I’ve always prescribed to the notion ‘If you look good, you feel good’.
Whether you look good or not can be subjective but if you feel it, then it can have a positive effect on you.
So when I saw the Manchester City squad dressed in their polo neck jumpers and suits as if they were all auditioning for a role as the next Milk Tray man, it gave me confidence in them to get a result in Monaco. It’s hardly the kinda of analysis that would make you put your mortgage on them winning the game, but there is a psychological edge to be had.
It might seem superficial and shallow of me to put any importance on it but when I see lower league teams up against Premier League teams, I don’t just see a gulf in class, I notice the difference in the quality of kit, boots and hair cuts. Yes, haircuts.
Footballers these days can’t play without a “fresh trim” the day before a game. You can put it down to vanity, and that plays its part too, but it’s about topping up your confidence levels and looking the part. And if you look the part, you’re already on your way to playing your part.
Hairstyles aren’t really my area of expertise to be honest though. I have had some shockers. I am to hairstyles what Sloth from the Goonies is to catwalk modelling. And it’s just my luck that after all these years of follicle faux pas, I actually now live with a master barber and my hair is starting to fall out.
In its prime, I grew my hair to shoulder length, which required me to wear a hairband to keep it away from my eyes. It was a look I debuted in a pre-season game in Holland and was feeling somewhat self-conscious. Aberdeen always had a great following on our pre-season tours and if I thought I could ease my way into the season with my new look, I was wrong.
As I jogged out to warm-up and I applauded the travelling fans, I heard a shout of “Fit yer done tae yer heid, min? You look like a German porn star!” followed by barrels of laughter. Not the response I’d hoped for, but it was half-expected.
What I wasn’t expecting was having to play 90 minutes with the the chant of “Preecy is a porn star. Preecy is a porn star. La, la, la, laaaa.” ringing in my ears. I wasn’t sure whether to be offended or not and was a change from “There’s only two David Preeces” in reference to my dad who has the same name.
I’ve taken a massive detour here but I thought it was worth sharing. Having your name sung by your fans is something you dream of as a kid and sits just above having your own Panini sticker in proud moments during your career.
Back to my point. You see, when I played in Denmark when we played pre-season games or winter break friendlies, it wasn’t a requirement for us to turn up all dressed the same. it wasn’t that we didn’t have our club issue clothes. We had club suits. We even had club shirts with the club sponsor’s logo embroidered on to the collar. We had all the Hummel gear we could ever wish for but if it wasn’t an official first team game, we dressed as we wanted and it did my head in. I just wasn’t used to it.
When I first started at Sunderland, my mam bought me this dark red blazer from Burton’s to wear the night I officially signed for the club and I wore it whenever I was included in the first team squad. I thought it looked great at the time but looking back, I can see why Kevin Ball used to ask me if I had a part-time job at Butlin’s. Nonetheless, it was smart.
At Darlington, we always wore club tracksuits and the moment the ink was dry on my contract at Aberdeen, I was whisked away to a men’s outfitters in town to get measured up for my club blazer - so pulling on the blazer was as much part of my preparation as putting on my strip. It was symbolic. If I didn’t do that, it didn’t feel like I was preparing to play a game of football and made me feel like I was playing for the Dog and Duck on a Sunday.
The summer games were especially bad. We’d all turn up in shorts, vests and t-shirts, shades on. I didn’t want to feel like I was going for a kick-about in the park.
I want to look the part. I wanted us to look the part and when I was made captain I asked the manager if we could at least all wear the same tracksuit.
In my mind, it gave us the mental edge. If other sides wanted to turn up like Rag, Tag and Bobtail, let them.
I wanted us to look like we meant business. That’s what it was about more than anything.
It wasn’t to be ostentatious so you get your backside handed to you on a plate like Manchester United did to Liverpool in 1996 after they wore their cream Armani suits.
So whether or not Pep Guardiola wins anything this season, he has his team looking like they are winners and I like that.
They reflect their manager’s style off the pitch as well as on.
So I have a new regret to add to my list things I wished I’d done. I wish I had played under Pep now, too.