Eat, sleep, train
“Preparation is key. Get plenty of sleep leading up to the game, but not too much. If I sleep for more than nine hours I feel sluggish. Eight to nine hours is perfect – I wake up ready to go. Whether it’s an international or the Championship I make sure I get the right food and drink inside me. If you prepare well in training you feel sharp, strong and confident heading into the game.”
Stick to your routine
“Pre-match rituals help focus the mind. Don’t change your routine just because it’s a massive game. I always speak to my parents and friends before a game and they wish me luck. I listen to upbeat dance music to help get me up for the game. My socks have left or right written on them and I can’t wear them on the wrong feet. My shinpads also have an L and R on them.”
Become your dreams
“Picture your perfect performance. I start thinking about a big game days before. I dream about making saves and playing well. Have doubts about playing badly and that’s what will happen. Think positively, focus and believe in your ability. I also dedicate the game to someone to help motivate me.”
It’s good to talk
“Be yourself and draw on the experience of the senior players. When I joined up with the England and Team GB squads, I tried to be friendly, give off good signals and get as many conversations under my belt as possible. If you act nervous and don’t speak to anyone you won’t feel settled. The more experienced lads will chat to you and make you feel welcome.”
Feed off the pressure
“Don’t fear expectation, embrace it. Before a big game, take everything in – the scenery, the atmosphere – and use it to motivate you. It’s good to feel nerves, but you can’t let them get the better of you. When I’m nervous for a game, I know it’s because I’m excited. Ultimately, it’s still just a game. The same game you played in the park when you were younger. Enjoy it.”
“Set yourself some objectives. I tell myself things like, ‘No-one is going to beat me to my crosses’. Talking to yourself puts you on the front foot and makes you feel more positive. Before kick-off I try to calm down and take a few deep breaths. I don’t want to be too pumped up as I’m more likely to do something rash.”
For more football tips see:
Joe Hart's guide to all-round keeping excellence
Joe Hart: Positioning for direct free-kicks
Joe Hart: Positioning at corners
Victor Valdes' guide to collecting crosses
Victor Valdes' guide to handling
Boss the penalty box
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