Psyching out the opposition

Is this dark art lost from the modern game? Legend has it Shankly greeted each player off the visiting team bus assuring them they were terrible and going to lose. A thread of some art picked up from his harsh coal-mining Ayrshire background which also produced Stein and Busby.

Now it is the pantomine tabloid hacks like super Star scribe Brian Woolnough who do the equivalent – willing everyone to lose!

Returning to the noble art, there is another sport on my doorstep which offers a clue as to how it can be done. I hate the charade that is World Wrestling, but as for the original Cumberland & Westmorland outdoor wrestling... here is an excerpt from our local newspaper:

“Some wrestlers have a necessary routine before wrestling. Ted Dunglinson walked into the ring with his very big toes pointing up towards his nose. Alf Harrington used to cast off to the right and circle the ring anti-clockwise, before taking hold.

The great Northumbrian wrestler Alan Davidson used to thump you into your place on the field with his great chest before a bout. Peter Hunter, more subtly, would take a quiet hold and then utter the killer words “Are you right ...lad” before the wrestling started.

Alan Jones meanwhile overcame nervousness by going into a rage, entering the ring second – his opponent isolated in the middle. He would then bend forward, legs apart, pull up his socks, adjust both knee braces, fiddle with his bandages (still appearing in a huff), pluck some grass, rub his hands together and then walk with dramatic urgency with a bulldog face into the centre of the ring to take hold of his man.

I trained my son to counter such intensity by pretending he hadn’t seen him and tun his back just as raging Alan reached the centre, so that he had nowhere to unleash all that intensity”. Roger Robson, Cumberland News

Now, imagine one team on the pitch all having their backs turned to the opposition up to the second the referee blew his whistle to commence proceedings. What effect would that have? Some teams seem to have their backs turned just to file their nails.