Gareth Southgate: We need a psychologist

England's footballers need a sports psychologist to help them succeed in penalty shoot-outs, it has been claimed. Gareth Southgate, the former Aston Villa and Middlesbrough defender - who famously missed a spot-kick in Euro 1996, which led to England's defeat by Germany - said it is important players work on both the technical and psychological aspects of shooting from 12 yards.

Southgate's comments come not long after England lost on penalty kicks to Italy at Euro 2012 - a tournament eventually won by Spain, who also knocked out Portugal on penalties.

The television pundit and former Middlesbrough manager stated: "It is about performing a skill under pressure. I wasn't able to do that. I was going into the darkness. We need strategies for dealing with stress."

He suggested the poor record English players have from the spot - they have lost seven of the last eight shoot-outs - has an impact on the whole nation whenever matches need to be settled in this manner.

Southgate said he is a big believer in sports psychology and claimed football needs to embrace the concept in the same way other sports do.

He observed every major golfer is likely to use such an expert to develop their game, while all top tennis professionals also employ their services.

The Englishman noted part of being a sportsman is knowing how to deal with mistakes off the field, adding players need to live "in the now" and put their errors behind them.

Chartered Psychologist Professor David Lavallee of the University of Stirling and an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society commented: "I welcome Gareth Southgate's comments. When experienced sportsmen and women talk about the benefits of sport and exercise psychology in this way, it is really helpful.

"Evidence continues to develop on why psychology is important at key sporting situations like penalty shoot-outs in these big tournaments".

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