Football: International players should not need motivation

WHEN WORD got out that Kevin Keegan had agreed take temporary charge of the England football team, a spontaneous process arose in accordance with his adventurous spirit. "Up and at 'em," the Sun screeched gleefully.

Since enthusiasm was central to the immense reputation Keegan forged as a player and the excitement he generated as manager of Newcastle United, no wonder that England are not expected to want for passion in their European Championship qualifier against Poland at Wembley on Saturday.

Not so much tactical nous and technical accomplishment as the will to win. Certainly, it is well established that nothing much can be achieved in sport without putting in maximum effort but, as any number of football coaches have learned to their cost, battle cries are not all they are cracked up to be.

Only last week, Tottenham's director of football, David Pleat, after overhearing a supporter's assumption that George Graham would wind his players up for the Worthington Cup final against Leicester City, said: "They'll be on a high anyway, so George will probably think it more important to wind them down."

The self-inflicted knee injury that permanently reduced Paul Gascoigne's effectiveness resulted from firing himself up before playing for Tottenham against Nottingham Forest in the 1991 FA Cup final. "Once Paul got out there, it was clear that we hadn't done enough to calm him down," Terry Venables has since said. "You want players to be keyed up but there can be a downside to excitement."

All this stuff abut motivation gives rise to some interesting questions. What is this quest for character coaches are always going on about? And courage, momentum and pride? Where is the pride in a footballer who needs stimulation to play in a big game?

One thing we have to remember is that many players are so occupied by their small piece of the action and so preoccupied with themselves and their fears that they really have no conception of the big picture of the team or the game.

No manager in history is credited with greater powers of motivation than Bill Shankly, who saw enough in Keegan's enthusiasm to sign him for Liverpool from Scunthorpe. Shankly's talent for popular imagery is best represented by a tale John Toshack told one night about an FA Cup semi- final replay between Liverpool and Leicester at Villa Park earned by Peter Shilton's exceptional goalkeeping.

"Surprisingly, Bill didn't show up in the dressing-room until shortly before the kick-off," Toshack recalled. "He just stood there looking at us, hands thrust into the pockets of his raincoat. `Imagine,' he said `that you are being battered by George Foreman [at the time world heavyweight champion] and the lights go out and you have to do it again. That's how Leicester feel.' Then he was gone. Perfect. Bloody perfect."

Matt Busby argued that excitable managers sent out excitable teams. To my mind it is no coincidence that England were most successful when the dressing-room was calm and there was a sense of adult responsibility. "We were always ready, often nervous too, but never worked up," George Cohen, of the 1966 World Cup winning team, recalled. "Nobby [Stiles] was always full of it, but the mood was set by Alf [Ramsey] and Bobby [Moore]. When the call came, Bobby simply picked up the ball and said: `Let's go'."

Bearing that in mind, if Keegan has made a mistake so far it is in preferring Alan Shearer to Tony Adams as captain. Adams' old reputation as a fist- waving influence has given way to such composed authority that he has never played better or had more respect.

Whatever footballers feel, whatever tingle of anticipation lights up their minds and feet, the significance of a downturn in fortunes is that it makes passion suddenly less relevant, even a burden.

In any case, it would seem that professionals, who by definition are supposed to perform at a high standard, who have highly lucrative careers at stake and families to support and egos to bulwark and team-mates to join in a common cause, have enough natural stimulation without the jive of coaches and managers.

News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015