17TH FEbruary 2023
I was part of a relegated team 3 times... Why?... Was there a common theme?
There's a brutality to professional Football that there isn't really an obvious equivalent of in the corporate world. However when I've talked about the lessons I've learnt, they are universal. As parents, Business Owners, Coach's, Leaders there's a common theme to the ones who are deemed successful.
- Understand your limits.
-Never get complacent, Life will smash you down quickly
-When you work, work Never think you've earned the right.
-You earn confidence through blood , sweat and toil
-Never Ever neglect the basics
AND WHAT YOU THINK IS INTENSITY IS MAYBE SHORT OF WHAT IT LOOKS LIKEExtract from my upcoming book - AND THEN WHAT......... ( all names , locations and teams changed from the facts. Pictures arent related to events)
" Everyone here?"
"Ok, listen up boys, John has come in to assist us . The table doesn't lie. We are five points adrift at the bottom of the league. Two wins back to back and we will pull out, I'm telling you but, how do we get those?" ( john was a vastly experienced, former manager, who was tough and uncompromising which makes the events that follow more unbelievable)
Clearly the manager was needing some help, it can't get any worse. It was March , there were fourteen matches left. That's forty two points to play for. There's still time. I was frustrated, I came in first every day and applied myself. I had games when I was poor. You will have understood by this stage of the book, that my obstacle was my mind. I would be derailed by thinking. The matches I was really poor, in I was broken before going out. a bag of anxiety and a thousand thoughts.
"Ok Lads I have been asked by the board to come in and give Keith some help. It starts this morning. It wont be easy. I've watched the last 3 matches and there's things that need changing. Basics. So lets get going. It will be a tough week. We start on Saturday"
I knew the issue. Too many players thought the game was about nice touches and glory passes , passing stats and claps from the crowd. It was taking all of me to stay afloat and not explode. Sitting in that dressing room week after week at Five o clock on a Saturday afternoon , sometimes in silence , others kicking doors, watching teammates fight verbally, listen to managers trot out the classic line, which used to kill me and I know so many players , who still playing , tell me nothing has changed with that one.
"We are doing everything we can as staff, we put on great sessions, we prepare you , then we ask you to go and play. We dont put pressure on you we tell you to just be free"When i used to hear that line it would press every button in me. Often I would say nothing, holding myself back with all that I am, later in my career I would break and start a verbal battle with those in charge. I Have reiterated again and again throughout this book that I wasn't brilliant every week but no manager I ever worked for could say I wasn't a great professional who gave everything everyday apart from the last year of my professional career at Lincoln City when I was broken. Finished. Emotionally and Spiritually bankrupt and twelve months from breaking down completely.
From that meeting in early March until the middle of April we won four out of eight matches. Drew two and lost two. We were four points above the relegation zone as others form around us worsened. There was a little bounce to players, confidence had been earned. I say earned because there are no free lunches in life. No competitor roles over and says go on you can win today.Obvious yes but , in all areas of life people don't realise the discipline, graft and consistency that breeds results. Winning ISNT easy.
What unfolded over the next 6 weeks is one of those brutally painful periods of my life that was hell to endure at the time but, gold dust in shaping the man and coach i am today.
Monday morning 10.30am April 13th. We collected out on the First team training pitch, a few lads were playing head tennis , some passing the ball in small groups as we waited for the coaching staff to call us in and map out the morning's work. The sun was shining, it was a beautiful spring day . The pitches that six weeks ago were looking tired ,like the squad , had shoots of fresh grass growing, the grass showed the kind of rebirth the squad was feeling.
"In you come boys" shouted the Boss and his new assistant, who by now was looking more important to the cause than anyone.
The talk that followed will never leave me. I'm so grateful it hasn't. It's one of the lessons that makes me so uncompromising and ruthless today in my demands of relentless graft and sweat from clients.
"Six weeks ago we sat up there in the meeting room and what we faced was a huge task. we have asked a lot of you. The physical demands have been huge. We made it simple-
-Defenders play over the top of their back four or on a diagonal ball to the big man.
-Midfielders, hook it on, scrap and tackle, play simple passes.
-Front two chase everything, fight and compete and don't let their defenders rest for a second, if you are exhausted we have substitute's ready to bring fresh energy.
You've been faultless in your work. Now I know some of you have complained that we don't play enough football and next season that's what we will be doing but, we needed to get points. So this morning we are going to have some fun and then do some shape work around getting on the ball more and playing some more football"
I was dying as I heard it. I just knew THE ONLY REASON we had had some results was simple.
1- Took away players options and made it simple
2- Made daily training really intense and the deamds on graft were huge
3- Never allowed us to think after a good result that the next week was any easier, It was a case of well done now go again. NOTHING CHANGES
4- praised sweat and toil over glamour
We got relegated . Over the next 6 weeks that followed we slowly ebbed away.I Believe that only Top Top performers are self driven and motivated to almost psychotic levels. They never let up. Most people think they are doing enough but often are well short. The basics WILL ALWAYS UNDERPIN EVERYTHING. Guardiola at Barcelona and Manchester City now ,first and foremost, every day will harp on about the basics. BUT, its tough and its hard and which of us wants to get up every day and go again. Not rest on yesterday or dream about tommorow, just press reset and mercileslly drive again.
What I learnt is that-
INTENSITY AND BASICS WILL LEAD TO CONFIDENCE. CONFIDENCE LEADS TO FREEDOM, FREEDOM LEADS TO CREATIVITY. SO NEVER EVER GET SLOPPY WITH THE BASICS THE REST WILL HAPPEN