Sports Psychology has played an exciting part in the successes of football teams, managers and players. Here are some examples for you, in chronological order, to consider the value of psychology and the role of sports psychologists in football:
Tottenham Hotspur 1980 - 1985
John Syer was one of the first sports psychologists to practice in the UK. His successes included working with Tottenham Hotspur for 5 years. Prior to his working with the club, Spurs had finished 14th in the league the previous season and hadn't won a trophy for 8 years. His input helped them to 3rd position in the league and during his time they enjoyed the following successes:
FA cup - winners 1981, 1982
UEFA cup - winners 1984
Charity shield - winners 1981, runners up 1982
League Cup - runners up 1982
European Cup Winners' Cup - semi finalists 1982
France 1992 - 2000
The French FA engaged the services of former player, qualified coach and doctor of psychology, Jacques Carvoisier, to develope their up and coming players in time for them hosting the 1998 World Cup Finals. The psychologist developed his own 117 question psychometric test for each player, identified their weaknesses and gave them exercises to turn their weaknesses into strengths. The results were quite incredible. France won the world cup for the first time in their history, beating Brazil 3-0 in the 1998 final. They also won the European championships in 2000, beating Italy 2-1. They then ranked number 1 in thee FIFA rankings for the first and only time in their history.
Carvoisier left to work with Liverpool for 2 years, helping them t win the UEFA cup and European Super Cup. Since then, he has worked with Arsene Wenger, helping to develope players such as Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshire.
Bolton Wanderers 1999 - 2004
When Sam Allardyce took charge of Bolton, they had finished 6th in the English Chmpionship and were desperate to get into the Premiership. They engaged the services of sports psychologist Michael Finnigan over a 5 year period and enjoyed their greatest successes of the modern era:
2000 - semi finals of FA Cup and Worthington Cup
2001 - promoted to English Premiership
2004 - Final of League Cup
2004 - finished 6th in Premiership (their highest ever league finish)
2005 - Competed in Europe for 1st time in history, finishing in the last 32 of UEFA Cup
One of the fascinating features of the 2006 World Cup was that, for the first time, the mentally tough Germans had a sports psychologist, Dr. Hans-Dieter Hermann, in their camp. The new manager, Jurgen Klinssman knew that his own sense of purpose would not be enough for the testing journey that lay before him. The presence of an eminent sports psychologist would allow him to liberate his natural leadership skills and help reinforce positive principles.
The German team were mostly young and relatively inexperienced. They represented a country that expected them to do well on the world stage, no matter whether this was their first tournament together as a team or not. Add to that the pressure of being the host nation, there was a distinct possibility that the German team would fail to deliver. However, they played some surprising and great football, finishing 3rd in the tournament, losing their semi-final narrowly in extra time to the eventual winners, Italy. They had exceeded the expectations of the footballing world.
Blackpool 2009 - 2011
In May 2010, Blackpool Football Club won the Championship play off final, beating Cardiff City 3-2 to gain entry into the English Premiership. Getting into the richest league in the world was worth £90million to the club, which is estimated to be worth more than double the amount of money the winners of the Champions League receive. What is most remarkable about this achievement is that Blackpool started that season as relegation favourites. Manager Ian Holloway engaged the services of a sports psychologist to work with the team, especially those who were low on confidence or off form. The result of that move was to cause one of the greatest shocks in football history with a team of 'no hopers' gaining entry into the best league in the world. They surprised many people with their performances in the Premiership and were narrowly relegated on the last day of the season. They have since sold some of the players they bought for £thousands and free transfers, for transfer fees of £millions, again showing how far they have progressed.
"Players cannot afford to have analogue minds in a digital age." - Mourinho
Following a brief career as a professional football player, the Special One graduated with a qualification in sports science in his mid twenties, majoring in psychology. He gained his coaching qualifications through the SFA, where Andy Roxburgh noted that Mourinho was seeking to re-define the role of a football coach by combining coaching theory with psychological and motivational techniques. He has gone on to become one of the most successful coaches in the history of the game. He holds a unique record for the longest stretch of undefeated home league matches, stretching over 150 games and 9 years. As of the end of the 2011 season, after only 11 years as a coach, he has won:
2 UEFA Champions League titles (with Porto and Inter Milan)
1 UEFA Cup (with Porto)
7 league titles in England, Spain, Italy and Portugal
9 domestic cup competitions in Spain, England, Italy and Portugal
6 domestic manager of the year awards in England, Italy and Portugal
4 UEFA manager of the year awards
1 FIFA manager of the year award
St. Mirren 2011 - 2013
We have continued the excellent impact of sports psychology in football by helping St. Mirren win the Scottish League Cup in 2013 and achieve their highest top flight league finish in 26 years in 2012. Our achievements in football include the following: