England's fear of failure is holding them back, says sports psychology expert

Last Updated: 07/12/12 12:37pm

Sports psychology expert Dan Abrahams says England's fear of failure is preventing them from succeeding on the international stage.

Tactics, talent and desire have all been blamed for the Three Lions' continued failure to add to the 1966 World Cup win, but Abrahams, a former professional golfer and author of 'Soccer Tough', who now lectures on mental training, says the national team must not be afraid of defeat.

"When you watch England play you see them playing on the back foot rather than the front foot, with fear rather than freedom," he said.

"I think there is a fear of failure there. The paradoxical nature of sport, and any sport, whether it is football, golf or tennis, is you have to dare to lose to win.

"It seems crazy but the manager has to give the players permission to go out, play with freedom and lose."

Dan Abrahams

"It seems crazy but the manager has to give the players permission to go out, play with freedom and lose.

"If they give the ball away, make a mistake, that's fine. At the moment they're so tense, so rigid. They need to relax, play, stop focusing on the result and instead focus on their role and responsibility. It's that simple - but it's tough to do when it's a results driven industry."

Bill Beswick, an applied sports psychologist who has worked with the England team, said that philosophy would be hard to implement with so much at stake in the modern era.


"The principle is correct, and you may get away with that at club level at the beginning of the season, but I'm sure Harry Redknapp isn't thinking that," he said, referring to Redknapp's QPR side which are bottom of the Premier League.

"Certainly for [England manager] Roy Hodgson, I wish him some time to build a team, but time is in short demand with our media."

Meanwhile, Lee Richardson argued it was pressure from fans and media which made England's task so tough.

"I think it's important to focus on the task at hand and not the results," he said, agreeing with Abrahams' sentiment. "The result will take care of itself if the performance is right.

"But in England we have a hyper-sensitivity to the performance of the national team and the fact we haven't won the world cup again, as if it's our divine right to do so. That will add a massive level of pressure which the players have not been able to deal with."