England Are Already Consumed By Fear

Matt Stanger is worried that Roy Hodgson already fears another penalty shoot-out exit. By raising his concerns so early, the manager is only going to increase the pressure...

Last Updated: 25/02/14 at 12:58 Post Comment

Latest Articles

A New Low In A Season Of Troughs For Moyes


Defeat at Goodison to demonstrate just how far United have slumped, and an opponent crowing about their new man in town. The loss to Everton may be Moyes' worst yet...

Fast Start Again The Basis Of Liverpool's Success


Liverpool have now scored 15 goals in the first 15 minutes of matches in the Premier League. Quick starts have been the backbone of a title bid that looks likely to succeed.

All Articles

"We have some confident penalty-takers, but others less confident. It will be about their character, their confidence and their ability to block out the next morning's headlines. If a psychologist can find a way to block that out, then we'd be very, very happy."

There are two things that strike me about Roy Hodgson saying he is "not averse to using a psychologist" to aid England's chances at the World Cup, and neither provides a great deal of comfort.

The first thought is that the possibility of employing a psychologist has been presented as an innovative idea, when that couldn't be any further from the truth. Psychologists have been an integral part of the game for over a decade and the suggestion that taking one to Brazil is even open to debate is worrying.

In the matter of mental preparation, Sven Goran Eriksson, with his mantra "the greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure", was a pioneer for England. He released a book on the subject in 2003 - co-written with sports psychologist Willi Railo - while a fascinating documentary in 2002 detailed the pair's work with the squad during the Swede's first 18 months in charge. It may not have solved England's spot-kick woes, but three successive quarter-finals in 2002, 2004, and 2006 is an achievement that has been all too easily dismissed.

Psychology has long been a key training feature for domestic clubs, too. Sam Allardyce is a staunch proponent of the benefits, while shortly after joining Liverpool Brendan Rodgers brought in former British cycling psychologist Dr Steve Peters to improve his players' mental well-being. The results have been obvious. "I see it as a part of the development of the player," said Rodgers. "The modern game in particular is very much about the psychological aspect. I will do lots of technical, tactical and physical training but sometimes what gets bypassed is the mental tuning for players at the top level."

Despite Hodgson's caution, he has at least been making the right noises about bringing in a professional to work with the squad. That the manager has not yet made a decision on the issue may be a concern, but he has, characteristically, given it great thought. "I think it's very important they are someone who is part of the group," Hodgson told The Footballers' Football Show on Sky Sports. "I'm not sure just suddenly shipping someone in to give the players a lecture would work."

It is reassuring to know that Hodgson is aware of the possible complications of bringing an 'outsider' into the group, but there is a second question over his decision to openly discuss the issues involved - and this is what I find really troubling. It appears that the England camp is already being consumed by fear of failure and the idea of a penalty shoot-out exit - a problem that has become as inescapable as failure itself.

It is the same vicious circle before every tournament. To speak about a potential penalty shoot-out exit in February when the World Cup doesn't start until June is ludicrous, even more so when you consider that Italy and Uruguay, as well as Costa Rica, stand in the way of England reaching the knock-out stage.

If anything, it is this cyclical process of steadily building pressure on the players that makes the employment of a psychologist a necessity. Scoring a penalty should not be a difficult task - yet the idea of failure is so ingrained in our national psyche that it is almost impossible to consider that England could actually succeed in a shoot-out - or even avoid having to endure the mental strain of penalties altogether.

Such low expectations should help to reduce the pressure on the players but, perhaps rather perversely, it is heightened by the desperation to banish the perceived curse. If that fear can be alleviated even a fraction by a psychologist, then Hodgson should not need to think twice. What he should consider, however, is whether discussing England's shoot-out woes at this stage is at all conducive to the team's chances of success. The tournament has not even begun, and we are already worrying about how England are going to disappoint.

Matt Stanger - he's on the Twitter.

If ever an F365 article belonged on mediawatch it's this one. Article "England consumed by fear" actual quotes from Hodgson "we'll prepare by using a psychologist". Mentions of fear - none. Talk about making something from nothing. As "spangle" says he was probably asked about what England's preparations might be and gave a studied response. Better to be prepared no? Or would you rather he said "psycholgy - hocus pocus" and then you could criticise him for being unprepared. Very poor Matt, it was obviously a slow news week for you.
- kevinsoutham

Football365 Facebook Fan Page

The Football365 fan page is a great place to meet like minded people, have football related discussions and make new friends.

Sky Bet

    • Retrieving latest Sky Bet odds

Most Commented

Readers' Comments


may well get slated by other United fans for this, but out of the three contenders, I'd far prefer Liverpool to win the title. Yes some elements of their fanbase can be a bit OTT, yes they're our biggest rivals and yes it will make our poor season feel even more like the end of an era (Fergie's gone, Liverpool are back on top). However I just have to applaud Brendan Rodgers and the way he's turned Liverpool around in just a couple of seasons. It...

Please Stop Telling Us What To Think


ooray! We are all excited now, we beat a very mediocre team! With all due respect to WHU supporters, not winning that game shouldn't even be a consideration. This is the problem, there is no winning mentality at the Emirates - we're all congratulating ourselves beating a team that we have a winning record against.

Wenger hails important win


s this meant to be an aspiration for United supporters? Moyes mediocrity strikes again. I see the Bayern boys don't want to sign for him, and his reputation amongst the senior European coaches make other key signings unlikely.

De Gea's Europa League target

Latest Photos

Footer 365

Transfer News: Leeds striker Ross McCormack waiting on contract talks

Leeds United striker Ross McCormack is waiting to see if new owner Massimo Cellino will offer him a new contract.

Premier League: No Manchester City hangover, insists Manuel Pellegrini

Manuel Pellegrini insists Manchester City will keep fighting for the Premier League title, despite their week to forget.

Sherwood keen to keep Eriksen

Tottenham head coach Tim Sherwood hopes the club can keep hold of Christian Eriksen in the summer.

Mail Box

That's Why We Didn't Want Jose At United

There is plenty of reaction to Mourinho's antics (Isn't that exactly what he wanted?) plus thoughts on Connor Wickham, Fabio Borini, beach balls and Tim Sherwood...

Kieran's Not The Only One Keeping Notes

Another chap in the mailbox has been keeping notes on comments made by optimistic Man United fans. Plus, Garey Vance is offering a double-or-quits on his new tattoo...

© 2014 British Sky Broadcasting Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media property