David James on Psychology in Football

Footballers as trainspotters? Perhaps. I can still remember my surprise when I learned that most pop band musicians were insecure geeks and not the sex gods their publicists wanted them to be.

David’s is an interesting article, but comes hurtling off the rails at exactly the place you might expect it to. Here are the relevant paragraphs:

Psychology in football is still poo…#8209;pooed, but it is interesting. The best teams have a combination of psychological make-ups – your obsessives in the back line, and one or two in midfield, who increase your chances of winning through their hard work and repeated practice. Then you have the flair players who display flashes of genius, of brilliance and unpredictability, who could almost be dubbed ‘bipolar’. The ‘bipolar’ sets the game alight, unsettles the opposition, but you can’t rely on him to win games. Perhaps some of the most gifted players of all suffered a medical condition similar to bipolar disorder – their on- and off…#8209;the…#8209;field activities marked by soaring highs and crushing lows.

Most Premiership teams don’t employ a psychologist and Portsmouth are no exception. It was only under Steve McClaren that the England camp got one, despite all Sven’s talk of respect for the practice. Managers still like to think they know what’s best for their team and there’s a stigma attached to psychology. In football you’re not supposed to put your hand up and ask for help with your mental health.

The intruding HTML is there in the original, and I’m leaving it in – there’s something mildly Freudian about the way the code goes west at the same time as the thinking. I believe David when he says that his teams haven’t had sports psychologists, as he makes the classic error, confusing them with psychotherapists and psychiatrists. He’s more than smart enough to take that distinction in his stride, even to find it interesting. Anyway, here’s the link to a slightly longer explanation of where he’s gone wrong.

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