‘Marred by dust and sweat and blood’ - Sheffield Wednesday’s mentality monster and a Teddy Roosevelt speech

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
When Theodore 'Teddy' Roosevelt addressed a 25,000-strong crowd in Paris in 1910, he probably didn’t envisage his words being up in Sheffield Wednesday’s changing room over a century later.

But his words were a driving force for the Owls’ remarkable come-from-behind victory over Peterborough United, and no doubt they’ll be part of their preparations for the trip to Wembley in a few days’ time as well.

The man behind it? Tom Bates. The renowned sports psychologist has been part of Darren Moore’s setup a while now, with the Wednesday boss bringing him on board in an attempt to fix a soft underbelly that has so often been the club’s undoing.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In Moore’s time he’s managed to eradicate the idea that going behind means defeat, and fixed a mentality issue that – in previous years – has seen the team drop far too many points from winning positions. They haven’t lost a single game when they’ve taken the lead in 2022/23.

Bates was the man you saw locked in a strong hug with Moore after Jack Hunt’s penalty found the back of the net. A hug, with words drowned out by the cacophony of noise at Hillsborough, that spoke of relief. Relief that all of the work had paid off.

It was a collective effort, the celebrations afterwards showed as much, but the role of the club’s in-house mentality monster can’t be undersold.

"What the gaffer and Tom Bates did was amazing,” a drained but delighted Bannan said after the game. “People gradually bought into it – not everyone, but once you've got a good group saying we're going to do it, it just drags people along with you.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“He (Bates) was saying to me that if you prepare then it can all come together, and he’s spot on. As I’m getting older you start to think about things more, and what he’s been saying is unbelievable.

“I’ve worked with him closely since he came in last year. I wanted to score more goals and get more assists, and he’d bring up things like ‘What do you think about when you’re shooting?’ and such. So we worked on my finishing from the edge of the box, and I’ve now had the two best scoring seasons of my career since I started working with him… If you buy into it’s a strong thing.”

And buy into they did. In terms of the mentality of Thursday night, they were perfect. Moore had spoken about stages in the game, they got ahead of schedule. They fell behind on aggregate, but this team fights back. They practised penalties all week, in pressure situations, and the calmness of Hunt in front of the Kop justified every last bit of the work they put in.

Bates, who has worked with the likes of Aston Villa and Brentford, assisted Olympians, and also happens to have a UEFA A coaching licence, helped give them reason to believe. Part of that was bringing Teddy – the 26th President of the United States – into the equation.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“He worked hard on a lot of quotes,” Bannan explained to The Star. “And there’s one from Theodore Roosevelt - about the Man in the Arena. It talks of people knocking you, but how they’re not there, so they don’t know how it feels to fail or succeed. Things like that have been stuck up in the changing room, around the training ground – so everywhere you went it was there. With that it starts coming into your head.

“The game wasn’t about tactics, we didn’t play great football – we knew that it wasn’t a game for that. We just needed to find a way to win. It was just about who wanted it more, and we did.”

What does The Man in the Arena say, you might ask?

Originally called ‘Citizenship in a Republic’, ‘The Man in the Arena’ went down in history after being spoken at the Sorbonne. And looking at it, and it’s not hard to see why Bannan and his Owls teammates found it inspirational. Everybody had written them off, their play-off campaign was done, but they dared greatly.

“It is not the critic who counts,” Roosevelt told that Parisian crowd. “Not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds…

“Who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Wednesday will know victory or defeat come Monday evening, and it will be either glorious or devastating. But whatever happens, this team, that has broken so many records this season, will walk out at Wembley in front of around 40,000 Wednesdayites knowing that every single one of them has their back.

Because last Thursday they gave them everything that they have. The dust and sweat and blood. They strived valiantly. Now they just need to go out there and do all that again.