ENGLAND boss Roy Hodgson will not be the only one playing mind games this summer if he decides to bring a psychologist on board the team plane to Brazil.
Hodgson hit the headlines this week after admitting he was considering getting professional mental help for his players at the World Cup in an effort to rid them of their woeful penalty shootout record at the finals.
And he has found an ally in Wanderers boss Dougie Freedman, an advocate of using psychologists in sport, who has championed their cause at Euxton since his arrival 18 months ago.
Penalties have accounted for England’s exit at six major tournaments since Italia 90 – with the team winning just once, against Spain, at Euro 96 in front of a home crowd.
Hodgson could now turn to Dave Reddin, who worked with England’s rugby union side and, in particular, fly-half Jonny Wilkinson, before the tournament begins in July.
“I think it’s a very brave move,” Freedman told The Bolton News.
“It shows you that someone like Roy Hodgson, who has been in the management game for 30-odd years and is now England manager, is still not afraid of new ideas.
“I know why – it’s for the penalty shootouts, let’s not kid ourselves, and if that gets you one more round then it’s all been worth it.
“I take my hat off to the guy because he’s putting himself up there to be shot down but he’s doing it for the good of his country.”
Wanderers make a psychological profile of every player at the start of pre-season, although Freedman leaves it to the individuals to decide whether to use their services more regularly.
“You can’t force it on players,” he explained.
“The feedback is given to them in private and if they wanted to take up the option, they could. I know there are a handful of lads who have done that.
“I stop there. I don’t get involved in that side of it.
“They have got to make sure that outside office hours they continue to do that.
“Just as there are a handful of players who will go and see a back specialist or a strength and conditioning coach, it’s an individual choice.
“Personally, I’m in huge favour of it. We have someone available at the football club, although not every day, because sometimes I think it can be a distraction or something that players use as an excuse. But they are available out of office as a personal choice.”
Wanderers have experienced mixed success from the spot in recent times.
Of the last 20 penalties taken, spanning a time frame of three-and-a-half years, a quarter have been missed.
Six players with 100 per cent records – Marvin Sordell, David Ngog, Craig Davies, Ivan Klasnic, Keith Andrews and Martin Petrov – have either flown the nest or been loaned out elsewhere, while Chris Eagles and Lukas Jutkiewicz are the most recent culprits of missing from 12 yards.
Freedman believes success from the spot is entirely a matter of the mind, and more importantly, sticking to your regular routine.
“That’s the difference with penalties, I’m telling you because I’ve been there,” said the boss, who regularly took spot kicks in his playing career with the likes of Barnet, Nottingham Forest and Crystal Palace.
“If you are strong-willed and strong-minded, then you’ll score more than you’ll miss.
“I got into a routine when I was younger and I stuck by it whether I was playing good, bad or indifferent.
“Every time a penalty came my way I knew exactly what I was doing technically, with my walk-up and my two or three-minute focus before it.
“I see a lot of players going up with different walk-ups, putting their penalties different ways and changing their minds.
“If you pause as a player takes a penalty – if it’s the same thing he’s done for the last 10 years, I’ll tell you if he’ll score it.
“If it’s a semi-final, the crowd are on top of you, and you start bouncing the ball around more than you should, you’re not in the right frame of mind and more often than not, you’ll miss it.”