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The Factors and Impact of Motivation/Getting Inside a Player’s Head
Written by Edmunds5 on Monday, 24th Sep 2012 15:11

There have been a few blogs lately that concern the manager, the owner and the playing staff, which have also touched on other issues that are part of being a football fan, such as ticket prices, personal experiences and memories. There is not much I can personally add to these issues because I think recent blogs have really pinpointed the way in which the club has gone downhill over the years.

So I wanted to try and put a slightly different spin on things and focus on what I think is an important internal aspect right now. I am going to discuss the possible affects of man-management and motivation on professional footballers with regards to performance levels.

I intend not only to try and ‘get inside the head’ of players but also to analyse the influence a manager can have on players. This blog will feature some of my personal opinion but will often raise questions to get people thinking about it as I think it can be something we often see as a bit of a side issue.

As we all know, it has been a very difficult past couple of weeks for everyone associated with our beloved club, Ipswich Town.

The 2-0 defeat at home to Wolves followed by a capitulation against Charlton left many supporters angry and frustrated. With blue blood boiling through bodies, sites such as TWTD then give fans the opportunity to vent their frustration regarding the goings-on at the club.

Much of this, rightly or wrongly is vented at the manager, with various areas of the management being addressed. A word that crops up and in my opinion doesn’t crop up enough is the word motivate. In my opinion this is a massive factor towards success at a club but what is motivation? What does it entail? And how effective is it?

One of the most important factors when testing a manager’s credentials is their ability to motivate players, a long winded definition of the technical term ‘man-management’.

The manager may give a rousing half time team-talk if he feels the team’s performance is below par, the manager may be less ruthless and gently encourage his players to boost confidence levels for the second half. There may be various other techniques associated with motivating players whether that be positive or even negative reinforcement.

It does make me think though; do players really need this to improve performance? Yes, we all need a boost from time to time but after all they are professional footballers. Many who have a natural talent so surely despite a lack of in depth knowledge, they should use their will to win and passion to inspire them when things aren’t going to plan.

Everyone has good and bad days but I find it fascinating how players can pick up their performance levels through the toughness of other people. Should this be something that should become intrinsic through self talk? Or is it just the beauty of nature that another person can guide another human to improving their performance?

Of course, if the manager’s guidance is based on tactics, then it can improve the team, but in terms of motivation and mentality, why does faith from a manager seem to have a practical benefit and promote such an instant reaction?

I do think however, that being part of a team sport probably eases the pressure individually and doesn’t require the same level of mental strength as a tennis player for example and so level of performance can decrease radically.

I do believe there is more to it than this, and there are many other factors that I would question. For example, does a footballer work solely as an employee like any other profession or does a player judge a manager based on personality and approach?

Does the pressure of representing the fans, the management and his staff, the history, the greats that have lit up the pitch you now stand on override the personal relationship between a player and manager?

I mean if you don’t like somebody why would you give your all for them? If you don’t like a school teacher are you really going to sit in a class for an hour and obey them politely and get shed loads of quality work done and therefore get high grades, or are you going to switch off after five minutes and therefore write three lines the whole hour?

Perhaps you dislike his/her approach and so you’re not prepared to work as hard. An odd analogy maybe but we’ve seen this at Chelsea with Andre Villas-Boas and some of the senior players. Talk of laboured half time team-talks and fresh ideas left the squad unimpressed and reluctant to change their ways.

The unwillingness to adopt different ideas was clearly a massive factor towards poor performances and results with Villas-Boas hung out to dry and inevitably sacked.

This is maybe the reason most managers do have such a short-term impact, a fresh face and new ideas which seem to give players renewed energy and a sense of positivity.

They’re the same people though so why a sudden change in performance? Do players have preferences? Does being enthused or bored by the manager’s half-time speech affect how people will play first or second half?

Does a manager's tone of voice ring between both ears as the player steps back onto the pitch? Or is thinking in this manner to complex and players accept the words given and have learnt to respect the manager listen?.

Do things all just flow naturally on the pitch? The fact that you’re the footballer and that you’re the one who has the ability to score the goal or make the clearance that in effect could win you the game. Perhaps that’s the nature of football and that’s all it comes down to on the day.

The connection between players and manager is another intriguing point, certain managers and players seem to have genuine relationships.

Neil Warnock has signed Paddy Kenny for three different clubs, Sam Allardyce has signed Kevin Nolan for three different clubs also. So clearly, the ideas and personality a manager is something that many players consider when signing.

Another example of this being Paul Jewell's decision to sign Nathan Ellington and Jimmy Bullard, both players who helped Wigan gain promotion to the Premier League under Jewell. Both have failed to impress, so have these players taken advantage of the fact they know the manager and so put in less effort as a result?

Perhaps motivation is something that has to involve a consequential reward?, does a clause in a contract such as a pay rise or goal bonus increase a players appetite to play well? Disregarding the fact they want their team to push up the League.

What about the common scenario when a lower League side raises their game when they’re playing a Premier League side in the FA Cup but then lose 4-0 in a League game the following Saturday.

Why do players suddenly want to express themselves on a rare occasion but fail to get motivated once brought back to reality, therefore producing the inevitable half-hearted performance on a boggy, mud-filled pitch in Exeter?

Another point is attitude, a characteristic that seems to let many players down. I’m sure there are many players who have just as much football talent as those in leagues above them but do not have the medals to match because of their application.

Players like Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, and Lionel Messi not only have terrific natural ability but also seem to love playing football and never seem to throw their toys out of the pram.

Their modest, honest approach is something many footballers should aspire to, not just the aesthetically pleasing side of the game because that alone does not guarantee you success as a player.

So where does this fit in with Ipswich? Well the first point I would make is the motivation Paul Jewell has to succeed, he got Bradford and Wigan promoted a long time ago so does Jewell really have the motivation to achieve at Ipswich?

After all Jewell has no connection with Ipswich like supporters have with the club. Jewell didn’t feel the elation every Ipswich fan did when Martijn Reuser sealed a 4-2 play off final victory over Barnsley at Wembley. Likewise Jewell didn’t feel the sadness of being relegated from the Premier League after a 5-0 drubbing at Liverpool.

If the manager doesn’t have a genuine connection with the club then of course the manager can rely on his own drive and hunger to succeed. I’m just not sure these characteristics are part of Jewell’s make up, he never sounds particularly aggressive or sincere after defeats.

The fact Ipswich surrendered points in the second half of games also questions Jewell’s half time team talks and elements of it. Not only does it suggest a lack of tactical prowess and an obvious inability to translate what is happening on the pitch into the dressing room. It also suggests that despite many humorous comments to the media Jewell is arguably not the most charismatic or infectious character within the club.

It also raises the question; does Jewell raise his voice enough and demand performances of players? Well, he certainly doesn’t strike me as someone with a particularly fiery temper or the kind of manager who would keep his players in the dressing for a couple of hours after a game.

Do the players feel they need more of a voice to get them psyched up for the second half of matches? So that they can then transfer that inner anger to the pitch and use the opposition as the victim.

Maybe some players need to be spoken to individually so that they can put things right second half, which we do not know if Jewell does too much of an extent.

As for the players themselves where does their motivation stem from? None of the players have any real connection to the club either besides some younger players who are still learning their trade.

Others have arguably played for bigger clubs previous to Ipswich. For example, Michael Chopra at Sunderland and Newcastle, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas at Arsenal even Luke Chambers at Nottingham Forest. So perhaps these players do not see Ipswich in that bracket and feel that they are forgiven when they don’t perform because of the family nature of the club.

The fact players respond angrily to criticism makes me question the attitude of some players, fans seem to enjoy a genuine connection with players, whilst players seem to act as individuals and seem to think they are immune to criticism.

Perhaps if the players had even 10% of the love fans have for a club then maybe we would see a bit of a difference on the pitch though I understand not all players are like this.

There is also the issue of wages. Players maybe get paid such riches that performing on a Saturday isn’t such a big deal. The immediate disappointment of losing a game can quickly be put to bed by investing money on a nice Ferrari, or two.

Perhaps a harsh, slightly ignorant comment but one that speaks truth about the freedom players has nowadays. Their never seems to be many one club players these days, no loyal servants.

For me the mentality has to change, the players in my opinion have to try and see the clubs current situation as a challenge and relish it and Jewell has to try and orchestrate this.

I believe that if Ipswich players want to be top footballers they have battle against where we are and not just see it as a demoralising experience because playing for Ipswich Town, even at the lowest ebb which is perhaps now, should never be this way.

Thanks for listening and I hope you've enjoyed the read, comments would be much appreciated.

Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.

bluefeast added 16:59 - Sep 24
Fact is we are all to emotional , probably place our club to highly in terms of current potential. Average players , Charlton had better players , so do Huddersfield ,so do Wolves ,so do Blackpool , so do Middlesborough. If we had a manager that was average as opposed to poor ,perhaps he could get more out of them. And yes ive been to every game , the only one where our players would get into the oppositions side would be Carlile , however we lost that as they were hungry for blood and ripped into us for the 2nd period and extra time.

Blue041273 added 18:53 - Sep 24
There are lots of good well-made points in this blog and much food for thought. Of course we all know about motivation in our own lives, how certain people may inspire us to do things better than we might without their influence. As employees we expect our managers to inspire and motivate us to work effectively though we know that sometimes inspiration and motivation can easily be replaced by forms of bullying.

As football supporters we expect the manager of the club to be equipped with inspirational qualities and motivational skills but we should not be surprised when the manager seems to be unable to lift the team. In order to be inspirational and able to motivate his players a manager must firstly command their respect and that respect has to be earned. Once a manager loses that respect even with just a small faction in the squad he is effectively dead in the water. The top managers, Ferguson, Moyes, Wenger etc are highly respected throughout football and any player would run through a brick wall for them. Bobby Robson, in his early years at the club, had to earn the respect of his players even fighting certain malcontents who wouldn't buy into his management philosophy. He earned the respect of the players in the end and pretty much every player he managed not only respected him but also adored him as a man.

Unfortunately the malaise in our team started in my view in Joe Royle's last season when the unremitting toll of producing a competitive team against all odds due to the lack of resources became too much. Jim Magilton gave it his best shot but ultimately lost the dressing room through his inexperience. I don't believe Roy Keane ever had the dressing room and his management style was somewhat tyrannical. In my opinion he never held the respect of the players and consequently could never motivate them. He resorted to bullying methods and as a result is unlikely ever to get a managers job again. PJ inherited a complete mess but through force of personality managed to steady the ship in that first half season. However it would appear that he too has now lost the respect of the players possibly partly through his alienation of a number of players in the squad but also with his strange choice of formations and bizarre tactics.

The problem is that there is no redemption for any manager unable to send out a properly motivated team and that seems to be the case on the evidence of the last few matches.

bluefeast added 22:04 - Sep 24
I still feel we are below average in terms of playing squad. Every game i go to i see either teams with more, skill , guts , determination , organisation ,communication and desire or simply better at the basics. We have low confidence , but also very average players. Who is our leader on the pitch ,who commands respect amongst the other players ,we are way behind and sadly will pay the price for poor manager selection and player recruitment over the last few years. But its only football ,not life and death. It should be kept in perspective.

MVBlue added 03:23 - Sep 25
Marcus Evans FC seeks another 'proven' manager to work with 'proven' players from 'bigger' clubs.

Ipswich Town FC recruit new promising young manager to work at a Championship club with a long history. The club seeks a coach with a knack for bringing through up-and-coming talent from the lower leagues and club acadamy moulded with some talented current players and possibly bringing in a real solid captain.

MVBlue added 03:24 - Sep 25
I know which direction we should go from the above.

TractorTrog added 20:32 - Sep 25
What a very intersting and provoking blog well done you brought up a lot of well considered points and things that undelye a clubs performance:

My feelings are very similar I know that in my experience I need to respect someone who is commanding me so with the players Im sure they are the same to run that extra yard and I would need to be able to be free to express myself and talent in my role..
I think Bobby Robson was a real Gentleman but in the dressing room Im sure he would use differnt techneques to muster the players ...icluding thowing boots and pens etc...some Managers are very good at reassuring players and taking the pressure off certain individuals so they can be more creative and if they see something thats working they will incourage the use of that listening to the players there the ones on the pitch if there having difficulties tying down there man or seeing holes on the pitch and incorperating those ideas tetc... which is what Bobby Robson done
I remeber watching the players take to the field they always looked boyant and happy even if we were down 1 or 2 nil(it didnt happen that often though...being down 2 -0) because Bobby would reassure them to stick to the plan be pateint the goals will come
Also dropping players is a very emotive issue some players take it as a big hit to there ego others simply take it in there stride new players can really upset the team moral also if they think there better than the team or have an attitude all these things the Manager has to watch and stamp on.
Then there was John Lyle another great Manager would encorporate things from diffent teams for example we played Wimboldon who from a throw on threw to the head of a player who back headed the ball to a player waiting behind him we used that tactic many times and scored goals from it thats something to look for....
To sum up I dont think PJ is a bad manger but I also think he really is up against the odds to be succesful without the money to put into plying staff simple really... the players we have got are really very good but there is something amiss and like everyone else I wish I could put my finger on the problem but I think its a bigger problem than will be fixed overnight.

portmanteau added 14:31 - Oct 7
good blog nice to get some thoughts out there.....but...
too much speculation. none of us have any idea what is going on in the heads of our players. wish we did know what they think of the situation but we will never know. management just wheels one of them out for an anodyne statement or two every week.
there are a few facts though on which to base some reasons for our decline.
1. PJ's last club won only one match in the entire season. unbelievable that we could even consider him let alone hire him.
2. the knee-jerk desperate signing of players does not work. it didnt last year, remember ingimarsson/sonko/bullard/bowyer and others who sank without trace and here we are doing it again with higginbotham/wellens/campbell.
3. no sense of carrying a plan through. we had what we thought was a good squad lined up before the season started. after only one bad game ( blackpool) we ditched it and went for a mad scramble in the transfer window. that didnt work so now we go for the loan option again. these players are only available because they are not good enough to play for their present clubs so why on earth are we taking them on? we should have given the pre-season squad more time .
4. I will speculate a little but based on ME's reclusiveness and what we know of the financial situation in my view he is just a businessman who has seen an opportunity. nothing wrong with that if you are making and selling widgets but owning a football club demands much more than just the profit motive. does ME have any inkling of the poster who was setting off to barnsley?
5. the players we have let go. when I watch motd with my wife its " thats walters who just scored , he was at ipswich" ditto mccauley andrews stockdale mccarthy wickham (not often) etc etc.
6. lets see when cleggs tipping point is reached. my guess is that PJ is here till contract end no matter what the results are. then its all change for next season. keep the faith.
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