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!”

Blogpost, SoccerLifeBalance

POSH Wobble Is Over, Unless…

One win in an almost meaningless cup game that was played by fringe players against West Ham’s youth team and POSH is back? The voice of Matt Kisby from the Yellow Block podcast is the one that I hear refuting my claim that the POSH are about to go back on a run. After just listening to their latest episode about Fergie In or Out, I had to put my thoughts out there. The decline in confidence amongst POSH fans is not surprising after a run of losses with 41% saying Fergie Out. However, those numbers will rebound before the end of the season as we push toward promotion.

Fans can be fickle and there are some that have a distaste for Ferguson regardless of the results. It’s hard to moan about a manager who is winning but one that goes on a string of losses, get out the torches and pitchforks. Despite those losses, Ferguson isn’t going anywhere. The owners believe that this manager is the architect for their club. His job is safe through wobbles. Only a complete collapse would be grounds for removal and that isn’t happening. The ship is already heading back in the right direction.

The win against West Ham is relatively meaningless other than the lineup. It was a game that required the lower half of the squad to play. The lineup was consistent with the others from the Papas Johns Trophy. Now it is up to Ferguson to get the players to believe that they are a squad again. The recent downturn in form is not a lack of talent. It is actually due to a squad that is full of talent but it needs to be utilized based on merit. Ferguson knows this and his salty interview is an indication of change to come.

Humans lead with belief and their actions tend to reflect it. Comfortable players do not give you their best effort. So a player who believes that his place in the starting eleven is secure will tend not give everything that he has. The flip side of that coin is that a player who believes that nothing he does will get him into the starting eleven tends to give less than optimal performance as well. Often this belief system will rear its ugly head when the bench player comes on late in a game. Not much time to impress makes every touch of the ball count. So the anxiety of the situation undermines the performance of a fully capable replacement.

The POSH players, both starters and replacements, need to believe that they are part of the equation. Mo Eisa needs to believe that he can contribute and has a chance when someone’s form drops. Sammie Szmodics needs to believe that the team scoring is far more important than him scoring and then goals will come. Ferguson’s frustration in the interview after Portsmouth came from his players underperforming and as Tim said in the Yellow Block Podcast, it is his fault. I truly believe that the team selection and result in the FA Cup caused a downturn in the squad’s belief that had already begun. A rotated squad for that game sends the message to the fringe players that they matter and to the starters that their position is not completely safe. Ferguson has proved time after time in his career that he knows how to strike this balance.

Although the psychology of each individual is important, a team or group also develops their own psychology based on the environment created by the leader/manager. The consistency with which Ferguson has gotten teams to perform at a high level lets me know that he can get this team to believe again. He doesn’t seem to lead completely with “fear.” Hitting that button too many times leads to players who resent their manager (Steve Evans). Whatever was said in the locker room needed to stay there, those who heard it most likely have gotten this message. The free passes are gone. None of us is bigger than all of us and we cannot wait for you to get it right. Unless I’ve completely misjudged him, Ferguson is going to get it right!

Up the POSH!

And listen to the Yellow Block! They’re good lads. (Can I say that as an American? Good guys is what I would normally say.)

Pete

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All of Kilimanjaro, Not a Quarter of Everest

Focus is more than a skill, it truly is our experience. Whether we realize it or not, there are truly a millions of things going on around us. The only things that leave a lasting impression are the ones that we focus on. Much like the lens of a camera, we can either sharpen or blur our experience based on how attuned our “equipment” is to our world. With all of this action, it’s easy to get distracted by the shiny, convenient, historic, new, expensive or controversial thing. Keeping a singular focus is difficult.

The inspiration for this post is my beloved Peterborough United’s early exit from the FA Cup. They were beaten by Chorley who are a club several leagues below the POSH. It was clearly an upset that now has Chorley in the 3rd round playing against Derby County. I couldn’t be happier! My team lost in the world famous FA Cup and I’m happy? No doubt about it and I hope that we fall out of the other cup competitions too. While I’m sure that the ownership, manager, players and other fans do not share my opinion, it is my muse today. For those of you who do not pay attention to League 1 football in England, the POSH are in third in the league at the moment. Our expressed goal for the season is to earn promotion to the Championship. As many Americans learned in the last episode of Ted Lasso, that is the league below the Premier League.

It’s possible to do two things at once. Walking and chewing gum is simple, unless your hair is on fire! While that seems like an extreme example, it is not completely without merit. Getting to the 3rd round or more in the FA Cup is icing on the cake in a normal year. At the moment, vying for promotion in a pandemic, without fans, playing a compressed schedule, while trying to make a cup run is probably too much. So I say it again, all of Kilimanjaro, not a quarter of Everest!

Each of us in our own lives needs to have a vision for our future. Focus is a key component to whether or not we get where it is that we say we want to go. Regardless of who you are, there are always going to be distractions, obstacles and other prizes on your horizon. Don’t let the “nice to haves” in your world, get in the way of what you really want. There are more than enough stumbling blocks out there, you don’t need to tie your shoelaces together. Find your true north and head in that direction with all due haste.

Up the POSH!

Pete

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Szmodics Can’t Outrun This Defender

Let me start by saying, that I am a huge Sammie Szmodics fan! Not just for his play on the field but the way he seems to conduct himself outside of the game. Last season he seemed to pop up in a variety fans’ Twitter or Instagram feeds, not just posing for a picture but also engaging on a personal level. It was great to see and I was ecstatic when it was announced that he was coming back. Thus far he has not lived up to the expectations that many people (including him) have had. While I’ve seen it suggested that he will be fine once he scores a few more goals, the ingredients are there for the goals to have gone in already. So I believe there is something more to cope with.

Last season Sammie came in as a breath of fresh air to replace the Maddison circus as it left town. Despite the high hopes for him, there was no pressure. It was a loan, not a long term signing. Ivan was scoring for fun and therefore he drew defenders’ attention. Sammie also had “something to prove” because he had been sitting on the bench for Bristol for the first half of the season. All of these circumstances gave him the perfect platform to be a smashing success with nothing to lose and everything to gain.

This time around the situation is completely different and Sammie is struggling with the opponent inside at the moment. The pressure of being a highly sought after signing is a far cry from replacing a team cancer. Expectations from fans, management and especially Sammie himself have put an invisible cover on the goal. Obviously there is not a cover on the goal itself but rather an obstacle inside of his own head. The pressure of not scoring regularly causes him to overthink things that just flowed last season.

The thing is that he has probably scored hundreds maybe thousands of times in more difficult circumstances in the past. The myelin* is there to repeat past positive performances. His amygdala** is firing off fear signals in those crucial moments because this year means more. If he misses, then was Bristol right to let him go? Is he worth the investment? Was it all just Ivan’s influence last season? We all do this in pressure situations with our own personal story.

At this moment, Sammie and a few other players need to change the story that is going on inside of their head. The chances to score are not any more difficult. The money, outside pressures or situations do not change one’s ability to kick the ball in that moment. The narrative that we all tell ourselves affects how we perform and we can control that. Creating a new story inside of his own head about what he has to do in order to be “successful” is a key action. Separating himself from the expectation will give him the freedom to be exactly who he is. Rehearsing his future successes in his mind will open the pathway to better performance and remove the cover from the goal.

Whether he does these actions explicitly or time allows for the pressure to subside will eventually play itself out. Sammie is quality player who has had a small dip in form that will be worked out. He just can’t outrun this defender because it is the one that is matching him step for step everywhere he goes. I wish him nothing but the best in this battle. It is the one that we are all fighting and it’s never completely won!

Up the POSH

Pete

*Myelin is an insulating layer or covering that allows electrical impulses within the brain to travel more quickly and efficiently. The more times that an action or thought is repeated, the more that the myelin insulates that neural pathway.

**Amygdala is an almond shaped structure within the brain that produces several base emotions like fear and is linked with the “fight or flight” response.

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Uninspired POSH Need Last Piece of Ferguson Puzzle

For almost two decades, I’ve been supporting Peterborough United from afar. Despite the inconvenience of supporting a team that I rarely get to watch, I’m comforted by the fact that I know what to expect from POSH. Our chairman (or el presidente) will be on Twitter or his podcast speaking his mind about POSH or anything else. Barry Fry will be working the deals, although much quieter than in the past. Finally whenever Darren Ferguson is our manager, we’ll be close to promotion.

With the disappointment of last season fresh in POSH fans minds, the recognition that we need to amass as many points as soon as possible is plain for all to see. With the backing of the owners and other fortunate circumstances, most of the pieces are in place for us to withstand this marathon of a season near the automatic promotion places. The squad is made up of players who can replace one another with minimal dips in ability. Therefore the tight schedule will affect us less than other squads. The lack of crowds at the moment works slightly to our favor because our away form is usually a factor in keeping us from promotion. By the time that crowds are allowed back, our position in the league and the novelty of being at games bring great support to home matches rather than a fickle POSH crowd. Ferguson’s calculated approach will continue to produce consistent results that will have us in the playoff or automatic places as the season comes to a close. Despite the unique circumstances, this sounds like a pretty typical season under Darren Ferguson. Selfishly though, I’m looking for more.

As I’ve stated prior, I am a huge Ferguson supporter. He has been the manager for a good portion of my time as a POSH fan and enjoy watching his teams play and the way that he conducts himself. However it seems that he is missing one piece from his managerial arsenal. Based on my observation, POSH teams tend to start games slow and only “turn it on” in the second half. There could be many reasons for this but as a person who believes heavily in the emotional side of the game, I think it is due to a lack of emotional priming.

Most of my coaching career has been spent at the high school and college where the tactics and techniques are important but usually in close matches, the emotional side of the game wins. The professional level definitely requires a more steady approach to the management of players’ emotions. However that does not mean that it is not important. As the son of Sir Alex, I’m sure that the halftime resurgence of POSH teams is partially due to a few “hairdryer” treatments. While this has its place, training players on how to manage themselves and especially to “prime” themselves for a peak emotional state at game time is crucial.

This is the last piece to Ferguson’s puzzle. His tactical awareness and man management on a longitudinal basis seem to be spot on. The place where POSH fizzle at times is their ability to start the game on the emotional front foot. A combination of confidence and desire to do what it necessary. The difference between last season’s team that looked like a juggernaut going into the late part of the season and this season is the lack of an emotional focal point. Ivan Toney (the only thing I’ll give Steve Evans credit for getting right) allowed the players around him to play with confidence and joy because he was going to give them a chance to win regardless of how they played. None of the players at the moment has that power. So it needs to be taught to all of them. The POSH team of this year will only dominate this league if each and every player comes to the field with his best mindset available. Expecting 25+ goals out of Clarke-Harris, Dembele or Eisa seems unlikely. So the squad must do it and cannot continually take the first half at half capacity.

Developing a system of emotional priming is not outside of Ferguson’s skillset, he did it beautifully leading into the promotion push from years ago using the video with the Adele song. However this work needs to be done a much more individualized basis. This work cannot be done to the players, it must be done with the players. Dan Abrahams, who has worked with several teams and individual athletes, has players create a persona to bring out their best attributes at the crucial moments. His work is not the only possibility for priming athletes but having heard him speak a few times, I’m a fan of his work.

So the question is not whether or not POSH have it in them to win this league, they do. The question is whether or not they can consistently demand more from themselves physically, mentally and emotionally than their opponents. The difference between this and any other POSH year may come down to the players being trained on how to turn on their own fire without the “hairdryer”.

Up the POSH!

Pete

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The POSH Pilgrimage (Recap)

My son and I returned safely from our trip to see the mighty POSH and another team based in Liverpool.  Compared with most of my other trips abroad, it was basically incident free.  That was of course by design because while traveling with a 13 year old, it is probably best to play it safe.  Despite that lack of crazy happenings, the trip was extremely enjoyable and gave us many things to ponder and remember.

Can’t Buy Me Love!

IMG_4315The Beatles may have been right by saying that  love can’t be bought but the purchase of a new jersey of your son’s favorite team does help.  Our first stop was in Liverpool for the Everton vs Manchester United match.  We had a day to tour around the city a bit but most of our time was spent at the club shop and taking photos near the two stadiums of the city’s rival teams.  Despite leaning toward Liverpool in the past, I had to stick with my son in his support of the Toffees.  It was not an easy thing to do since the first English player that I ever knew by name was Kevin Keegan.  Remember that I was raised in an era before the internet, so VHS instructional videos on soccer were my introduction to international soccer.  However keeping with my overall thought process, supporting Everton makes much more sense for me.  I tend to choose the road less traveled.  Regardless, on match day it seems that I made the right choice.  Everton pummeled the Red Devils from start to finish.  It seemed as though ManU was expecting the Toffees to roll over and die.  My son got the perfect introduction to live football in England, coincidentally 4-0 was the same score to the first POSH match that I ever attended.

We Lose If You Win!

Before and during the trip, I tried to impress upon Luke that football is taken very seriously throughout Europe but especially England.  During our train ride to Peterborough, he got an up close look at what I was talking about.  I had feared that we might end up seeing a clash between fans of opposing teams at some point.  That didn’t happen.  However on our trip to Peterborough, three Man United fans were having a heated discussion about who they would prefer to win the league.  The two older (around my age) fans were adamant that they would prefer that ManU lose to Man City in order for City to win the title.  Their historical hatred for Liverpool was so strong that they could not bare to see them win the title.  The younger man was not bothered by who won the title and only cared whether United sorted out their own issues.  It never looked like the conversation was going to turn physical but it was just enough of personal experience for Luke to see the gravity of support for one’s team in England.  We changed trains in Manchester and headed toward our next destination.  In the evening of Easter Sunday, we reached Peterborough.

Home Again!

One of my favorite quotes is “A man can never step into the same river twice because the river is different and so is he.”  This quote applies to my return to Peterborough.  Whenever I travel, I try to go for a run early in the morning.  It’s a great way to see a city before it becomes crowded with people, traffic, etc.  My first destination was London Road Stadium (The ABAX).  It had been almost exactly twelve years since my last visit.  The stadium much like the team seems to have been upgraded in noticeable ways but there is a core to both that have remained and make it seem the same.  I often wonder how fans of teams that have been bought and revamped like Man City feel about their club.  Having read the book by our chairman, I am quite comfortable with the methodical progress of the POSH over the past decade plus.  The success has come with sacrifice and resources that are not limitless which suits me perfectly.  The same is true of the city.  Peterborough is a small city that is not overwhelming.  It’s easy to feel at home there.

When In Rome!

IMG_4381 (1)With my young son in tow, I could not take part in everything that football culture has to offer.  I did take the time to visit the home of PISA at Eb’s.  We didn’t stay long and I only had one beer but I felt like I needed to show up and see what was going on.  I really should have coordinated better with some of the people on londonroad.net.  It would have been nice to put faces with screen names but this was a last minute decision because I did not know what to expect from the place.  It was actually the perfect place to go prior to the match.  The food looked and smelled good.  The memorabilia around the place was a good retrospective on some of the reasons why I’m a POSH fan now.

Close Enough to Feel a Part!

IMG_4398The match itself was preceded by a “First Time Fan” experience.  My son got the chance to sit in the team seats and high five the players on their way out to the warm-up.  For me it was an opportunity to be a few feet away from two POSH legends: Aaron Mclean and Darren Ferguson.  Although I must admit that I dropped the ball on getting photos with both.   As a coach I just couldn’t bring myself to interfere with pregame preparations.  Despite that fact, I still enjoyed the experience of getting down on the field level and seeing the players up close.

Our seats were great and the Sunderland fans were definitely up for the game.  During the first half, I was a bit worried by our play and support.  The team created a few opportunities but there seemed to be a non-committal feeling from the players and the POSH fans.  It was as if neither were truly ready to give their all for fear that they might be disappointed.  In the second half, that all changed as the players and the fans seemed to be fully invested in challenging a “big club” for the win on the day.  Although the Sunderland goal came first, it was at a point in the game where POSH were starting to cause real problems.  I knew we could pull level!

Then it happened!  Godden’s goal electrified the stadium (other than the Sunderland areas).  I don’t know exactly why but the combination of all of the circumstances culminated into so much excitement that I almost fainted.  Jumping, cheering and clapping, I could feel myself getting light headed.  The only thought that saved me was that if I passed out, my son would have to deal with it.  So I calmed myself down.  Godden had a chance to make it the perfect occasion but it wasn’t to be.

IMG_4404Prior to the match, the man who lead the “First Time Fan” activities had said to the group, “If we win, you need to come back because we won.  If we tie or lose, you need to come back to see a win.”  Although the game ended in a draw, it was still a great experience for Luke and I.  I would have preferred three points and a dominant performance like I got during my last visit to London Road but this was special in its own way because I was there with Luke.  We will will be back at some point and hopefully it won’t take a decade this time!

Pete

 

Blogpost, SoccerLifeBalance

The POSH Pilgrimage

It’s a regular occurrence to see English Football Teams on TVs across the United States at the moment.   The Premier League is arguably the most popular league in the world and many of the most beloved English teams are on display regularly for the American audience.  However my team is not!  For close to twenty years, I’ve been supporting Peterborough United Football Club.  The club is known by the nickname “The POSH”.  They do not play in the Premier League.  Nor do they play (at the moment) in the Championship.  The POSH are a League 1 team which means that they are in the third tier of English Football.  Since they are not on the television often, I follow my favorite team weekly through the internet by watching highlights and interviews on Youtube etc.  This week I’ll be making my second trip to watch a match at their home, The ABAX Stadium (formerly London Road) and I can’t wait!

My interest in the POSH was completely unexpected.  My girlfriend (now wife) bought me the first XBox and the FIFA video game to go along with it.  At first I used Liverpool as my team because as a young player I had watched soccer videos with Kevin Keegan.  Eventually I got bored with how easy it was to win the league.  So I decided to choose a lower league team and get them promoted to the Premier League.  As I was searching through the lower league teams, I found Peterborough.  Since my name is Pete, it seemed like a fine choice.  My POSH teams on the XBox were usually a combination of quality POSH players and a few of my favorite American or English players.  Brian McBride and Scot Thompson were regulars in the digital version of the blue and white.

PoshLukeandIAfter playing the game with the POSH for a while, I decided to look into how the team was in real life.  It was very casual at first but the season they got into a relegation battle really drew me in.  After that I followed the team regularly online by reading the match reports and checking Skysports.com.  The POSH forum at LondonRoad.net was another way that I got information relevant to the club.  The slow burn of my love for POSH got a large log thrown upon it in September of 2006 when Darragh MacAnthony became chairman of the club.  He stated that his ambition was to do exactly what I had done in the video game world.  If I wasn’t hooked before, I was all in at that point.  My newborn son had a full kit and I wore POSH blue (or bright yellow) regularly.  In addition to game days, I wore the POSH colors whenever I ran long distance races.

IMG_4279In 2007 I decided that it was time to visit London Road to attend a match.  It was possibly the most frugally planned trip that I could arrange.  I was in England for three nights including one in a basement room of a one star hotel in London.  It was an amazing trip!  The main reasons that the trip was amazing were all POSH related.  The team beat MK Dons 4-0 despite Shane Blackett getting sent off in the second half.  After the match, I waited around for autographs from the players and coaches.  Shwan Jalal and Craig Mackail-Smith were particularly nice to me.  Unfortunately I did not get to meet the new manager, Darren Ferguson.  At that moment, I mainly knew him as Sir Alex’s son.  Eventually he would become one of the best POSH managers by putting Darragh’s plan for promotion into effect.  By signing ambitious young players and putting them into a system that created boatloads of goals, he has become my favorite manager.

So after a twelve year absence, I finally get to return to Peterborough.  Many things have changed but many have not.  Darren Ferguson is the manager but he is on his third spell with the club.  The club is still ambitious but pragmatic in its approach.  On the outside looking in on playoff spots, there is a slim possibility that they’ll make the cutoff.  Regardless I am still hopeful that I’ll get the chance to see one of the games culminating in a playoff promotion success.  I know that it will be a great atmosphere having watched “Sunderland ’til I die!” recently, it’s obvious they have passionate fans.  Regardless, I can’t wait to be there!  It may require thousands of miles of travel and over ten years of waiting but I’m proud to be a POSH fan!  Supporting Man United would just be too easy!

Pete