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How pre match disruptions can destroy team focus

There was a lot of hesitancy before writing this piece. Why? Because it will no doubt bring accusations of attempts to excuse Manchester United’s poor performance at the Stadium of Light on Saturday. So it’s worth repeating the fact that Sir Alex Ferguson refused to blame the pre match disruption caused by a collapsed ceiling and burst sewerage pipe which had effluent overflowing into the dressing room for his side’s tepid first half display. United had to incinerate their clothes, wash bags and kit after the pre match shower of sewage in their dressing room left it stinking to high heaven.

Make no mistake however, those sorts of incidents, just minutes before kick off  DOES have a major effect on players. Having been inside hundreds of dressing rooms just prior to matches ranging from ordinary, run of the mill league games to a decisive 1994 World Cup qualifier against a desperate, Diego Maradona led Argentina in Buenos Aires, you can rest assured that those pre match preparations are absolutely critical.

The twenty or so minutes after the pre match warm up before entering the stadium are the most crucial. The focus on the task ahead is at its most intense and the slightest disruption to a players’ normal routine can upset their finely tuned mental preparation.

A light bulb that doesn’t work, no toilet paper for a last minute visit, soap not available in the sink and dozens of normally minor incidents can escalate into major problems. Many a drink container or a tea cup have gone smashing into dressing room walls in a fit of anger. Is that an exaggeration? Just ask those who have witnessed similar incidents. Mild mannered managers and players can suddenly become enraged simply because the supply of chewing gum had been used are not uncommon – and no, I have never been in a dressing room with Fergie.

From all reports, what happened just prior to the game at Sunderland was not a minor incident but if Ferguson insists that it had no effect on his team we have to take his word for it. Make no mistake however, an elite football team is no different to a finely tuned machine and when a couple of its parts are not functioning perfectly, the entire unit suffers.

It may simply be a coincidence that there was a noticeable improvement in United’s second half performance at Sunderland. Whether that was due to a return of normal conditions in the dressing room will never be known – and quite frankly, I’m not presumptious enough to guess.

How essential are pre match preparations for a good performance?

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No Responses to “How pre match disruptions can destroy team focus”

  1. Jay Gooner says:

    ”There was a lot of hesitancy before writing this piece. Why? Because it will no doubt bring accusations of attempts to excuse Manchester United’s poor performance at the Stadium of Light on Saturday”
    Thats exactly what you are trying to do!! Losers!!!!!

  2. Frank says:

    Does your name give a sense that you are an Arsenal supporter Jay or is it just an unfortunate coincidence? If you are a Gooner it’s strange calling United losers on the same weekend that Chelsea rolled you over again. By the way, how many points did Arsenal come back from Sunderland with a few weeks ago?

  3. Jay Gooner says:

    owk,,,let me rephrase…
    poor losers!!!!

  4. Frank Scicluna says:

    Poor losers Mr Gooner??? just in case it slipped your attention, United are still unbeaten…unlike The Gooners! Suggestion – I suspect that you were born with a brain, please start using it.

  5. Jay Gooner says:

    why do i feel like lending you some of my brain???
    why do you talk sooo foolishly?? Just like the way red nose flinstone talks when he has just lost a game!!
    tell me, drawing against bolton and sunderland,,,do you take that as a victory??have you stooped sooo low??
    and to tell you the difference between losing and poor losing,,,,by poor losing, which you are doing, you complain and blame everything else apart from your own incompetencies for your losses!!

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