James Lawton: Psychobabble is no substitute for the wisdom that comes from growing up

Murray didn't complain about the attention he received last year
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If young Andrew Murray is ever enshrined as one of the great legends of world tennis - and the sight of Sir Sean Connery leaping from his seat in paroxysms of Scottish pride when the boy made his first minor splash at Wimbledon is no more than a vaguely embarrassing memory - perhaps he will experience a flicker of gratitude.

Who knows, he may just remember fondly the touching concern of most of the British nation when he was so unceremoniously cuffed out of the Australian Open.

Such has been the fear of a post-Henman void in our lives for the two weeks of summer when tennis dictates the heartbeat of the nation, unprecedented concern and succour has been offered to the talented teenager after his lecture to the media about the pressure they have applied to his suddenly frail shoulders.

Talk about contrition. One newspaper, which not so long ago was running headlines about Murray's future being underpinned by a talent that reminded experts of the young Roger Federer, itemised the teething problems of other putative tennis superstars on their perilous journey to the top of the mountain - and untold millions.

Even Homer might have paled at the challenge. However, in the pecking order of compassion no one could touch the late night lady on BBC radio. She produced someone who described herself as a qualified master teacher of Neuro Linguistic Programming. Using this mental process, it was said, Murray could delve deep into his own nature and come up with the strength of will to imitate the actions of a tiger or maybe a jaguar.

If the wonders of NLP have escaped you, here is a simple introduction: "Success and happiness are not accidents that happen to some people and not to others. Success and happiness can be brought about by particular ways of behaving, which in turn are determined by our ways of thinking. In other words it's not what happens to us that is important but the way we choose to interpret it that shapes our lives. You cannot always change everything in your life immediately but you can certainly change the way you perceive it."

Such a shift of perception might have nudged Murray into a bit of reflection after his straight-sets whipping by someone called Juan Ignacio Chela in Melbourne. Instead of blaming the media and its "expectations" he might have considered the possibility that he had merely played like a drain. So maybe a sharp dose of NLP would be of some benefit. Deciding to grow up might also be a help.

The sad truth is that's Murray's outburst this week told us, yet again, a lot more than we really wanted to know about the psyche of so many of our young sportsmen and women.

Murray didn't complain about the attention he received last year on his impressive march up the world rankings. He didn't point out that he was being sucked into a familiar whirlpool of wishful thinking.

Ironically, given the vastly superior efforts of British golfers over the years, it is golf and not our catastrophically under-achieving tennis which authored the worst case of hubris. Michael Bonallack, chairman of the Royal and Ancient and a distinguished amateur player in his time, was the guilty man with his reaction to Justin Rose's brilliantly encouraging debut in the Open. "Justin," said the great man, "is Britain's answer to Tiger Woods." That was an offence rather more serious than a mere suggestion that Murray offered a passing hint of Federer at the same age. Of course, it was both widely reported and employed as still another shard to be plunged into the young golfer's heart as he suffered a shattering number of failures to beat the cut.

Rose still battles, mostly with impressive grace, to nail down a presence at the top end of golf, but a comparison with Murray's recent experience is inevitable.

Of course, Murray is right to say that expectations have been high, and in some cases ridiculous, but no one forced him into the fabulously rewarded tennis arena. His best bet now, better perhaps than any desperate search for some big cat lurking in his soul, is to consider a brief roll call of tennis players who did beat the pressure at remarkably young ages.

When Boris Becker swept so powerfully to the Wimbledon title as a 17-year-old he had the nerve and the maturity to understand that from time to time the glory would ebb. When it did, when he lost his title at the ripe old age of today's Murray, 18, he looked at the sea of faces at the post-game press conference and then pointed out that nobody had died out on the Centre Court. "I lost a tennis match," he said. "These things happen."

Bjorn Borg wouldn't have known how to mount a tirade if you'd offered him a million dollars. Indeed, he once pointed out - it was shortly before his 21st birthday - "I have all I want, a car - a nice Volvo - and a shirt and a pair of jeans, I can travel anywhere I like, why do I have to worry about the pressures on me?" It is true life got a little bit more complicated for the reflective Swede as the years wore on, but not competitively. From the earliest age, Borg went out and played, just played - like all the great ones.

The misfortune in Bonallack's remark about Rose and Woods was that an ultimate challenge had been proposed. Now, as Rose continues to fight for his professional existence, Woods is more than halfway to Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 major wins.

There was something of that crime when Murray was mentioned alongside Federer in the same breath.

However, it is all relative. Once, when asked if she ever felt burdened by the weight of expectation, Tracy Austin crisply pointed out: "Well, it's something you have to live with. Did you know I was on the cover of Sports Illustrated before I was 12?"

Upon reflection, maybe Murray should forget about NLP. Maybe growing up is indeed the ticket.

Lack of confidence in Eriksson's ability to keep his mind on the job

Only heaven and Sven Goran Eriksson really know what he hopes to gain from a legal action for breach of confidence against the News of the World, except perhaps another nice little earner. However, one thing is certain - it will not be any burnishing of an image of a man casually disloyal to his employer, which is the football nation, and nearly half the team with which he claims that he expects to win the World Cup.

Breach of confidence is a poor relation in the jousting of civil law. There is no jury. It doesn't claim untruths or distortions. There is no suggestion from Eriksson's lawyers that he did not freely discuss his willingness to walk away from a £5m-a-year contract with the Football Association. Or that, as he swigged vintage champagne and tucked into a lobster, he suggested that David Beckham was in his pocket and could be delivered on a platter and Michael Owen, didn't you know, went to Newcastle just for the money.

A newspaper's defence in such circumstances is that their revelations are in the public interest. How much revelation was involved in telling the world that Eriksson is not a paragon of commitment is maybe another story.

It could be argued, however, that this was just another breach of any reasonable confidence in Eriksson's ability to keep his mind on the job before the onset of World Cup action in Germany this summer. If anyone wanted to frame that accusation, they might also have to tot up quite how many other charges had to be taken into consideration. The mind reels.

United's mice fear history lesson

Dismay in some quarters that Manchester United are reluctant to flood Old Trafford with pest control experts after this week's pitch invasion by mice may be enlightened by a fragment of history.

There was a similar problem many years ago when pigeons, for obvious reasons, became a nuisance as they gathered in the eves of the old main stand.

The chairman, James Gibson, summoned one of his workers armed with a shotgun. The pigeons, seeing some of their friends dispatched to eternity, quickly got the message. However, there was an unwelcome consequence. The lead shot had left some holes in the roof and at the next home match several directors were soaked.

Nowadays pigeons are discouraged by the periodic visits of a falcon. It would seem that the mice have no reason for complacency.

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