Storm in a T-CUP at Plainmoor
- Credit: Phil Mingo/PPAUK
For some reason – and I promise you that the reports have usually been exaggerated! – I’ve had a reputation for throwing the odd proverbial teacup in a few dressing rooms over the years.
Believe me, I may shout a few home truths from time to time, as most managers do, but I can’t imagine myself chucking any actual teacups around.
Having said that, the word ‘teacup’ does crop up every week on our training ground and in matches, and our lads are very used to hearing it.
It should really be spelled ‘T-CUP’, because it stands for ‘Thinking Correctly Under Pressure’.
It’s just one of the little phrases we use to help the players in the heat of the moment.
We go into the detail of it in training, and have done in session after session over the months, so a quick shout of the word should be enough to help someone who might be struggling or getting carried away a bit.
I mention it because at this stage of the season, and from now on over the next few big months, the mental side of the game becomes more and more important.
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Here we are, 11 points ahead at the top of the table. I know some of the chasing teams have games in hand, but I think only Sutton can mathematically catch us – and that’s if they win all theirs and we stop in our tracks.
Put it like this, I would rather be where we are than where anyone else is.
I understand a few fans are already worried about our defeat (1-2) at Yeovil last Saturday, and I know it’s because they want us to win every game.
It was a big disappointment to lose that one so near the end, of course it was, and I’ve already said my bit about the match and how we played.
When you are top of the league, you do become a sort of free hit for nearly every team you play.
There is the extra pressure of staying on top or, with us, of trying to hold the lead we have.
Do you fight harder as the champion, as we stand at the moment, or as the challenger?
As a management team, we have to be level headed and keep the players humble, that’s for sure.
And I’m not talking about a group which gets carried away anyway.
From Yeovil’s reaction at the final whistle at the weekend, you’d have thought they’d won the National League and maybe the World Cup – that’s a different sort of pressure for you.
We certainly didn’t do that when we beat them 6-1 at Plainmoor on Boxing Day.
I always liken a football team in the middle of the season to a ship in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. You are going to have a few what I call ‘icebergs’ put in your way.
It could be because of anything – injuries, defeats, suspensions or, even this year, something like the Covid virus.
Sometimes it’s outside your control, and you definitely can’t control what other people might say or think about you.
You can’t always bash your way through those icebergs. In fact, it’s nearly always safer to work your way round them. That way, they don’t sink you.
So over the years, I’ve learned that the best policy, mentally more than physically, is to ‘keep calm and carry on’. That’s what we’re doing and what we’ll keep doing.
Meanwhile, we’re relieved and grateful that, as ‘elite’ sport, we can keep on playing in the National League under the new ‘lockdown’.
But I can’t help thinking that the policy over people who break the restrictions has got to be better.
Everyone knows that flouting the rules is wrong, and can have the most serious outcomes possible, so surely the consequences for those people should be greater...?
Stay safe everyone.