26 June 2014

My congratulations to Naomi Broady who had a career boosting win at Wimbledon earlier this week. Writing now, before her second round match against Caroline Wozniacki, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for her. It’s easy to overlook the tremendous physical and emotional stress of trying to get to the top of your game in any sport, especially tennis where there is fierce competition. Whilst all tennis players need resilience and determination, Naomi has had to show it more than most during her journey, which must have felt like it started from rock bottom when the LTA kicked her out at the age of seventeen.

tennisThere is little point going over old ground – wounds are better left to heal than to be picked – but her early experience could have destroyed her career if she had let it knock her off course. Instead, she has kept her eyes on the horizon, fixed on the goal that lies only over the next hill. With help from her father, Simon, a man I’ve known for a few years and who is hugely supportive of his daughter’s career, Naomi has come back from these setbacks and it is great to see her working hard and doing well.

It’s always nice when British sportspeople do well. Andy Murray has also started Wimbledon strongly and is getting back into the swing of things with these early matches. It seems he has taken the preparation and sacrifices needed to reach the top more seriously than the World Cup squad. He’s certainly more reliable, even under pressure, which is something I’ve heard people use to defend our footballers. Personally, I think in any sport at that level, pressure is a factor. However, in football especially, they are paid to deal with it.

So what’s the difference? Why are our tennis players doing better than our footballers? I would argue that the England squad are demotivated, as it felt like they didn’t really want to be in Brazil. Personally, I think that representing your country is the single greatest opportunity you can get. It begs the question, ‘what is motivating these guys?’ If you look at Holland and the way they destroyed Spain, you can see their hunger. They went away badly upset to have lost last World Cup and have now come back wanting retribution.

How can we get this into the England squad? I do think part of it comes from the management. They need to sit down with the players and find out what motivates each and every one of them so they can get the best out of them and restore that sense of belief. We have the talent to be winning every match so what’s going wrong? I think it’s about discipline; about pushing yourself hard in training and putting out the cigarettes (Rooney). There are plenty of players who want the opportunity to represent their country and they keep themselves focused and in peak physical condition in order to get to the top spot.  That’s the kind of discipline we need and those are the kind of players who will ultimately prevail.

Maybe the team should switch on the tennis when they get back to Britain!

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