Confidence is a Habit

Published: March 26, 2014

I took my boy to the Manchester Derby last night & the only saving grace was that we arrived one minute late which was thankfully sufficient to miss City’s first goal.  I am not a fair minded football fan so there was no consolation in being beaten by the better team.

United were poor & City played well & in any sporting situation, that combination is only going to end one way. There are myriad reasons for United’s decline, all well documented but the most significant & the most debilitating is their complete loss of confidence.

The ‘Old Trafford Fortress’ is no more; the ‘fear factor’ has gone. United have been the most successful club in British football over the last twenty years & much of that success has been due to their belief, both individually & as a team. Opposing teams took to the pitch, already beaten. There was a degree of inevitability about many matches even when United were seemingly down & out. The European Cup Final in 1999 is probably the best example. United were 1-0 down in injury time & came back to win 2-1. Those were the days!

Confidence impacts on every team & individual sporting performance. You can’t play well without it & once it’s gone it’s difficult to regain. A loss of confidence is self-perpetuating. The less belief you have, the worse you perform & then your confidence takes another dip.

In tennis, certain head to head results suggest one player has such dominance over another that breaking the run must seem incredibly daunting. One player will walk on court with strong feelings of superiority & the other with doubt & fear. In this situation confidence or lack of it becomes self-fulfilling. Just imagine how some of Roger Federer’s opponents must have felt. Look at some of his head to head stats:

21-3  Roddick; 13-1 Wawrinka;  Youzhny 15–0; Ferrer 14-0.

None of these players would have been particularly optimistic about their chances against the Fed Express & with three consecutive defeats to their “noisy neighbours”  that’s how United might be feeling next time they play City unless they regain their nerve, swagger & self belief.