Football Loses out in Psychology Game

By Schoon, Nicholas | The Independent (London, England), September 12, 1997 | Go to article overview
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Football Loses out in Psychology Game


Schoon, Nicholas, The Independent (London, England)


Gareth Southgate should never have been allowed to take the missed penalty that knocked England out of the European Championship last year.

A psychological profile of the player, unveiled at the British Association yesterday by Dr George Sik, a psychologist, describes a team player who will volunteer for anything but who is temperamentally unsuited to taking penalties.

Dr Sik said he was not allowed to name the player, who filled in a questionnaire as part of a research study. But he left no doubt that it could only have been Southgate. Asked directly if he was referring to Southgate he said: "There have been three or four players who have missed penalties in major tournaments recently. It was one of those. In fact it was probably the first one you would think of." He confirmed that the player had volunteered to take the penalty and that it was a last-minute decision. Dr Sik, from management consultants Saville and Holdsworth, believes football teams could benefit from business techniques such as psychological profiling. He has built up profiles of 60 players concentrating on three clubs, Crystal Palace, Sheffield United and Celtic, and interviewed several managers. Clubs are making increasing use of psychologists and psychiatrists. The Rangers and England player Paul Gascoigne sought counselling following reports that he had beaten his wife, and more recently his international colleague Ian Wright pledged to have counselling for his surplus aggression. But Dr Sik, who has written two books about football and the mind, said that clubs often enlist such help too late, when a club is in the relegation zone or close to a crucial cup tie. And they often face suspicion and resentment from coaches who feel undermined. He advocates profiling of every player when they join the club. His 60 subjects had to answer a standard psychometric questionnaire of the kind used by firms for prospective and rising employees. Players answered about 230 questions concerning how they felt about themselves and others, their attitudes, values and how they would deal with a range of situations.

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