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POSH: The Man Who Is Bigger Than The Role

Darren Ferguson signed a new contract as manager of Peterborough United. It is a role that he has held for over 500 matches and on three different occasions. A contract is a necessary part of the business of football. People need to be paid for their performance. Often success is rewarded with contract extensions and bonuses. These are all part of the “nuts and bolts” of being a professional. Managers get hired and fired by a club regularly because they are either getting results or not. At a certain point, some managers transcend their role and become one inextricably linked with the club. By saying that manager’s name, the club comes with it and vice versa. Even if the manager does move on to another club, their mark lingers on after they are gone. All too often, their departure leaves a gaping hole that others struggle to fill it. Or their thumb print can be seen on every aspect of the club moving forward. Sometimes it is both!

Wenger, Guardiola, Clough, Mourinho and of course Ferguson are all managers who have had this type of effect. In the modern age of football, it is difficult or often undesirable to have a tenure at a club that lasts a decade. So Pep and Jose’s mention is not completely out of place here. Although you could make arguments on which club they left the greatest imprint, there is no denying their transformational impact.

It is not a huge surprise that Darren Ferguson has had that type of effect at Peterborough. Having a father whose shoes are still waiting to be filled at Manchester United, there were more than likely lessons learned through that direct contact. While his lineage is important, he has also carved his name into the crest of the POSH because of the seeds that he has continually planted with Darragh MacAnthony during his three stints at the club. Finally neither man is walking away from the project because they both seem to realize that Darren Ferguson and POSH are one in the same. His presence is bigger than the role as manager.

As a POSH fan, this is an exciting time! Although there was a younger version of me that enjoyed the drama (and promised hope) of manager changes, I’ve seen enough at this point to know that the grass is not greener. The club are in the right place at the moment. Largely during my time as a PUFC fan, when things have gone right, it’s because Ferguson was at the helm. Now we have him on another contract and he can continue to be the talisman of the club. The man is bigger than the role! The only question is “how high can we go together?”

Congratulations Darren!

Pete

Blogpost, posh, self-reliance, SoccerLifeBalance

POSH Woes Away From Home Continue

I place the blame squarely on my own shoulders. So far this season, I’ve only been able to watch four matches and two have been POSH wins. My lack of commitment is a leading factor in the poor form. While I say this all in jest, people link results to a variety of factors which represent correlation and not causation. The away form is troubling and so are the goals in quick succession. Both are a symptom of an underlying problem that is easy to spot but more difficult to correct. Fergie put it very plainly in his post match interview. There is a lack of belief within the team that gets exacerbated away from home and when the team concede.

While it is simple enough to identify a lack of belief, it’s more difficult to correct considering all contributing factors. In order to have a squad that can withstand the workload, injuries and the level of the Championship; there needs to be competition at every single position. It is an absolute necessity but it creates circumstances where a player’s position within the team is always in question. As professional athletes, this is part of the job but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy.

If it were just the uncertainty of the position, there probably would not be such a grand issue at the moment. However each player must also internally wrestle with the question of whether or not, they are “Championship standard.” Obviously all of the members of the squad are eligible to play in the Championship because it is the league where the POSH are now. However there is a difference between being a Championship player and feeling like you belong at that level. Hopefully the players are smart enough to avoid looking at social media or player rating. That level of scrutiny is difficult to bear. Fans, pundits and journalists have the right to rate or not rate a player. It doesn’t mean that it’s helpful. Keeping one’s mentality straight with daggers being pulled for any play that is not up to snuff.

Finally the pressure of survival. This is one of the reasons that I’ve been a firm proponent of aiming higher than survival. Having taught for many years, I know that the individual who is just looking to pass will never get an A. The one who is willing to put in the work with high expectations will do far better than the bare minimum. Survival is not riding on every kick of the ball or even every match. It just feels that way and that feeling doesn’t help. The increased pressure produces anxiety that does not improve performance.

It’s simple enough to just say “get on with it.” These players are professional athletes who signed up for this pressure. True! However, any fan, pundit or journalist can tell you that a striker in the Championship needs to be more clinical because the number of chances are fewer and more difficult. So a player will train to improve their finishing skills. It’s necessary to perform at this level. How much training have players gotten on their mindset? Belief? Self-talk? Visualization?

I’m sure there has been some but if this truly is the missing component to success then it needs to be a core component to the training. A striker who is not putting shots on frame would not be told to just figure it out. There’s too much at stake. Each player would be different. Depending on their personality types, learning styles and modality preferences; they would need to develop skills to help them put legs under the “table” of their belief. For now they seem to be able to believe at home. That’s something! Unfortunately that does not scratch the true potential of this squad. They can make a real dent in this league but they need to believe it to their core. For now, they are waiting for the results to give them belief. That’s actually reverse of what needs to happen. Belief is a skill that they need to hone.

Up the POSH! I’ll do my part. I’m positive the players can do theirs.

Pete

Blogpost, posh, SoccerLifeBalance

Persistent POSH Procure Points

It’s amazing how quickly things can change. The original title for this blogpost was going to be “Poor POSH Produced No Points”. Harrison Burrows and Siriki Dembele changed that after their introduction into Saturday’s game. Although their goals are bound to be the focus, it is actually their mentality that truly caused the shift. Both players came in with a desire to compete that has been lacking in a few POSH squad members for the first two weekends. Luckily, all of our new recruits seem ready and willing to compete. Norburn and Randall are the two that standout most in my mind from the POSH new boys but they are not the only ones. While others within the squad seem to hope that their past contributions will buy them a starting position and wins in the results column. Luckily Burrows and Dembele have a bit more to fight for and it showed.

Photo by Joe Dent.

Today the echoing chant on social media seems to be that we need to hang onto Dembele or we’re sunk. While there is no denying Dembele’s talent with the ball at his feet, his true value is in his mentality. Perhaps his motivation is solely based on getting a move away from Peterborough and that’s ok! Stars have come and gone through the years at POSH but thriving in the Championship will not come down to the names on the team sheet but rather their inclination toward proving their value at this level. Players who are willing to do what it takes to compete to earn a position, then contribute toward a win are invaluable. Ones who are looking to protect their standing could be our undoing regardless of how popular or productive they were in the past.

Two league games are hardly enough to render judgment on anyone’s mentality but there are some worrying signs. The general feeling from the Luton game seemed to be one of fear from returning players. Several players seemed to be afraid that they weren’t able to play at this level. They seemed to get rattled by instances that I’ve watched them cope with handily before. Most likely that will pass. The far more concerning situations are where a player is looking for someone to bail him out. Whether the manager, the referee or other teammates, I’ve seen a few moments where a player is looking outside of himself for answers to problems that exist within. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a starter but earning it is key. Looking for a foul call is alright as well, provided that’s not the only thing in your arsenal. Teammates are there to be relied upon, not used as scapegoats for your shortcomings.

The substitutes in the Derby match were able to shift the mentality within the team. Even players who had been in for the entire match found a new sense of belief and an energy that carried them to the win. Dembele is not the answer. He’s an answer with the characteristics that we need. The POSH way is to “go forward”. Most of the time that means toward goal but it is also the mentality of progress, both personally and collectively. Not settling for being in the Championship or expecting that who we were last season is good enough. It means proving that we are a Championship club. That will not be given to anyone. It’s earned with each tackle, every run, pass and shot. Players will need to burn that into their brains because it’s the only way we’ll thrive in this league. It can be done and we have players that can do it. They just need to decide to.

Up the POSH!

Pete

Blogpost, posh

Player Value: Creating POSH Out of Potential

As the Euros are on at the moment, there is plenty of buzz around different players. The value of a player can go up or down massively during a tournament like this. Some stars are born out of these circumstances and others that have shown bright in the past fade. Gareth Bale used to be worth nearly 100 million pounds. Now his market value is around 19 million. Is he one fifth the player that he used to be? Probably not, his chipping has definitely improved! Haha! But seriously, a player’s value is not a fixed thing, nor is it ever completely accurate. It is based on many perceived factors including consistency and potential. No one can see what tomorrow will bring but those who guess right consistently enough, create value for their clubs.

Aaron Mclean (jumping) congratulates Craig Mackail-Smith after he scored the winning goal for Peterborough during the FA Cup First Round game between AFC Hornchurch and Peterborough United at Bridge Avenue on Sun Nov 9, 2008

Luckily for the past decade and a half, the POSH have had a relatively consistent combination of a gambler and a teacher who have maximized player value. This season that value is no longer going to help finance the club’s future young starlets. It is going to pay the rent for a year in the Championship. While the POSH haven’t done any transfer business yet this summer, the core of their promotion winning side is intact. This side’s fate will depend largely on the “dynamic duo” of DMac and Fergie to do what they have for so many years, see value where others don’t and improve it.

Although it’s easy say after the fact, that Boyd, Gayle, and Toney were “destined” to be great, no one can ever truly say. The order of the moment is to believe. Consistently through the years, the DMac/Fergie combination have delivered results. Although the Championship is a different level, lessons have been learned and the course is clear. There is nothing magical about the Championship. No one has a divine right to play there but there are teams that it’s almost a given that they are going to stay up. The bookies know who they are, that’s how they set the odds. However they have made a slight error in setting the POSH at 15/8 to get relegated. They are discounting the gambler and the teacher. The track record of turning potential into POSH should not be overlooked. Perhaps it’s for the best though. Long odds can create strong mentality of belief in teams and individuals. Us against the world is an idea that can be sold because people who are undervalued have something to prove. This season is all about the things that POSH does well. Finding diamonds in the rough and getting them to shine for all to see. Patience.

Up the POSH!

Pete

Blogpost, posh

Inflation of the Moment: POSH on the Cusp

With three matches remaining, the POSH are on the cusp of returning to the Championship. Three points is all that it will take to push them beyond the reach of Lincoln and Sunderland. Everyone can feel the excitement of possibility. Despite the desire to achieve promotion on Tuesday night, the players cannot go into the match trying to do that. Winning promotion will be a byproduct of their actions, not something they can force. It will be a sum total of quality actions leading up to and during the ninety minutes of the match. Keeping one’s nerve is much more difficult when the moment is inflated into something that it isn’t.

Aaron Mclean (jumping) congratulates Craig Mackail-Smith after he scored the winning goal for Peterborough during the FA Cup First Round game between AFC Hornchurch and Peterborough United at Bridge Avenue on Sun Nov 9, 2008

Anticipating the key moment to a match or someone’s life is almost impossible. So it is really not worth doing. Putting the extra pressure of anticipation or anxiety is not usually a recipe for success. A moment is just that, a moment. Its meaning will come clear to us after the fact. Most of our performance in life comes down to things that we’ve done hundreds, thousands or possibly millions of times. Freeing one’s self from the weight of expectation comes down to the knowledge that when given an opportunity, you won’t run from it. You will give the moment the attention that it deserves, no more, no less. Consistency is key.

The reason that the POSH are in this position is that they have consistently strung together enough moments to earn this opportunity. They do not need to be better than who they have been all season long. They simply need to be who they have been consistently without the weight of expectation. No one needs to score a hat-trick, a bicycle kick or a goal from a half field. A deflected ball off of any player’s butt will do.

So the key to winning promotion is simply winning the moments. Focusing on the things that are actually within one’s control: playing a ball to feet, being first to the ball, seeing the goal rather than the keeper, and getting back to neutral if anything goes awry. Winning the majority of the moments gives us the best chance and afterward, we’ll all be able to see which ones were the biggest. Those 7 minutes only become famous because the moment wasn’t bigger than the men.

Up the POSH!

Blogpost, posh, SoccerLifeBalance

The Relegation Battle

During one of my first few seasons supporting Peterborough United, they faced a relegation battle. I was riveted! Even though I had no way to watch the matches, I followed the results intently. When I went on a skiing trip where I would have no internet access, I had my brother text me the score of the match that day. The saga ended with the POSH playing in League 2 for a few seasons but I could not help being engrossed with the situation.

At the moment, POSH are on a push toward promotion and I am equally (but differently) riveted. Success breeds an entirely different set of emotions than possible failure. Fear is an emotion that is hardwired within us, our fear response is almost literally set up to “short circuit” our brain’s higher functions in order to deal with a threat. Whether it is a real mortal threat or simply a perceived situation of importance, our brains don’t know the difference.

The Peterborough United squad and management celebrate winning promotion as captain Grant McCann lifts the Play-Off Final winners trophy

Most of the time, we don’t live in a relegation battle nor a promotion push. Our existence is usually a collection of “mid-table” events. Life tends to find some form of equilibrium where this year tends to look a lot like the last and the one before. It can be comforting or frustrating depending on your perspective. I am a firm proponent of being grateful for all that you have but aspiration is not a sin. Being grateful simply gives you a firm foundation to start from.

So if you have been living a mid table life, then perhaps it is time to put yourself into a relegation battle. Not by allowing yourself to hit rock bottom but by raising your standards. Move the line of your “bare minimum” up. Expect a little more from life but recognize that this will most likely require more output from you. A mid table life does not create the emotions that we want to feel on a regular basis. While a life of fear is not something that I would suggest, the emotional tools that you have at your fingertips should be used for your own progress. If you push that line of minimum standards high enough, then promotion is on the horizon. Next year you’ll be playing and a different league and you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

Go for it today!

Pete

Blogpost, posh

Fear, Form and Fate – POSH Path Forward

My own anxiety is up a little having just listened to the Yellow Block Podcast. Matthew Kisby is being positive again and it’s a little scary. Although I must admit, he tempered his positivity with the word “chance” when he referred to POSH winning the league this time. Despite the nine points in three matches, it’s not time to get carried away yet. Tim mentioned that the Ipswich game was a “chess match.” Increasingly, that is what the matches are going to become. Strategy and the mental game will dominate the considerations for upcoming matches. One of the other similarities is what my father used to call “playing the other side of the board” in chess. Looking at the options of your opponent in order to determine the moves that they might make. Bristol Rovers and Shrewsbury offer the potential of acting as a banana peel but with the right mentality could be easily sorted.

FEAR – That is the emotion that teams like Bristol Rovers and Shrewsbury will have when facing POSH due to our offensive weapons. A heavy defeat is catastrophic to their hopes of avoiding the drop. A draw is a great result, especially for Bristol Rovers, who have lost three in a row. Fueled by fear, their options are: bunker down to withstand the POSH attack while hoping for a counter or press to keep POSH away from their goal. Since Shrewsbury have had positive results against teams near the top of the league recently, I would anticipate that they’ll play and look to impose their will on the game. Bristol will more than likely park the team bus in front of their goal.

FORM – Most of the players within the team have been in good form recently. This would suggest almost no changes to the lineup. While this would be the Kisby route, I’m going in the opposite direction due to the order of the games. Since the Bristol match is going to require breaking down a team that are going to be reluctant to give anything away, I would look for some changes in this match. With the five subs, there are too ways to go about this. The first is start the normal lineup and replace at half if we have the lead. The other is to give other players the chance to prove themselves from the beginning. My personal preference would be to rotate the squad for the Bristol Rovers match in order to give a boost to those fringe players while resting the normal starters. SQUAD is my buzz word for the POSH this season. Our form will only last as long as the legs of the players do. This is a balancing act to be sure. Eisa, Jones, Clarke, Broom, et al need a chance to prove their worth. The opportunity to break down a team that is probably going to bunker in their own end might be the right assignment. Shrewsbury represent a much greater threat to a tired POSH team than a fresh one.

FATE – In classical literature, people (like Oedipus) who try to avoid their fate end up falling directly into it. The opposite is usually true here in the real world. People who believe too strongly in the certainty of their objectives tend to falter. That is not calling for pessimism or fatalism. Quite the opposite. It is a call for pragmatism. All of the stars have aligned through the owners’ recruitment, a packed schedule, a strong SQUAD, and an unimpressive league. The path is written in the stars. However just like Morpheus told Neo in the Matrix, “There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” The belief that thing will just fall into place is fool-hearty. Yet the opposite end of the spectrum is also fraught with danger because forcing it to happen breeds tension and anxiety. Do that which is necessary and BELIEVE. Other teams should fear us as we are hitting that same type of stride from last season before the lockdown. They are not going to rollover and die though. There is “NO FATE but what we make” (Name that movie quote in the comments). So every day in training and all match days, it is on the SQUAD to show up and do their part. It’s only fate after the fact!

My friends at the Yellow Block are right to be optimistic but we need to keep it in check. I give Matt Kisby a hard time but I actually enjoy listening to him. As an almost pure optimist, I enjoy hearing about the other side of the coin. So I get worried when pessimists start seeing things as rosy. It usually precedes a correction to the balance of the universe. So let’s keep everything in perspective. One game at a time, we can climb the table and leave everyone else behind.

It takes a full squad!

HERO UP SQUADDIES!

Pete

Blogpost, posh

POSH Take Home Form on the Road

London Road has largely been a “fortress” since the return of Darren Ferguson. This is not particularly surprising considering his successful teams tend to lean heavily on their home form. This season is different than any other that these players or this manager have ever encountered. So, it may be the perfect time to buck the trend of away fixture results being in question. It’s time to take the home form “on the road.”

The home team advantage in normal seasons is far more pronounced. Crowd noise and atmosphere tend to be the major contributors to “unnerving” players on away days. Long bus (coach) trips and unfamiliar surroundings are a few of the other factors that add to the worries of the visiting team. The comfort of home is usually a combination of variables despite the fact that the crowd tends to get the focus. Parking, changing room, food, etc. can all influence the comfort level of players at home and cause worry in those away. Most of these subtle changes in the lead up to the game should be relatively inconsequential. However, they tend to stack up and cause anxiety that doesn’t exist when in familiar surroundings.

So far this season, Ferguson has done well with switching the mentality of the players in necessary ways. The first half lull has been replaced with energy and intent. The balance of certainty vs. uncertainty about places in the team also seems to have been sorted. The next hurdle is the away fixture mentality. London Road is a “fortress” and that is spectacular. The advantage is obviously not the crowd or the pitch. It is the mentality that the players bring to that empty stadium with a dodgy pitch (for the moment). Their comfort levels are higher at home that difference doesn’t need to be so pronounced. I’d love to follow the team around for a few matches in order to do a study on the differences in approach to away days. However without that ability, here’s a few simple ideas. Remember there are two things you should never worry about: things that you can control and things you can’t. Things that you can control shouldn’t get your worry/anxiety because you can control them, do something about it. While the things that you can’t control shouldn’t be worried about because you can’t control them. It’s wasted energy.

The players need to “compress the penalty area” which is my personal way of saying reduce anxiety. There are plenty of ways to do this but regarding an away fixture here are a few suggestions.

  • Cold shower! – Now I am a huge proponent of cold showers in general. It’s a part of my daily routine and many people think that’s crazy. However it has a grounding effect that I can’t fully explain. I’ve been taking 45 second – 2 minute cold shower (after hot for cleaning) for about 2 years now. It works almost like a physical mental reset button. For someone who doesn’t do this regularly, it could be a priming mechanism to add to a pregame ritual. It will engage the “fight, flight or freeze (haha)” instinct. Being able to stay calm through that experience trains the body to go to that state less readily. Anxiety is a state of being. Some people train themselves to get to that state easily. Others train their way out. (physiology)
  • The Island – The game is played between the lines, not in the stands. Think of the field as an island. At the moment, there are no fans to contend with. So the building that surrounds the pitch should not matter much at all. The pitch itself is a factor but even our own is in shambles at the moment. Our players have the ability to move past that issue. Now is the time to develop an absolute focus on only the things that happen on “The Island.” By developing that island based focus, it removes the crowd and the opposing manager as obstacles. They do not need to matter if you don’t let them. It is said that one day the Buddha was walking through a village. A very angry and rude young man came up and began insulting him, saying all kind of rude words. The Buddha was not upset by these insults. Instead he asked the young man, “Tell me, if you buy a gift for someone, and that person does not take it, to whom does the gift belong?” The young man was surprised to be asked such a strange question and answered, “It would belong to me, because I bought the gift.” The Buddha smiled and said, “That is correct. And it is exactly the same with your anger. If you become angry with me and I do not get insulted, then the anger falls back on you. You are then the only one who becomes unhappy, not me. All you have done is hurt yourself.” While I am not a Buddhist, there is wisdom to be taken here. The opposing crowd is going to dislike you based on your jersey. Don’t allow their expected vitriol to become a burden that you carry. If it feeds you, great! Use it! If not, leave it. You’ve tuned out your teacher, father, mother, girlfriend, etc. before. It just takes practice and an indifference toward the message. (focus)
I had this hanging on my wall as a teen with the caption “The definition of hell” under it. However it’s a good representation of a game on an island.
  • Phone a Friend! – The voice of the manager may not always be a supportive one and sometimes the worst voice to hear is your own inside of your head. It’s probably not possible nor practical to phone someone during the pregame or the game itself. However it is possible to have that message prerecorded on your phone or available inside your head. Choose the voice of someone who supports and believes in you almost unconditionally. Have their words of encouragement playing in your ear before the game or during. There is a reason why knights would “dedicate” their battles to ladies. Fighting for something more than ourselves adds another level of importance to the moment. (Internal Dialogue)

These are far from the only options for changing away form. The match does not start at the first whistle, nor is it only played in the stadium. A variety of forces contribute to the result of each match. The key is to take control of as many of those forces as possible. Flip obstacles upside down and use them as stepping stones in order to climb to higher heights. The same humans are playing regardless of the geographical location. Don’t let something that should be incidental stand between you and that which you want most. No one can take away your ability to play at your best without your consent. Don’t stand in your own way and don’t let anyone else either!

Up the POSH!

Pete

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POSH: Numbers Alone Don’t Change Behavior

While a draw to the league leaders may be an acceptable result for the day, the continued issues with defensive set pieces are anything but acceptable. The POSH statistics on defending set pieces are anything but impressive. It is an issue that is well known to the players and coaching staff. Regardless of the statistical analysis, numbers alone don’t change behavior.

The video of Lincoln’s goal from the corner kick is difficult to watch but indicative of the grander issue at hand. The cross deflects off our flatfooted captain and goes to a player at the back post who has been left by his marker. While it would be easy to point the finger at those two players, it could have easily been anyone else. Most of the POSH players look flatfooted on the play. Although some might say that a change needs to be made in the defensive set up on set pieces, my viewpoint would be that there needs to be a change in the story the team tells itself about defending set pieces.

Image: Andrew Vaughan/CameraSport

Behavior does not change on its own, in an individual or a group. There are many ways to change behavior and one is through fear. The number of goals given up on set pieces creates a sense of fear when they happen. While fear can change behavior, it brings with it a lot of baggage. The fight, flight or freeze response can be triggered by fear and “flatfootedness” might be representative of this issue. At the moment, the players have a story running in their head about “not getting scored on.” That focus does not tap into the positive emotions that get better results. So what should be done? Flip the script.

POSH is perennially a goal scoring juggernaut. It’s part of the manager’s, team’s, club’s owners’ ethos to be forward thinking. From the type of players that we buy/produce to the school initiative, POSH is always looking to be on the front foot. So the posture of flatfooted and defensive does not suit our mindset. My suggestion is this. Whenever there is a set piece against us, the players need to get EXCITED! That’s right I said excited.

While a set piece in our end may seem like an opportunity for the other team, it creates opportunity for us as well. The field is about as wide open as it will ever be in a game. Center backs are brought forward leaving a skeleton defense at the midfield with one of our forwards. So rather than focusing on how to keep the ball out of our goal. Focus on what we’re going to do with it when we win it back. Create breakout plays from defensive set pieces to put us on the front foot. Then each player’s mindset is not, “I need to keep my mark from scoring.” It becomes “where am I putting the ball when I win it? Because we could score from this.” It’s obvious based on the pressing strategy in the final third that Ferguson has at least subconsciously sold the idea that “defense scores goals.” He’s absolutely right and the final third is not the only place that this is true. It’s true all over the field because in order to score we need the ball. Telling a different story about the situation changes the players’ internal dialogues and focus at these times of high stress.

The POSH go forward. That’s who they are as a team. This subtle tweak just puts them back on the front foot rather than being fearful and flat. Get excited because a goal at the other end is 20 seconds or less away! We have the speed and the players to do it. Now all they need to do is believe!

Up the POSH!

Pete

Blogpost, SoccerLifeBalance

POSH Need a New Drug

I wrote this before the announcement of the postponements but figured I’d post anyway.

With Peterborough being reclassified as a tier 3 area before this weekend’s fixture, it takes away the fans as an influence on the match. Although POSH were able to go on a long unbeaten streak without fans earlier this season, some performances lacked the energy and commitment that will be required to continue their climb up the table. There is definitely not a lack of talent within the squad. It basically comes down to the emotional/mental state of the players at game time. Ferguson and the players have proven that they can play with energy from the first whistle. Unfortunately the government has sucker punched the POSH (and all clubs) by taking away the fans that just got back to the ground. This undesired circumstance forces the POSH to find a “new drug.”

Before anyone gets their knickers in a twist, I’m not talking about any illegal substances. Everything that human beings do, we do in order to produce or reduce some form of feeling. These feelings are caused by chemicals (drugs) inside of our brains/bodies. The good feelings that are produced during a football match by players and fans are generally from four chemicals: endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. My post “Soccer is not a zero sum game” outlines these in greater detail.

Regarding the POSH situation, it has been suggested that the team and some players in particular thrive off of the crowd. This is most likely due to a rush of serotonin. It is the chemical that causes several feelings but in particular it is responsible for the feelings of pride and status. In normal seasons, this is a perfectly appropriate feeling to chase as a footballer. Even at away fixtures, there would normally be handful of fans who would cheer on the players giving them a quasi-hero status. In COVID times, that pursuit has been taken away and it is difficult to say when it will be back. While I recognize that this is an opportunity to get angry at an outside entity that has taken something away from the boys in blue (or pink depending on the day), it may not be the best answer on its own. A healthy dose of oxytocin is the drug that I’m suggesting.

My son and I at London Road. Oxytocin creating moment.

Oxytocin is the chemical that we would normally associate with “love.” A large amount of oxytocin is released during childbirth in order to create a connection between mother and child. This is probably a little more “touchy feely” than footballers would probably prefer to be. So the recognition that similar types of oxytocin filled bonds can be made between soldiers at war or friends with a close relationship. Due to the fact that thousands of fans will not be there to cheer on the successes of the players, they need to double or triple down on each other. The Sammie and Frankie show was born out of friendship. Those feelings need to transfer to the field and spread throughout the squad. Each member of the squad needs to celebrate the success of his teammate as a success that he takes part in. This shared feeling of accomplishment and desire for the good of everyone needs to become an “addiction.”

While I am a huge proponent of the positive, there is a power to the dark side of our emotions. The problem is that anger and other emotions like it become corrosive if they are overused. So my major suggestion is to triple down on connecting with each other but leveraging the power of the negative situation could be useful in spirts. Even though it is not fully true, taking the view that the government and EFL are both against POSH and their fans gives extra juice and unites the group even more. El Presidente named this the “Revenge” tour which goes in line with this perspective although it may lean a bit too much toward a victim’s mentality. My slant would be that this is the “Confirmation Tour.” Confirming the idea that POSH were truly on the promotion trajectory when the season was ended. Other teams are on their own journey confirming the reverse.

So if fans continue to be kept away, it is vital that the players leverage the unity within the group to confirm who they are: the best squad in the division. The obstacles that are thrown in front of all of us need to become the path that we trend. Lamenting and complaining only create an emotion barrier to overcome. Embrace the obstacles and help each other climb over them. They are not impediments to be feared. They are the staircase that leads to the top!

Up the POSH!

Pete

P.S. Had to link this at the bottom. “I want a new drug!”