Thursday 18 April 2019

Everton in therapy to cure away-day 'fear'

Everton manager Sam Allardyce. Photo: PA
Everton manager Sam Allardyce. Photo: PA

Chris Bascombe

Everton's players have been undergoing psychological therapy in an attempt to end the culture of 'fear' causing a dire away record.

The Merseyside club has won just once on the road this season - at Newcastle - which is why they have spent so much time in the bottom half.

They travel to Stoke City tomorrow knowing a win would effectively guarantee their Premier League status, which already looks reasonably secure thanks to their contrasting home form.

Manager Sam Allardyce believes the issue is mental rather than physical, technical or tactical.

"I think it's fear away from home," he said. "I think the fear kicks in, which is why I thought we'd get a result against Burnley. Getting the first goal I thought would be the release.

"You have to find a balance between complacency and fear. You lie in the middle, which is anxiety.

"You have to be anxious before the game, but not too fearful. Too fearful and you freeze. Too complacent, it's just as bad as being too fearful.

"Fear can do many things to a player on the field of play, where it looks like he has frozen and can't deliver what he can."

The Everton manager hopes his squad will reap the benefits of psychological assistance.

"They are getting some help. We have used our in-house sports psychologist who has been here for quite some time and slowly he is integrating himself with some of the sessions with the players," he said.

"I hope it will have an effect on how we achieve a result. I think everything in the world of football today revolves around coping with the pressure.

"The way you cope with the pressure is being able to focus, and if the sports psychologist allows them to focus on the positives rather than the negatives around them, then it gives them a better chance of delivering a performance.

"We have tried a number of things - change of system, change of personnel, but I think the change of mentality is the big one.

"We have been using a bit more of working on the mind in the analysis room - who we are, what do we want to get, what do we want to achieve.

"The main aim is visualising your performance and visualising the performance that you give at the top level.

"Thinking about that to yourself in a positive frame of mind before you run out on a Saturday.

"All the preparation tactically and technically is fine, but if the player spends a little more time thinking about his best performance and putting himself in the right frame of mind then that best performance will have a better chance of being delivered."

Allardyce, meanwhile, took the unusual step of dismissing his own club's assessment of midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson's likely lay-off period.

Everton announced a "six- to eight-week" absence for the Icelandic midfielder on Wednesday. But Allardyce did not rule out the club record signing recovering from a knee injury and featuring again in this campaign.

"Someone gave out the wrong statement. It can be less than that. Whoever gave that statement out is going to get a b********g."

© Daily Telegraph, London

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