Ray Lewington hopes that England can learn from the Olympic triumphs of British Cycling at the World Cup by following their ‘marginal gains’ approach.
Dave Brailsford, as head of British Cycling and Team Sky, focused on making small improvements in as many areas as possible and England assistant manager Lewington cited them as an inspiration. Dr Steve Peters, the sports psychiatrist who worked with Brailsford, has also been working with the England team.
“I’ve never seen any operation like it,” Lewington said of the detailed preparations and fine tuning of the England camp. “We’ve gone up to a new level for this World Cup. It has to be perfect.”
“I’d be very surprised now if I met anyone in world football who was doing something we are not covering. They have sat down with all the best brains – not just in football but across sport – and asked; what do you think?”
“It is just an amazing operation. It’s so good. Think back to all that cornflakes and toast stuff and it’s a totally different world. The players are even routinely tested every day for sweat loss. Possible problems in Brazil have all been thought about here, long before.”
England have been inspired by Brailsford’s successes with British Cycling at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic games. They led the cycling medals table at both, with eight gold medals.
“You hear the stories about people who have worked with the British cycling team, for instance,” Lewington said. “They were like Norwich City in the Premier League. They became champions of the world and the Olympics. Obviously, they were good at riding bikes. But then another thought process went into it. Enough of that can turn little things you way and gain an advantage.
“If there are any advantages to be gained whatsoever, we will have covered it. At least we will know that no other team will be better prepared than us. We will be at no disadvantage that way to any other team in the tournament.”
To this end, England have recruited Dr Steve Peters, the psychiatrist who has worked so successfully with British Cycling, Ronnie O’Sullivan, and, this season, Liverpool.
“Steve’s job is to actually be around the people. And just listen. He’ll just go around making sure everyone is talking about the same things; that there are no moans or gripes or things going on behind our backs. It is all about subtle differences – judging the mood. He’ll be there among the players while we’re busy, getting the feed-back.”
Lewington spoke very positively about the atmosphere with England, revealing that players donate their match fees to charity, which he did not even know about before joining the set-up.
“I didn’t realise they don’t get paid, and if they do it all goes to charity. I was amazed, I didn’t know it was common knowledge. Roy said to me ‘they donate everything to charity’. We do know these boys have bucketfuls of money, but they don’t have to do that fees to charity, they don’t publicise it, they don’t go around blowing their trumpet. I’m in the game and I didn’t know it.”