01 Jul 2009

WORD PLAY

Q How did the team talks you received as a player influence your own approach?


Keith Burkinshaw, my manager at Tottenham, and Malcolm Allison at Crystal Palace couldn’t have been more different. Keith was incredibly direct and would tell you if he expected more. As a player, you don’t always want to hear that, but I loved him for being so honest.


Malcolm was very different; he made me feel like the best player in the world. He’d say things like “You’re too good and too quick for the left back marking you”. His approach was to instil confidence, highlighting the weaknesses in the opposition, but making you feel ten-feet tall.


My own approach is improving with age. I’m getting better at building players’ confidence and I like to use a bit of reverse psychology. I’ll say things like “You realise that you haven’t scored for seven games, but you know that today you will”. I now understand that players sometimes need a bit of a cuddle.


As a young manager I probably got too uptight about things. At times, all managers can take things a little too personally. I’m calmer now.


Q When do you start planning what you’re going to say?


The day before a match, I give myself a good hour to gather my thoughts together. I write a page on the opposition, a page about my team in possession and a page on our defence. But I don’t take those three pages into the dressing room; I just take one small piece of paper with a series of bulletpoints.


When I was a player, I liked to know the key tactical information and I took that on board as a manager. Players have to be clear about what is required of them on the pitch. You must have a good plan and then trust that your players will do everything they can to make it work.


I like to give my players an idea of how I expect the match to pan out. For example, if an opposing player turns out to be a particular threat, I need the team to be prepared for that and to know how to deal with it.


I try to get across to them how we can hurt the opposition, as well as how they can hurt us. If you only talk about how good the other side is, you risk causing too much fear. I’d say my team talks are 40 per cent about tactics on the ball and 40 per cent off the ball. The other 20 per cent is motivation.


Q Do young, inexperienced players need a different kind of team talk?


Yes, as do teams lower down in the Football Leagues or the Conference League compared to in the Barclays Premier League. I only really get uptight as a manager when I ask something of a player and they don’t respond. As a manager, you can take that quite personally. But it happens less with seasoned professionals. With less experienced players, you have to talk them though everything in more detail and give reminders right up to kick off.


I managed the England side against Italy for one game in 2000 and it was probably one of the easiest I’ve done. I was really up for the experience and knew that I was dealing with very good players. I prepared, as always, the night before. I didn’t need to give a big motivational speech; it was more a case of strategy.


Q What made you give David Beckham his

first England captaincy in that match?


Two things influenced my decision. The first was how David handled the criticism when he was sent off against Argentina during the 1998 World Cup. The following season he was getting hammered at every away game, as well as in the press, but he showed incredible character.


Then, when I worked with him as a coach to the England team, I saw just how much he enjoyed playing for the national side and his dedication to international duty. I thought he deserved a chance.