Premier League Football - The Psychology Of Playing Behind Closed Doors


Adrian Chiles: Steven Sylvester joins us a Chartered Psychologist. Steven, thanks very much for coming on.

Steven Sylvester: Oh my pleasure!

Adrian Chiles: Playing behind closed doors is it fair to say that some players are going to excel on it, the kinds that habitually do really well in training but then struggle to reproduce it and others will struggle without the energy negative or otherwise in the ground?

Steven Sylvester: I think all players will be affected by the lack of crowd because we know that if your feeling great at what you do the crowd accelerates that feeling and you do better your rhythm, your pace, your play, your interaction

with your fellow players your teammates really well and the crowd gives you that intensity they give you that emotion that allows you to perform at your best. I don’t think it's a thing about which players perform well and which players don't. I think it's about can the crowd get in behind the player to do the very best in what they do.

Adrian Chiles: Okay but how do you explain the phenomenon that games in training there are players that excel as Patrick was just saying and every footballer got stories of players who are brilliant in training but never quite reproduce it in front of a crowd.

Steven Sylvester:

Well that’s a great question Adrain because that's about the emotional blind spot of that particular player because if you can perform in one environment and not in the big game that says something about the player's inability to understand their emotional world.

Charlie Webster: Steven I was really looking forward to speaking to you because I know you worked with Sheffield United for around two years and have worked with other premier league footballers at the moment too. You were described in 2017 as Sheffield’s secret weapon and I know you’re pretty close to the boss Chris Wilder and he’s acknowledged so much about the fans role in United's performance. What have clubs been doing like Sheffield to try and I don’t know, get used to that I suppose because I know they have been training at Bramall Lane rather than the actual training ground does that make a difference?

Steven Sylvester: Yeh it does because it’s going to be game day and in my time there we always went to Bramall Lane for training sessions so it’s a normal thing to do maybe on a Friday do your pre-match at Bramall Lane and have some feel for what’s going to happen on a Saturday during the game time but the players always know there are no fans around at training so that's good so you get on and do your work and you love to play in the theatre of Bramall Lane so that’s a good thing.

What’s happening now is a really good thing which is they are playing like it’s a game so actually Sheffield United and Patrick said this, "you train the way you play" so you got to ensure that the level of intensity and Chris does this very well because he has a fearless approach to his management style which allows the players to express themselves freely under pressure so the players know they have absolute clarity of what's expected and the training at Bramall lane will no doubt be a preview of the actual game.

Charlie Webster: Do you think it's a real level in terms of home advantage then, as in the fact that there won't be?

Steven Sylvester: 100% we've already seen it in the Bundesliga that the home advantage has gone, it's disappeared, because like I said football is tribal, it's emotional and it's about serving your community. When your community isn't there you have to find another reason to perform with the intensity.