Tony Gillan: Sunderland's David Moyes should try the Bobby Moore's '˜drunk, dodgy and got dandruff' psychology!
I could furnish you with a list of everything that has gone wrong at Sunderland this season, but you won't need it.
You probably keep one about your person in case of emergency.
The main issue is what to do now. At times like this you look for leadership.
We weren’t expecting David Moyes to transmute into Henry V. Apart from anything else he’s Scottish.
But what he has said in the past week was more than a little desponding.
Back in August, just two game into the season, he undermined the confidence of the players on the pitch by saying that Sunderland would be in a relegation battle.
During a tortuous goalless draw with Burnley in the FA Cup he did not make any substitutions. He then undermined the confidence of the players on the bench by saying that they were even less capable of scoring goal.
Last week described the potential of January signings as “limited with a big L.”
As though capitalisation was not damnation enough he added: “I’d be kidding if I said the players we’re going to bring will massively make a big difference.
“We probably couldn’t get that level of player and probably wouldn’t have the finances.”
He thereby managed the extraordinary feat of undermining the confidence of players who haven’t even signed for the club yet.
In Moyes’ defence, it’s difficult to question the veracity of what he has said.
But what’s that got to do with anything?
Surely the manager should be accentuating the positive; telling the players privately and the fans publicly that he has a great squad that can beat anyone on their day.
If he isn’t saying what he really thinks, so what?
You probably wouldn’t believe him. I certainly wouldn’t.
But that doesn’t matter because the players might and they are the important ones.
Many years ago Bill Shankly tried a same-but-different approach with some success at Liverpool.
He famously said to his players of West Ham’s Bobby Moore: “He’s been at the drink, got dodgy knees and he’s got dandruff.”
The fact that this was arrant nonsense – and Shankly knew it – was irrelevant.
He succeeded in convincing his players that a quite brilliant opponent was in fact a complete duffer and they were all the more confident for it.
Crude but effective psychology.
The truth is overrated and should be saved by Moyes for his conversations with Sunderland’s owner and for a biography written years from now.
The manager’s public statements seem designed to protect his own reputation. Whatever happens isn’t my fault. What could I have done? I’ve got no money. No one will come.
We realise all that David. Even his biggest detractors know that certain things aren’t his fault; the limited time he had to make summer signings, the injuries, suspensions, the huge debt, the African Cup of Nations.
Furthermore he has never, despite appearances, instructed his team to routinely pass the ball to an opponent, mark fresh air when “defending” set pieces, or various other incompetences. The players are accountable too.
But the person with the most responsibility for raising morale is the manager.
Telling a player he is a major talent won’t necessarily turn him into one.
Saying that Sunderland can beat Tottenham next week doesn’t make it so.
But, yet again, they’re at the “try anything” stage and Moyes can start by not vomiting negativity.