Football: Gary Peters – The Play Off Comedown

So Gary Peters is sacked as manager of Shrewsbury Town. After a season that began so optimistically. Fresh from a Wembley play-off appearance. Beginning life in a brand new stadium. Everything augured well for another crack at promotion. So what went wrong?

Shrewsbury Town would not be the first team to suffer a comedown after a play-off final defeat. In fact, few teams are able to rally themselves for another assault on the summit, after tasting defeat at Wembley or the Millenium Stadium. But why is this?

With the play-offs coming at the end of the season, players have to dig deep. Physically, mentally and emotionally. Drawing on the reserves of energy, critical to meet the three-game demand they face. The euphoria of Wembley victory creates a powerful buzz that replaces that lost energy. But in defeat, there is no buzz. Only a feeling of flatness. That all that effort has come to nought. Then the summer break is cut short. Recovery time is limited.

Thus the new season begins under a cloud. Players continue to feel flat. They find it difficult to dig deep to to lift their game. The harder you try the worse it gets. Things just don’t quite click. No one quites know why. Or what to do about it. On the surface things seem ok. Yet…

And then disappointment sets in, That a season that promised so much, has failed to match expectations. Comparisons are made with last year. The feeling just isn’t the same. The manager gets sacked, as if somehow it is his fault.

A Wembley comedown needs managing very carefully. With the eye of a surgeon. From the moment the final whistle goes in the play-off final, the manager’s work has begun. It may take him until, October to see the team begin to return to the levels of the previous season. But it can be done. With patience. Care. And attention to detail. The detail of the emotional behaviours that betray doubt.

For Gary Peters, the play-off comedown cost him his job. Yet, he is the man who knows how to take his team to Wembley. He’s done it once. Surely, in time he could do it again. But in the gloom of the comedown, that kind of hope and trust is lost.

Posted in Football Psychology, Sports Psychology Blog.