Football: Bricks and motivation

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The Independent Online
YOU'VE REALLY got to hand it to England's new supremo. What an inspiration he's proving to be. Just when his country needs him most, along he toddles to pull something truly special out of the hat. I mean, be honest. How many of you thought Fyfe Robertson had passed on a long time ago? Admit it. If our Kev hadn't brought the guy down from his Highland retreat, nobody would have spared him a moment's thought.

But no, there he was. Larger than life. England's chief motivator, to boot. And the amazing thing is the guy didn't look a day older than when he left the Beeb back in '53. Okay, so he's no longer a 28-inch waist, and the old goatee may have whitened a bit. But, hey, wouldn't you have sprouted the odd grey whisker if you'd just emerged from hibernation to discover your love child was Foreign Secretary. I mean, fair's fair, eh?

Mind you, within football, motivation is by no means a new innovation. Not by a long throw. Take the legendary Herbert Chapman. He used to practise it all the time back in 1920s Huddersfield. True, his version possibly owed more to intimidation than motivation. It's reckoned, if ever his team lost, he would confiscate the players' flat caps and pet mice. The fans', too, evidently. Almost caused a full-scale riot one time, so they say.

And yet old Herbie's cap-and-mouse tactics worked a treat. A year or so later, when the championships started to roll in, all was conveniently forgotten. Just shows you how fickle those northerners can be.

Stan Cullis was a different sort of motivator altogether. More of a carrot man was our Stan. Flexible with it, though. He'd learnt all about incentives while training the donkeys at Goodison Park just after the war. When he took over the reins at Wolves, he put it to good effect.

Evidently, Stan promised his players he'd get the Beverley Sisters to sing for them if they won a game. At first his ploy backfired badly. The team deliberately lost every game by a cricket score. And who could blame them? After all, a single chorus from the Beverlies was guaranteed to empty even Yates' Wine Lodge in 10 seconds flat.

Anyway, once Stan realised his blunder, a simple tactical switch paid dividends. The Sisters would sing only if the team lost. It proved a master- stroke. The team never lost another game and so began the most successful period in the club's history. The Beverlies, meanwhile, moved down the road to wreak havoc at the Birmingham Hippodrome.

Up in Liverpool, another motivator par excellence was Sir William Shankly, who would use every trick in the book to drive his team to glory.

Shanks's ability to inspire his players knew no bounds. They would do anything for him. Run through brick walls if he asked them. And he did, too. At the pinnacle of his Red supremacy, it was reckoned over half of Merseyside's brickies were busy erecting walls for Shankly's Supermen to smash their way through. Big Rowdy Yeats, alone, was said to be a 20- walls-a-day man. And, to this very day, the Red's skipper has still not totally kicked the habit.

Now was that motivation or was that motivation?

Of course, the problem today is getting the players to climb over walls, let alone run through them. Still, it's a pity Kevin couldn't have persuaded the Laird of Anfield to make a comeback, as well as old Fyfe. He'd have really sorted the buggers out.