Winning mentality much needed whether by nature or nurture
How often have we heard a coach or manager describe his dressing-room as being full of "winners"?
What exactly qualifies a players to be worthy of such a description? Do they need a collection of medals from winning titles and cups, or just simply illustrate through their performances in training and playing that they have a fierce desire for success?
The answer is both, with the latter almost being an essential pre-requisite for the former. However, in my own experiences, all players possess a huge competitive nature that craves winning, but not all can transform this hunger into achieving tangible success.
The reasons for this might just be found in another similar football phrase, which talks about a "winning mentality". This is the strength of character that enables players to turn good seasons into great seasons and turn potential into prizes.
There is not a formulaic method for developing such an attribute; some players, I would suggest, have it naturally and it is what separates them as great players. Others may grow into it as a result of a transfer to a squad that is used to success and has plenty of individuals blessed with this winning mentality.
But what if a player falls into neither of these categories? Can he adapt his mentality, or can a manager encourage it within individual players and/or a whole squad? There is no doubt it could be achieved and one method of doing so has been the more common use in football of sports psychologists.
I have had several experiences of these experts during my career and would be honest enough to admit that, from a personal point of view, I never felt that any changed my mindset in a significant manner. In their defence, often in football, sports psychologists have to work with the team rather than on a one-to-one basis, undoubtedly making it more difficult to achieve results.
Despite this, I would have no reservations about using such individuals if I became a manager as I am sure that would be of benefit to some players. I would say, however, that part of my job would be to instil this mentality through my own methods to begin with.
At this stage of the season, when championships are decided, the need for the coveted winning mentality is greater than ever, and usually teams who rise to the top are those with players of this ilk within their squad.
Looking back over my own career, I have won a championship on the penultimate day of the season, lost one in the final game and suffered cup final defeat when the odds were stacked in favour of me being a medal winner.
Does this make me a player of a winning mentality? I am not sure, to be honest, as the facts provide evidence both for and against. If I had been asked the question early in my career, on reflection, I would say no - I did not have the required mentality to win silverware and yet later in my career I would argue that I did.
I did not follow any specific method to achieve this - rather, it arrived through a mixture of hard work and application and most definitely through a surge of confidence and increased self belief - even if, as part of teams, it just fell short of earning a First Division league winner's medal alongside a League Cup victor's one!
The dressing-room "winners" are not just those who are world famous and grab the headlines. The game is littered with players, such as David Bingham, who won multiple league titles at different levels of the Scottish game and who, without question, could be classified as having a winning mentality.
Finally, on the subject of winners, I want to pass on my congratulations to Dunfermline on their title success. I was working at Cappielow on Saturday and was delighted for the management, players and Mo Hutton, the kit man (he has been desperate for a mention in this blog!).