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Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Spurs starting to meet the needs

Daniel Levy and the hierarchy at Tottenham must be applauded for having a growth mindset. From the time he took over Tottenham have looked to build. There was a vision of where they felt the club could be and the slow process of building to take us there began.

When you have no money, building a football team relies on the ability of the manager and his coaching staff, on the ability of your youth system to produce you players. Spurs youth system wasn't producing players though so managers had to work at a certain level of the transfer market. You have seen it over the years, teams like Everton, for instance. buy players and they make little difference to where the club finishes.

The Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger's of this world are rare. Quality is not abundant when it comes to managers, most are much of a muchness. The club had to be built financially to where it would be able to compete on even terms with richer clubs, despite what other blogs and a few well-meaning but short-sighted fans think. Who is worth following, people who want rid of the chairman, who called to get rid of Pochettino, or a chairman and coach who have taken us to within touching distance of the top and created the most exciting potential this club has seen for 50 years?

We have had to develop, not just the on-field side of the club, but, more importantly, the off-field side of the club. Without developing the off-field side the on-field side would be limited in its growth. When players and staff sign for a club they take a look at the whole club, they don't just look at the football team. How the club is run and the facilities they have plays its part in any decision made. If as a player, or coach, you have the choice of a club set up to win things off the field as opposed to a club lacking the facilities of winners, there is only one place they are going to go.

To be successful, you have to act successful and associate with the successful. Do you do what your mates down the pub tell you or do you listen to what successful businessmen tell you and replicate what they do? One will keep you where you are and one will develop you.

A football club is no different, it has to be run as if it wins trophies each season for that to happen. The structure has to be right off the field, the right personnel have to be in place with the right mentality, the facilities have to be in place. We have seen improvements in the structure at Spurs, in how Spurs engage with the fans (improvements in social media and Spurs TV), in the training facilities, in how the players are looked after, in their diet, in their treatment of injuries. There are clear plans for future growth which are starting to come to fruition after legal battles that were not of our choosing.

Holland produces a tremendous number of talented players because they focus on youth systems, Belgium became the number one ranked team in the world because they focussed on developing youth. If you look at Belgium it is no accident they suddenly have a team of highly talented players, it was planned for and built. By developing youth systems they gave themselves the potential to produce talent and players who have come through the system have now emerged. It wasn't a one or two season plan, but a ten, twenty-year plan.

Spurs have been taken from a broke club finishing midtable below the likes of Leeds United and Aston Villa to one that challenges for the top four every season. To take the next step required another change in thinking, simply buying talented players isn't enough, they are ten a penny. The missing ingredient was the mentality.

Daniel Levy and his team believe Spurs can compete with the best, they believe the club can be built to rival the best. Simply spending money was not the answer, money, and despite what some fans think it is a limited resource, has to be spent where it will see a return, either financial or improving the on-field performance.

In football, there is a mentality that youth can not achieve, that only experience can do that. Why? Very few have tried to win anything with youth, there is a mental barrier, just like there was for the four-minute mile or winning the double in the 19th century. Spurs burst that myth, we have a history of doing what isn't thought possible.

If a club lacks a winning mentality, how can they create it? Can it be created or developed, or is something you have or don’t have? Certainly there is a huge difference between those who use it and those who don't. Simply turning up to the park on a Sunday morning and giving your best isn't a winning mentality. Maintaining your fitness levels, watching what you eat or drink, training every week without fail and actively working to improve skill areas as well as learning set moves, would be going some way to demonstrating the right mentality. few though do that.

How many of you who still play, who play any sport actually train on your own? That is in addition to any other training the team does? Very very few I suspect. People trot out excuses for not doing something when if they want it badly enough they will find a way to achieve it.

It makes sense that if you have one footballer who totally believes in what he is doing and will find a way to achieve and one who is effectively going through the motions and turning up on a Sunday morning, the former will be more beneficial to your team than the latter. Build a team of the former and they all drive each other along because they are associating with like minded people.

Demanding a winning mentality though achieves nothing. People will only follow what they believe in. Take religious cults, they get a following of total believers who will do anything they are told because they believe in who is leading them and the vision they spin.

A winning mentality has to come from within, intrinsic motivation. If you want a child to learn you have to motivate them to do so and give them the right environment to do so, simply demanding it will achieve nothing. 

It is the same mentality as a recent suggestion that you motivate your child to do the household chores, to keep their room tidy and to do their homework with a monthly reward system, they buying of a small Tottenham gift to develop their Tottenham bedroom over time. You are showing them building something takes time, it isn't instant. A few our grown up fans could perhaps benefit from that lesson. If you motivate your child you ca shape their lives and give them the skill set for success. If they don't learn it as a child then most will never learn it as first they will have to accept it and then develop it, by which time most can't be bothered.

You wanting them to tidy their room or do their homework (extrinsic motivation) is immaterial, if they don't want to then they will do the minimum and is that what you want to teach them, that minimal is acceptable? It has to be their choice, they have to retain their autonomy, or their motivation will diminish.

Extrinsic motivation can only be retained for so long. If a player is doing something because it is what a coach wants them to do then after a while they will lose interest, just as a child does. When that happens the coach has lost his player, performances will drop and something has to change.

You have to provide your child with the right environment and motivation, then you'll get results. It is exactly the same with a football player or any other sportsman. While I have your attention about your child I am going to hammer home the point. If they love sport you have the chance to teach them the skills they will need to make a success of their lives away from sport and you'll be letting them down if you don't take it. Do you want to keep your children at your level or teach them to achieve more than you have? That sounds harsh but it is the bottom line.

Everybody wants to win, everybody tries to win so why do some improve and some not improve? Every teacher will be able to tell you about Abraham Maslow. He introduced the concept of a pyramid of hierarchical needs. You fulfil one need before moving on to the next, much like Xbox games, achieve one level to move to the next level.

The first need or layer are the bodily needs for survival: the need for food and water. Layer 2 consists of the need for security; you need to feel safe. Level 3 is the need to belong, to have social relationships. 

Level 4 is the need for confirmation and acknowledgement, we need to be recognized for our skills, strengths and achievements. The top layer, level 5, has the need for self-actualization, to become who we want to be (in football that is a winner).

Relating this to football level 5 is the need to win a football match or a league title or trophy. To achieve we have to fulfil the other four levels.

Level 1 - food and drink. Players at Tottenham have individually tailored diets and individually made drinks.

Level 2 - they need to feel safe on the pitch, that they are not going to have a reoccurrence of an injury for instance so the best medical facilities and injury prevention techniques have been introduced. I think back to the poisonous atmosphere at Stoke City when Tim Sherwood took Danny Rose off for his own safety. Playing at home is safer than playing away, you are loved at home, not so away. It explains why the noise our away fans make is so so important and why it is so appreciated by Mauricio Pochettino and the team. It fulfils a basic need to feel safe and be loved by the players. Keep it up lads, you certainly have the full support of this blog.

Level 3 and level four - are the need to feel you belong, the need to be acknowledged, the need to feel valued in a team. I touch on this above in level 2 and how the supporters play their part. Players who feel they are the best will strive to outperform the opposition, they will strive to win. A team who believe the other team is better than they are are at an immediate disadvantage, they have to raise their game and that simply can't be done week in week out.

A player in a squad of players who want to achieve must again show the desire to perform to his optimum or lose his place. There are roles for different players within a squad, The role of Josh Onomah, for instance, is different from that of Christian Eriksen or Harry Kane. He has a different goal and different objectives while he is looking to establish himself. He'll then move onto a Tom Carroll type role or perhaps he will stamp his mark like Dele Alli, who was going to be eased into Premier League football this season, at least, that was the plan. He had other ideas. 

It is that that demonstrates a winning mentality more than anything. I will no accept what people expect, I will not limit myself to what people believe is possible, I will set my own targets and I will achieve my own goals come what may. Each individual has to prove his value to the team, to the club. For youngsters in the academy, it is a question of focussing on playing well, on convincing staff and others that they have value for the team and should be playing in the academy next year.

Playing well and winning is perfect. playing well and losing is not ideal, it's a shame, but it is a learning process so learning to deal with adversity is important. How do they feel if they played badly though? Their first priority is to play well, to be acknowledged and valued, not to win. 

Academy players are still competing with themselves and other teammates, that is the most important battle to them, not outperforming the opponent. When they rise to the first team set-up they have the same process, the same hierarchy of needs. Creating a squad where everyone feels valued is, therefore, essential.

In you think back we have had large squads where players know the only chance they have of a game is if there are injuries, they are not valued, their needs are not met and they don't perform to optimum levels. The crowd getting on a players back doesn't help, it goes totally against their emotional need to be valued.

When we meet the first four values then we have a chance of creating players with a winning mentality, which we have managed to achieve this season. This is the single biggest contributing factor to us being clear in second place in the Premier League. We have met players needs, each player knows they are going to contribute and that that contribution is valued. That is essential for rotation to be a success, the players have to understand and buy into it for the greater good.

Because each player knows they are valued they are hungry to win, hungry to maintain or improve their standing within the group, the result is we have a side who do not give up.

Children, fans, players do not know Maslow, they do not know they have a hierarchy of needs but it is there none the less. The quality coach appreciates it and works it into his coaching so the players don't even know these levels are being met. If you look you can see example after example of it at Spurs, it's simply a question of whether you want to see it or not, because it is there regardless.

Daniel Levy's task now is to meet the needs of Mauricio Pochettino. He has brought into a club vision and the construction of a new impressive stadium is well under way. A Premier League title would have been a fantastic step last season, although at the start of the season fans would have accepted Champions League football as a positive result.

Set your sights high, plan to achieve and put your plans into practice with perseverance, Spurs have. 


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