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Stuart Pearce: How to give a team talk

Get a feel for the mood in the squad

“Whenever you’re trying to motivate a team, you need to understand the feeling in the camp. The best managers judge the mood of individual players as well as the group. They walk in the dressing room with their ears open before the game, at half-time and after the game. By doing this you pick up the signs and act accordingly.”

Try to put your players at ease

“Before kick-off the players are all hyped up and ready to go. But you don’t want them to be too pumped up; you want to make sure they’re relaxed. If you think the players are feeling the pressure, explain to them that the bulk of the work has been done in training. Reassure them that they know the shape of the team and reiterate what is expected of them individually and collectively.”

Build confidence

“I say to my players, ‘Look if you’re nervous, have a walk down the corridor and go in their dressing room, because there’s more talent in here than there is down the corridor.’ I also ask the players, ‘How do you think they feel playing against you? Playing against a better player? Playing against a quicker player?’ This immediately puts your players in a different mindset.”

Deliver the right message

“It’s not always, ‘Come on, come on, let’s go, let’s go!’ You’ve got to know what motivates the individual. Some respond to being lauded. Some need a pat on the back. Some don’t respond when you talk to them in front of the group. Some need a quiet word in their ear on the way to the ground. The key is to understand how your players work.”

Don’t be fooled by a big mouth

“If I see a kid sitting quietly in the corner and I see another one shouting his mouth off, I don’t automatically assume that the one with the big mouth is ready for a game and the other one is a nervous kitten. Sometimes it’s the one shouting his mouth off who is anxious. Tell him, ‘C’mon on, we don’t need to shout, we’ve done our work.” 

Pearce was talking at an event for Vauxhall, the England sponsor. Keep up to date with news and comps at, @VauxhallEngland

For more football tips:
Half-time team talks for every occasion
Winning body language
Build unshakeable team spirit
How to explain tactics