Sports psychologist Steve Peters has been called on to give England renewed hope at the World Cup finals, having worked wonders for Britain’s cyclists at the Olympic Games and helped Liverpool’s Premier League title challenge.
“He has got a fantastic record,” England manager Roy Hodgson said on Tuesday. “We are happy we have got the man we wanted.”
England have performed dismally at the past two major tournaments, having been outclassed by Germany in the round-of-16 at the South Africa World Cup in 2010 and losing to Italy on penalties in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012.
Penalty shootouts have been the Achilles heel of a succession of England teams, although Hodgson said Peters had not been signed up purely to remedy that problem.
“I understand that the headlines will be ‘England can’t score a penalty,’ so Steve Peters will make sure we make five out of five — that will be very tough because Steve quite rightly said he won’t be able to help us to do that,” Hodgson told a press conference. “What he might be able to help us do, and especially the players, is to make sure that they are mentally better prepared for any challenge in front of them. Penalty shootouts may be one, but there are also a lot of minutes of football to be played, so we are looking for his help in this area as well.”
Psychologists are widely used in sporting environments, and Liverpool and England captain Steven Gerrard said having Peters on board was great news for England’s chances of success in Brazil this year.
“Steve Peters is not the type that is in your face, forcing you to see him, you know,” Gerrard, who has worked with Peters at club level, told the press conference. “He leaves it totally to yourself, but for me I am always trying to take any advantage I can get it. If Steve can get them that 1 or 2 percent extra to what I already got, I am going to see him.”
Peters, who has written a book called The Chimp Paradox, began working with British Cycling in 2001 and his methods helped spark a medal rush culminating in a golden London 2012 Games and back-to-back Tour de France wins for Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome.
One of his techniques is known as “chimp” and “gremlin” management.
“There are two aspects of your brain that work independently of each other, with a third backup system that both utilize,” Peters, who worked with Sky Pro Cycling, has said previously. “One is quite emotional and irrational; the other is logical, capable of making good judgements. I call the emotional thinking system ‘the Chimp.’”
“As for the Gremlins, these represent negative beliefs or behaviors that have the potential to inhibit performance. I also help to uncover the gremlins and then help riders to remove them,” he said.
How his methods work with England’s millionaire soccer players remains to be seen, but he will surely be taken more seriously than faith healer Eileen Drewery, who Glenn Hoddle hired to work with his England team at the 1998 World Cup finals.
“We have to make sure that all benefits that might help us win more matches and go further in the tournament are exploited,” Hodgson said. “He will really come into his own when we are in the tournament and he has time to work with the players, rather than the day or two around friendlies.”
England face Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica in Group D at this year’s finals.