Sam Allardyce praises sports psychology

Top footballers can become mentally focused with the help of sports psychologists, it has been suggested. Sam Allardyce, manager of Premier League team West Ham United, told BBC London 94.9 that such assistance has become an important part of pre-match preparations for his side.

A psychologist has been employed by the club since Allardyce took charge of West Ham last year and the former Bolton Wanderers and Newcastle United boss claimed the professional is performing a key role in helping his players handle the pressure and expectations they face throughout the season.

He noted the more mentally-prepared a footballer is, the more he is likely to achieve on the pitch.

"I've always said a player who plays in the Premier League plays there because of his intelligence and his brain, not because of his skill ability," Allardyce added.

He claimed other football teams appear scared to embrace the use of a sports psychologist, but observed most other sport groups - be they associated with golf, tennis or swimming - "would not dream" of not having such a professional involved in their setup.

Chartered Psychologist Dr Richard Cox from the Scottish Institute of Sport comments:

"For what it is worth, I have worked for six full-time professional football clubs in Scotland, at different times, during the past 20 years. Three of these were Premier League clubs at the time and, in fact, still are; two were Division One clubs (one of which gained promotion at the end of the season during which I worked there) and the other was an Academy of a Premier League club.

"All six improved their position in their respective leagues during my time with them and so I am surprised that there is still so much anxiety among the English Club managers, given that most Olympic sports have worked with psychologists since the Barcelona Games in 1992.

"I suspect the explanation lies in the fact that most football managers learned what they know about management through their experiences as players when they almost certainly did not work with a psychologist and so they are reluctant to 'try something new'. It would be interesting to find out how much importance is placed on the psychology of the game in the SFA and FA coach education programmes - I suspect 'not a lot'!"