Scolari may use psychologist to build team spirit

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The Independent Football

The famous female sports psychologist who has worked behind the scenes for Luiz Felipe Scolari in his greatest personal triumphs said she is ready to come to Chelsea to help the Brazilian establish a rapport with his new players. Regina Brandao told The Independent yesterday that she believed the new Chelsea manager would use her to help his new players adapt to having the World Cup-winning coach as their new leader.

Brandao has worked with Scolari since 1998, a year before he won his second Copa Libertadores with Palmeiras, of Brazil, and is regarded as a major factor in the close relationships he enjoys with his players. A widely-respected authority on the potential for stress to affect professional athletes, she said yesterday that she was ready to come to Stamford Bridge and expected to speak to Scolari after Euro 2008.

Intriguingly, Brandao identified one of the key aspects of Scolari's effectiveness as being his ability to understand the difficulties that some players have when it comes to adapting to life under a new coach – especially a coach with a reputation as formidable as the one enjoyed by the Brazilian. "At first the players are a bit stressed when they come into a situation with a new coach," she said. "The way he works is completely different from any other coach.

"But Scolari has the intelligence to coach and he has the titles he has won in the past to show the players so I don't think he will have any problems with the English players. Concern among new players when a new coach arrives is a natural psychological reaction."

Brandao works at the Cidade do Futebol in Sao Paulo but has travelled all over the world to help Scolari with psychological profiling of his footballers – including the current Portugal squad. She completed her thesis on psychological stress in athletes in 2002, four years after she first worked with Scolari. She also runs a private clinic and estimates that she has worked with 260 footballers over 12 years.

"It is not a complicated process," she said. "My thesis was about stress in professional soccer players, how they work with stress and how stress is just a part of life. We evaluate this in players and then explain to Scolari how best to handle it. This was especially the case with the Portugal players because although we talk the same language [in Brazil] there is still a culture difference.

"I explained how the players behave in games and in training. It is important to a coach to know these things so he can make it work better and, if he needs me, I can do the same in England. It depends what Scolari wants."

The use of psychologists in English football has not always been received with open minds by players who tend to refer back to Eileen Drewery and her faith-healing regime when Glenn Hoddle was England manager. More recently, Steve McClaren used the sports psychologist Bill Beswick to give motivational speeches to the squad. Unfortunately for Beswick, he was blamed for some of McClaren's more contrived press conferences rather than his work with the players.

"I don't think there would be too much of a problem [with English players]," Brandao said. "He [Scolari] will be accommodating to whatever the situation is. They will work together in the beginning, get to know each other and I am sure they will work well. England will be a very different situation but he is a top coach and he will do good work wherever he goes."

Scolari is regarded as a much less modern coach than Jose Mourinho – he is not one to reach for the laptop to solve a problem – but his use of Brandao demonstrates that he is prepared to embrace modern methods when it suits him. The 59-year-old evidently regards his close bond with his players as the most fundamental part of his success and will do anything to make sure that is protected. Brandao is credited with doing important work helping Deco who was born in Brazil and made a controversial decision to take Portuguese citizenship.