Denis Smith’s summary of yesterday’s defeat to Kidderminster went along the lines of ‘great game, magnificent effort, Oxford deserved something out of the game’. The first text said ‘doesn’t matter what the performance was like, we still lost’, the second said ‘questions have to be asked about the management’.
This week I heard a sport psychologist give a presentation; he was brought in at West Ham with ten games to go two years ago to try and help save them from relegation. When this guy first went to West Ham he asked the squad what was going wrong. Amongst the moaning, Carlos Tevez – who had no real reason to care whether they were going up or down – eventually piped up ‘Why are we all moaning?’
Tevez came from a humble background, he is badly scarred with a burn on his neck. He knows that shit happens. Playing football at the highest level – for whatever the reason – is a privilege to him. It got me thinking about the values around which the club should be built.
The first is maximum effort. Fans can say stupid things, but they aren’t stupid. When a team has given its all, win or lose, it is appreciated. The second is no fear. Whether we’re chasing a game or defending a narrow lead; doing it without fear (of missing shot, giving away a foul, of falling further behind) will always recognised.
And that’s it. Winning every game is too prescriptive and unrealistic. You can play expansive attacking and tight defensive football whilst subscribing to the same values. The fans can contribute, the board can contribute. If we all invest maximum effort and no fear, we won’t go far wrong.
Teams at the top of the Conference are largely characterised by the fact they are boxing above their perceived weight. Simply being involved in a promotion battle is an achievement (in some cases, simply being in the Conference). The results start to look after themselves.
We need to shed the fixation on winning games and focus on what we can fully control – and that’s the inputs required to win games not the actual output of winning the game. Maximum effort and no fear will see things come good.