In the high-wire relegation game between West Brom and West Ham, three solid gold chances fall to the man who, for all his wealth, can’t buy a goal. Three years ago Lee Hughes was the toast of the Hawthorns. Famed for his predatory instincts and endearing celebrations, Hughes had it. He frolicked in the adulation. He was the signature player. The player who defined the club;
A big move to Coventry fails. Back in the Black Country, the goals have dried up. Far from frolicking, he trudges. From scoring goals for fun to scoring goals for credibility and salvation.
Does the absence of past Premiership bids sew the seeds of doubt in his mind? Does he suspect that ‘maybe he’s not good enough to be a Premiership gunslinger?’
Has he fallen into the ‘Dwight Yorke’ syndrome and having achieved his material goals has taken occupation of a lounge seat in the comfort zone?
Does he feel guilt at leaving the Baggies for the Sky Blues shilling , thus now self-sabotaging every goal-scoring opportunity that comes his way? A guilt complex leads to a victim mind-set. Victims need strong authority figures to reinforce their self-view. Thus the striker wants the keeper to save his shot.
Is he trying too hard to prove that he truly is a Premiership level player? The pressure to succeed increases. He becomes locked into the pressure cycle. The more he can’t afford to miss the more he misses. The more he misses the more people question his ability. The more people question his ability the harder he tries to prove them wrong. The pressure cycle builds. Pressure leads to a disruption of the natural timings. Thus the striker snatches at chances or fatally, hesitates before deciding what to do.
So what does the predator do when they lose their instinctive touch? Think Alan Shearer and his reaction to a blazing penalty miss last year. He self-diagnosed the problem as lying in the hurried rhythm of his run up. When the rhythm is right success follows. The predatory state is relaxed awareness. The problem diagnosed, confidence was restored. The back of the net bulged again.
And suffering through it all, Gary Megson. Exhorting experienced professionals in the games basics. He is almost their twelfth player but in what way does his presence assist his team? His energy powers their hard-driving machine, but are they running on fear? Does having the boss looking over their shoulders inhibit their creativity? Maybe as Lee Hughes relearns to become a striker, his boss can relax into the ways of premiership management.
The Sports Psychology Summary
A few years ago Aston Villa’s John Gregory received a touchline ban and was sent to the stand. As a result the Villa started to relax and play free flowing football. The manager’s omnipotence was less visible. They were offered less fear more freedom and took it. Can Megson learn from this and so give Lee Hughes the freedom to succeed?