Football: Norwich Head for Escape from Digital Doldrums
Tongue, Steve, The Independent (London, England)
As the domestic season races towards a climax, let it not be said that Arsene and Alex are the only ones playing mind games. Down a country lane at Norwich City's smartly appointed training centre, the morning session begins not with a few stretches or a gentle jog, but a talk from Keith Mincher, a sports psychologist, who has already decked the walls with notices reading "you can do it".
While Mincher, a former coach at Sheffield United and Bristol City, builds the players up, Nigel Worthington, the manager who has lifted the club from 20th position in the First Division when he was put in charge 16 months ago to today's play-off semi-final first leg against Wolves, is indulging in a bit of blarney reminiscent of his old Northern Ireland international boss Billy Bingham. "There's no pressure on us," he purrs, emphasising the word "us", before suggesting ever so gently that "Wolves would have expected automatic promotion with the money they've spent. They were in the top two most of the season and now they find themselves in the lottery the same as the other three of us. They're a big club with quality players, one of whom might be worth more than my entire squad".
As his use of a psychologist for regular individual and group sessions shows, Worthington - blarney or not - is a thoroughly modern manager, schooled under "a few tea-cup throwers" but declining to follow their example: "I like to talk to players, not at them. If you start ranting and raving, you lose their respect, and once you lose the players, you're in trouble. I've got players in who want to play for Norwich City, that's very important, and now the team spirit is very good."
So have results been, for the most part, since Worthington took over aged only 40 from Bryan Hamilton, another cerebral Ulsterman whose long- standing Ipswich connections made it difficult for him to win over Norfolk. By the end of last season, and a preliminary sorting out, City were clear of relegation and up to 15th. Neither that ranking nor such dabbling as the manager was allowed in the transfer market last summer impressed the bookmakers, who had Norwich at 40-1 for the championship and 12- …
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Publication information: Article title: Football: Norwich Head for Escape from Digital Doldrums. Contributors: Tongue, Steve - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: April 28, 2002. Page number: 5. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.