Sean’s Blog: Tough Times

American defender Sean O’Reilly is writing a series of blogs during his time in the UK. Here is his latest piece on the Lions’ recent rough patch.

Back home in Virginia, my Dad owns a construction company which he built from the ground up after graduating from University. After years of toil and learning the hard lessons of the industry, it slowly evolved into a successful and well respected business.

Unfortunately, when the economic recession first hit the states, it was the real-estate market that imploded most dramatically. Accordingly, the family company, which was only just beginning to reap the rewards of 25 years of work, was threatened with extinction.

Like so many businesses and individuals throughout the US and the UK, they had to buckle down and make some significant cutbacks in order to survive. Everyone had to make sacrifices.

One of the foremen who works at the company, an old army vet, is one of those people who always has a fitting quote or a saying for every situation. His words of wisdom for facing the poor economic climate ended up hanging on the office wall.

It read: “Tough times don’t last, tough people do.”

Hardly philosophical or in need of deciphering, the quote is merely a simple and practical reminder that it’s not always clear sailing. Yet, it is also a challenge to be bigger than your environment and bigger than circumstances that are out of your control.

Any economic cycle has its equal share of expansions and contractions. Some of those expansions turn into booms, and some of those contractions decline into recessions.

On a small scale, it is the same with a football season. Throughout any year, there are bound to be periods equivalent to an economic boom, where a team is winning in style, scoring goals for fun and defending like a brick wall.

On the other hand, there will be periods where results aren’t coming, the ball seems to be magnetically attracted to the outside of the opposition’s goal-posts and defenses resemble cheese of the Swiss variety… not to mention referees who are all but wearing the other teams jersey.

It happens.

In University, we had one season where we went on a terrible run of form late in the year, ended near the bottom of the table, and should have been relegated – that is, if the concept existed in the US.

The next year, with essentially the same starting team, we ended a record setting season for the school in second place and nearly made the national tournament for the first time ever.

The trick, of course, is to make sure that the expansions last longer than the recessions: Economy 101.

That is why it was so important to grind out the win this past weekend against Worcester City. It wasn’t pretty, it is not always going to be, but it stopped the receding and gives us the opportunity to move back into a period of growth.

I would say the only notable team in recent history to make it through a season without any recession would have been the Arsenal’s Invincibles of 2003-2004.

However, I am willing to bet that each of the 12 draws during that season felt a bit like mini recessions, but the important thing was that they recovered to remain undefeated for a stunning 49 league games – let’s just not talk about the recession they’ve been in since then.

When a team can drag out expansion periods, while nipping any decline in the bud, they can begin to achieve the most crucial thing in any high-level competitive sport: consistency.

In sport, consistency is king.

It is not being able to doing something every other time, or even nine out of ten times.

To be the best, it is about being able to do it 99 out of 100 times – or more. Then when that one time comes, it is about making sure it doesn’t come again in at least 100 more chances.

We have all heard the question, “can [insert any player doing well in a non-English league] perform on a rainy Tuesday night at Stoke?”

As Guiseley AFC fans, we all know the far more difficult task is performing on a cold Tuesday night against Gloucester City while playing a man down for 60 minutes.

Either way, consistency is not just winning against Chester FC, or on a European night in Madrid or Barcelona, it is forcing your way through the less glamorous occasions and coming away stronger as a result.

Consistency is a demanding business; one that is likely not possible to perfect in our imperfect world.

Furthermore, there are things out of our control; weather, pitch conditions, injuries and James Walshaw (what a goal this weekend!). Sometimes these thing work to your advantage (as is typcially the case with Wally), but other times they don’t – ie: going down to nine men through injury at Vauxhall Motors.

Nevertheless, consistency is the goal that should we aim at as individuals, as a team, as a club and as a community – but not, apparently, as a politician…

Guiseley are back to winning ways, but to think the tough times are over, or that the tough times will not come back, is both naive and counter-productive.Tough times are the best test of character and often define a person, a team, or an organization and allow it to adapt and improve.

With the right attitude, a test of character is the most rewarding test of all. I am confident that the group in the Guiseley locker room has the right attitude moving forward and will be rewarded for it.

It is tough to win the Blue Square North, it is tough to earn promotion, but as they say “when the going gets tough the tough get going.”

Bring on Saturday and Brackley!

We are Guiseley! Onwards and upwards!

You can follow Sean on twitter @seano55 and check out his blog at headfirstfootball.com