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Monday, 16 November 2015

Big fish in little ponds

Success or creating the environment for success creates its own problems. Tottenham has had a tag of unlucky losers, of being nearly there but never quite making it. The perception of many is that add one or two players and that would make the difference, however, it may not have been as simple as that.

If you are to create an environment where winning is expected then studies have shown that some will shrink away from it. Using fish as an easy example to explain, if you place two fish of equal size, one in a large pond, one in a smaller pond, the one in the smaller pond will do better.

Transferring that to football, if you place two people of equal ability, one in a club with top quality stars and one where he is the best player, the player at the smaller club will do better. He is the big fish in a little pond. What happens when he is perceived as the best is that he acts as if he is the best, it boosts his ego

For the other player he is just another player and has to improve significantly to stand out, for some they shrink away from the challenge and stagnate, they lose their edge. Emmanuel Adebayor is a prime example of a big fish in a little pond syndrome, he only performs when his ego is massaged.

It is important therefore when buying players to buy those who can handle being around other quality players and not shrink from the challenge. To do that you have to look at their character and mentally assess them. The better you become at that process the more successful your transfer activity and your team will become.

Spurs have had too many players who have shied away from improvement. The expected level for Tottenham was to challenge for a top four so that is what the players performed too. We need to get to a situation where the club ethos is to expect UEFA Champions League football and a failure to achieve it is just that, failure.

It sounds an easy step to take, but it isn't. Mauricio Pochettino is trying to instil it. Those he deemed were not capable of handling that pressure have moved on and players bought who fit the new mould. The players who perform best are those with a high level of self-motivation rather than those who require external motivation. Self-motivators drive themselves to improve, those needing external motivation don't.

The result is that players like Mousa Dembele and Erik Lamela have realised that stagnation is no longer an option, they have to strive to achieve like everyone else and that means improving as a player. Andros Townsend hasn't.

If self-motivated players drive to improve themselves, which can only be good for the club then finding them or teaching them how to find their own self-motivation is the key to success. This is exactly what a sports psychologist can do so it is no surprise sportsmen who employ them perform better.

Not every footballer has a winning mentality, they want to win the game they are playing yes, but that is only a part of the equation. To maximise your chances of winning you have to put in the graft behind the scenes on the training ground. That will only happen with motivation. I would suggest that if you look through the Spurs squad now to a few years ago you will see more players motivated now than there were back then.

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