James Park. But on a sombre Saturday, after an untimely Champions League elimination, the knight’s hair looked whiter, the wrinkles etched more deeply, the Robson sparkle absent. For the hero, bleeding black and white blood, the sight of some of his expensive acquisitions refusing to […]

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Football: Leeds United – A Powerful THEM

It’s ten games into the League One season and Leeds United remain unbeaten. Nine wins and a draw. Three points off the play-offs. This for a team docked fifteen points at the start of the season. Many pundits thought that the fifteen point penalty would send Leeds spiraling into League Two and beyond. A point of no return. But what if the points deduction was a catalyst to success? That the Football League handed Leeds United a powerful focus. A motivational tool that every manager craves for. An enemy to unite his team. A THEM! A THEM is an opposing […]

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Rugby: Argentina – The Band Of Brothers

It was noticeable from the opening game. People were talking about Argentina. Talking about their national anthem. How the players were; the sense of power; the depth of feeling; the togetherness. And so it proved. After defeats of France and Ireland, Argentina are being spoken of as potential World Cup winners. This is a group of players who have clearly built something between them. One observer pronounced that ‘they had God on their side’. In team building status, they appear to have attained the highest level. The level of brothers. It is the point of team development where each player […]

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Rugby: Ireland – Beneath The Surface

There have been many reasons put forward for Ireland’s exit from the World Cup. Over expectation; poor tactics; rustiness; superior opposition. All the above may be contributing factors. To the observer, it appeared that the Irish lacked energy; pizzaz; dynamism; an unfettered passion that could burn off doubt. As if there was a sluggishness running through the team that cast a shadow over their moments in the sun. This was a team that seemed ‘bothered’ by something. Whatever that ‘something’ was, it did not look as if the Irish team had the foresight or the wit to clear things up. […]

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Rugby: Australia – We Hate England!

There are still group games to be played, but already Australia are cranking up the pressure ahead of a potential World Cup quarter-final with England. ‘We all hate England’. That’s from the Australian Chief Executive John O’Neill. For England this is perfect. A motivational gift has just landed on the porch. Thank you! You are hated. Great. There is no problem locating the enemy then. No problem in finding someone to ram the words back down their throats. To prove them wrong. It’s like having an extra player. Having a THEM to focus all your energy brings the US together. […]

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Football Psychology: Hull City – A Lesson In Belief

‘The difference wasn’t necessarily technical. It was about belief’. The words of Hull City manager Phil Brown after their four goal defeat to Chelsea. So what Phil really means is that Chelsea had four times the belief that Hull City did. Belief means that you don’t stand and watch whilst the opposition demonstrate how good they are. It’s about imposing yourself on the game. Remember the belief that Wimbledon had when they shocked the football world in the 1988 FA Cup Final. They exuded no doubt. They backed themselves. They backed each other. They knew that their team-spirit was second […]

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Rugby: Ireland – I Believe?

It’s six days before the World Cup crunch match with Argentina and Irish centre Gordon D’Arcy is asked whether Ireland can score the four tries necessary for progression. ‘We have to believe we can’ he replies. Whilst this is reasonable comment, the notion of ‘having to believe’ doesn’t carry the same weight of power as a team who do believe. Having to believe informs us that this team need to go on a mental and emotional journey to reach the state of belief from which they have to play. We have to believe doesn’t mean we will. Belief is a […]

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