Exclusive interview: Gareth Ainsworth and Richard Dobson on Wycombe’s ‘cultural architects’, psychology and bringing the Haka to Adams Park

FeaturedPicture of Gareth Ainsworth and Richard Dobson

Richard Dobson’s voice quivers with emotion. The Wycombe Wanderers assistant manager is recounting a conversation with two female supporters, which left an indelible mark on the 45-year-old. “One of them said to me, ‘I’ve fallen in love with this club’”, he recalls. “She said she was in a difficult relationship at the time and was … Continue reading Exclusive interview: Gareth Ainsworth and Richard Dobson on Wycombe’s ‘cultural architects’, psychology and bringing the Haka to Adams Park

Premier League psychology guide: how are England’s top flight clubs supporting players’ performance and mental health?

FeaturedSean Dyche pointing to head

“I think the future of football lies in mental health and wellbeing”. You’d be forgiven for thinking the statement came straight from a Jurgen Klopp or Thomas Tuchel press conference. Forward-thinking is not the preserve of the Premier League’s more celebrated managers, though. The quote is taken from an interview with Sean Dyche, whose thoughts … Continue reading Premier League psychology guide: how are England’s top flight clubs supporting players’ performance and mental health?

‘We’re waiting until people have fallen off the edge of the cliff’: is football failing to psychologically support players?

FeaturedBukayo Saka with head in shirt

As Bukayo Saka stepped up to the spot, Jordon Ibe might have been forgiven a wistful glance towards the TV. Five years ago, Ibe was the tricky winger who seemed set to make his mark with England. It could have been him staring at Gianluigi Donnarumma, a nation's hopes resting on his shoulders. Unfortunately, the … Continue reading ‘We’re waiting until people have fallen off the edge of the cliff’: is football failing to psychologically support players?

‘Every time you open your phone, you’re getting abuse: why would you want that?’ Football’s social media problem

FeaturedDele Alli looking at his phone

“We had one player who had quite high-profile struggles with his performances. I remember he had a particularly bad away game, and I was sat next to him on the bus. His phone was pinging with messages - ‘You’re a disgrace’, ‘Get out of our club’ - and I said to him, ‘Why don't you … Continue reading ‘Every time you open your phone, you’re getting abuse: why would you want that?’ Football’s social media problem

How the ‘biggest psychology programme in Europe’ helped Wycombe make history

Picture of Gareth Ainsworth and Richard Dobson

Anthony Stewart’s header hits the back of the net. He peels away to celebrate, his teammates in close attendance. They all know the importance of the goal, which will set the club on course for promotion to the Championship. For the first time in its 133-year history, Wycombe will be playing in the second tier … Continue reading How the ‘biggest psychology programme in Europe’ helped Wycombe make history

“Hazard broke the charts”: inside Chelsea’s ‘psychological coding’ project

‘They’re passing the ball with real confidence: you can just see how focused they are today’. It’s a line that could be taken from almost any commentator or pundit. It’s also a statement which fans across the world would recognise. We know when our team’s players are motivated. Or do we? It’s a question that … Continue reading “Hazard broke the charts”: inside Chelsea’s ‘psychological coding’ project

What are the psychological characteristics of the ‘perfect footballer’?

Juninho-Micah-Richards-Gareth-Bale-playing-football

Pele. Maradona. Ronaldo. Messi. It’s rare to go a day on social media without a debate about the greatest player of all time. The arguments are well-known: Ronaldo’s aerial ability vs Messi’s dribbling skills. Pele and Maradona’s major tournament record set against that of their modern-day counterparts. But what about the psychological characteristics of the … Continue reading What are the psychological characteristics of the ‘perfect footballer’?

‘For 30 years, we survived by bringing through talent’: where is Tranmere’s next group of homegrown stars?

“Aaron Cresswell crosses for Dale Jennings to slot home!” The quote is fictitious, but as Tranmere prepare for another season in League Two, the club’s fans could be forgiven for wondering how their former left-wing partnership might have influenced the team's recent fortunes. Cresswell and Jennings are part of a distinguished line of graduates, including … Continue reading ‘For 30 years, we survived by bringing through talent’: where is Tranmere’s next group of homegrown stars?

Meet the psychologist preparing Dinamo Zagreb to face Bale and Kane

Harry Kane embracing Gareth Bale

For any Dinamo Zagreb defenders watching Tottenham’s 4-1 win over Crystal Palace on Sunday evening, the prospect of facing Gareth Bale and Harry Kane in tonight’s Europa League round of 16 first leg might not have seemed particularly appealing. Despite Dinamo’s excellent run in this season’s competition – the Croatian side have yet to taste … Continue reading Meet the psychologist preparing Dinamo Zagreb to face Bale and Kane

‘We need to bottle the energy and apply it’: Mike Calvin on football’s stand against the Super League

Chelsea fans protesting

If a week is a long time in politics, the same is true for football. Since Sunday evening, the sport has breathlessly lurched from chaos to confusion, before finding a home somewhere between hope and (as far as the Super League is concerned) humiliation. There aren't many people better placed to make sense of the … Continue reading ‘We need to bottle the energy and apply it’: Mike Calvin on football’s stand against the Super League

Hope for Mourinho and Hasenhuttl’s video nasty

Jose Mourinho gesturing

Method in Mourinho’s madness? During a recent interview with Dinamo Zagreb’s performance psychologist, Boris Balent, the conversation turned to Jose Mourinho. Balent, who has worked at the top of the European game for over a decade, effusively recalled comments the current Spurs manager gave about the balance between players’ confidence and focus. The essence of … Continue reading Hope for Mourinho and Hasenhuttl’s video nasty

Turf Moor Tubthumper

Boff Whalley singing

“It’s nice not to be talking about throwing water over John Prescott.” Boff Whalley’s tone is warm. The ex-Chumbawamba lead guitarist is referring to the well-worn story of how his former band greeted the then deputy Prime Minister at the 1998 Brit Awards, with drummer Danbert Nobacon throwing a bucket of ice-cold water over Prescott. … Continue reading Turf Moor Tubthumper

‘We’re determined not to play a cameo role’: Franco Varrella on coaching San Marino, his side’s approach against England and changing a team’s mentality

Franco Varrella gesturing

Finding a preview of England vs San Marino which doesn’t mention Davide Gualtieri is a tough task. The former Sammarinese striker scored after 8.3 seconds of the 1993 World Cup qualifier between the two teams. The goal stood as the fastest in the history of the competition for over 22 years. In the run-up to … Continue reading ‘We’re determined not to play a cameo role’: Franco Varrella on coaching San Marino, his side’s approach against England and changing a team’s mentality

How can Mourinho’s ‘rest then press’ approach help Spurs beat other Big Six teams?

Jose Mourinho gesturing

Tottenham face a daunting run of fixtures over the next month, playing league matches against Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool, during a period in which Jose Mourinho’s tactical prowess will once again face real scrutiny. Since his appointment as Spurs manager, Mourinho's team have taken 10 points from a possible 24 points against other … Continue reading How can Mourinho’s ‘rest then press’ approach help Spurs beat other Big Six teams?

Is Davinson Sanchez’s distribution really that bad?

Davinson Sanchez passing football

Tottenham’s recent 5-2 win against Southampton was notable for the four assists which Harry Kane laid on for Son Heung-min, but the game was also significant for another reason related to Spurs’ distribution. It was the first game in over two years in which Davinson Sanchez provided a ‘second assist’ (the pass played before the … Continue reading Is Davinson Sanchez’s distribution really that bad?

4am journeys from the training ground, games every two days and players ‘close to the edge’: football’s fatigue problem

Football supporters holding flares

“Over the last few months, players are just walking from one game to another, without stopping. There’s no respite from it…it puts a hell of a lot of pressure on them.” It’s a stark warning from a man who knows more than most about the fatigue felt by footballers. Nick Littlehales, better known as the … Continue reading 4am journeys from the training ground, games every two days and players ‘close to the edge’: football’s fatigue problem

Lisa Fallon: ‘We have the opportunity to influence change’

Lisa Fallon

It’s becoming something of a cliche to say that we’re living in ‘unprecedented times’. However, English football is arguably facing its biggest crisis in a generation. The stark reality of financial pressure and the continued absence of fans is biting hard. Fortunately, Lisa Fallon is well-versed in dealing with challenging situations. The London City Lionesses … Continue reading Lisa Fallon: ‘We have the opportunity to influence change’

Peter Varney on Charlton, the salary cap and fit and proper owners

Picture of Peter Varney

It’s the time of year when photos of footballers lying on sun-kissed Balearic beaches are ten a penny. But away from the holiday snaps dominating Instagram, there’s an altogether different picture of life as a professional footballer. It’s a reality that Peter Varney is familiar with. The former Charlton chief executive, who oversaw eight seasons … Continue reading Peter Varney on Charlton, the salary cap and fit and proper owners

A game under strain: the power of pressure in football

Picture of football in middle of pitch

There’s an episode in the second series of Sunderland ‘Til I Die, the Netflix documentary which follows the Black Cats’ fortunes during the 17/18 and 18/19 seasons, that shows the club’s transfer deadline day pursuit of striker Will Grigg. If you managed to negotiate lockdown without watching the series, you’ll have missed the 60 minutes … Continue reading A game under strain: the power of pressure in football

Interview: Leo Pearlman (Sunderland ‘Til I Die exec producer)

Picture of Stadium of Light

In the latest episode of the Beat The Press podcast, we speak to Leo Pearlman, executive producer of Sunderland 'Til I Die. Join us for a discussion that starts with Leo's time on the Roker Park terraces, supporting the club he would go on to make a documentary about. We look at the driving factors … Continue reading Interview: Leo Pearlman (Sunderland ‘Til I Die exec producer)

Euro 96 and Brazil 2014: pickpockets, penalties and pressure

People playing football on a beach

This is, ostensibly, a look at how two hosts of major tournaments – both of whom lost to Germany in memorable semi-finals – dealt with the pressure of playing in their own country. It's also an account of my experiences of both competitions, as an 11-year-old watching Euro 96 at home and, 18 years later, … Continue reading Euro 96 and Brazil 2014: pickpockets, penalties and pressure

Interview: The Football History Boys

Austrian football players running

In the first episode of the Beat The Press podcast, we speak to Ben Jones and Gareth Thomas, founders of ‘The Football History Boys’ website and authors of ‘Football’s Fifty Most Important Moments’. Join us for a discussion about the parallels between the modern-day reaction to football’s suspension and the response in 1914 and 1939. … Continue reading Interview: The Football History Boys

The Merseyside Derby: Duncan and The Dogs of War

Sign with directions to Everton and Liverpool

Preparations for a game between Liverpool and Everton can take many forms. Given the scale and evolving nature of the coronavirus outbreak, it's unlikely that the forthcoming derby - when or if it takes place - will witness the usual pre-match clichés. Revenge for a Curtis Jones wonderstrike seems less of a priority when a … Continue reading The Merseyside Derby: Duncan and The Dogs of War

Ginola and Gillespie: a story of speed, skill and spewing in Peter Beardsley’s Rover

Newcastle United badge

David Ginola is lying prostrate in the front garden, holding aloft a can of lager. It’s been that kind of evening. Inside the house, Les Ferdinand, Warren Barton, Lee Clark, Steve Watson and Robbie Elliott are still standing. Welcome to Keith Gillespie’s bachelor pad. When you think of Premier League wingers, some familiar names roll … Continue reading Ginola and Gillespie: a story of speed, skill and spewing in Peter Beardsley’s Rover

From Andy Booth to Ben Thatcher and eight double vodkas: remembering George Graham’s spell at Spurs

Tottenham Hotspur badge

A look of bemusement spreads across Chris Hughton’s face. He hesitates before asking the question. ‘Thatch, have you been on the sauce?’ The uncertainty of the query is easy to understand: Hughton is looking at a man lifting weights with the kind of zeal he usually reserves for two-footed tackles, but sweating in a way … Continue reading From Andy Booth to Ben Thatcher and eight double vodkas: remembering George Graham’s spell at Spurs

Book Review: Living On The Volcano

Football supporters holding flares

Eruptions are a familiar part of football’s touchline pantomime – just ask David Meyler – but the stories behind the frayed tempers exhibited by Pardew and co have rarely been examined with the detail which runs throughout Michael Calvin’s book, ‘Living on the Volcano’. The widely-respected journalist trawls through the personalities which define football management … Continue reading Book Review: Living On The Volcano