Richard Wood column: Win the mind game or you won’t win the football game, says the Rotherham United defender

On our way to beating Norwich as Jerry Yates scores
On our way to beating Norwich as Jerry Yates scores
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Psychology is of huge importance in the world of sport. Having that mental toughness is key and if your mindset isn’t right then you cannot perform to your maximum.

The game of sports is 90 per cent mental and 10 per cent physical. This is a commonly-used quote and one which I believe is spot on. You can have all the talent in the world but if you aren’t mentally strong enough then you won’t succeed in sport.

Football matches, especially in the Championship, are usually tight affairs with not much between the teams. Matches are won and lost on fine margins. Having that edge mentally over your opponent can be the difference between winning and losing.

This has been evident over Rotherham’s last two games.

The FA cup defeat to Oxford wasn’t down to our physical condition, it was our mental application.

Every footballer goes out onto the pitch determined to win. But, as favourites, sometimes psychologically you expect to win, meaning subconsciously your performance drops slightly.

Manager Paul Warne highlighted this to us many times in our meetings before the match. Even with this warning, our performance was below par.

If all 11 players approach the match like this, then the game won’t go the way you intend it to.

Ipswich Town were also guilty of this on Tuesday night where non-league Lincoln City, 59 places lower in the league pyramid, deservedly beat them.

Roles were reversed in our game against Norwich last week. The Canaries travelled up to South Yorkshire with everyone, including themselves, expecting to win. They thought it would be an easy three points, playing the league’s bottom side, and under-estimated us, as many teams in this league do.

We used this to our advantage last Saturday. From the first whistle, we went after Norwich and really took the game to them. I don’t think they expected us to play as we did. We deserved our victory.

Paul Warne has been great with his motivational speeches in the build-up to games.

He is a Norwich fan who knows people within the club and he drilled it into us that psychologically they wouldn’t be 100 per cent focused on the game. He repeated that, in the position we find ourselves in, we have nothing to fear and there is no pressure on us.

Another terrific piece of mental preparation from Warney happened before the Wigan match on Boxing Day. It has already been reported that he’d prepared family videos of support for the whole team prior to the match, which the players were totally unaware of. It was an emotional few minutes that gave us a much-needed morale boost and we went on to win.

As Vince Lombardi, a legendary NFL coach once said: “Mental preparation is essential to success”. Here’s hoping that Warney keeps up these motivational anecdotes and helps us pick up more victories.

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