1 Remind them ‘why’ they play
“Motivation is a lot harder for amateurs at this time of the season if there isn’t something tangible to play for,” says sports psychologist Dan Abrahams, author of Soccer Tough. “The manager needs to find out why each individual plays and remind him of it.”
2 Set up a Facebook page
There’s no hiding place these days thanks to social media. Not only does setting up a Facebook page create a one-stop shop for arranging training and matches – so no excuses for not turning up – it’s also a great place to name, shame and post videos or pictures of late-season slackers.
3 Increase the fun factor
“It’s definitely worth making training more fun towards the end of the season,” says Oxford United defender David Hunt (right). “I’ve been at clubs where we’ve had more in the way of competitions to keep a buzz around the place: head tennis, the crossbar challenge – you name it.”
More after the break
4 Hit the pub instead of the pitch
You could even cancel training altogether. “When I was at Leyton Orient,” says triple promotion-winner Hunt, “the manager once came into training on Monday morning after we’d lost, told us to put our clothes back on, gave us £150 for the whip-round and said, ‘I’ll see you on Tuesday.’ We won the next Saturday.”
5 Weed out the slackers
It would be difficult, not to mention expensive, to have every player fitted with a GPS to keep tabs on how far they’re running during matches. But by buying a pair of calipers – available at most gyms and for as little as £5 online – and measuring every player’s body fat percentage now and at the end of the season, you can identify those with one eye on the beach.
6 Encourage versatility
“Swapping positions is a way of stimulating players,” says Southend manager Phil Brown, a former Sunday League player. “I’ve got a player who we’ve played in several different positions this season and we’ve seen a raised level of performance.” So stick that prima donna playmaker at centre-back and give him something new to think about.
7 Create competition for places
“I had two players in front of me for the first half of last season at Crawley Town, so I wasn’t really playing,” says Hunt. He forced his way back into the team and stayed there, despite the Red Devils not really having anything to play for, “because I wanted to prove a point”.
8 Listen to these fancy floor-fillers (to boost your team’s morale)*
Leighton Baines: Getaway, by Dr John
Zlatan Ibrahimovic: One Love, by Bob Marley
Didier Drogba: Back And Forth, by Aaliyah
Neymar: Ousadia & Alegria, by Thiaguinho
Ryan Giggs: Straight Outta Compton, by N.W.A.
Arjen Robben: The Final Countdown, by Europe
Marco Reus: Boyfriend, by Justin Bieber
Juan Mata: I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), by The Proclaimers