Sean’s Blog: A Mental Victory

Here is the latest blog from our American recruit Sean O’Reilly on the importance of mental toughness and determination. Please read, enjoy and share.

What a game on Saturday versus Chester. I was really pleased for all the lads involved, I thought, individually and as a team, it was the best performance I have seen since I joined the side mid-season.

We showed courage, determination, strength, organisation and the touch of class that so often defines games when two good sides meet on the pitch.

It is a well deserved result after two brutal weeks of football. I was, admittedly, worried that we would struggle today after most of the players had taken at least some part in 6 games in a stretch of only 10 days. However, our character showed through in the end as we battled hard, with few signs of fatigue, for our 7th 90 minutes in 14 days.

The challenge is obviously a physical one, but the mental side is just as important. I’m not saying anything new here. After Tottenham’s tough Europa League exit this week, Gordon Strachan blamed their (well really only Adebayor’s awful attempt) poor penalties on fatigue. You not only begin to execute your decisions poorly, but you often make the wrong ones. Example: Adebayor deciding to dance to the ball and proceed to lean back and knock his penalty into orbit.

When I was playing at University, one of my coaches used to say – while running us into the ground – “it’s all in your head”. While we cringed and crawled through the next set of “sprints” we couldn’t help but think “my head’s fine, it’s my legs that don’t work anymore”.

Against Chester, and two days earlier when down to 10 men against Altrincham, we managed to overcome the physical drain. More importantly though, we didn’t let it damage the mental side of our game. Our players were making the right decisions all over the park and in the end our class showed through.

If you aren’t quite sure what I’m on about, it can pretty much be summed up by Josh’s 2nd goal. 1v1 with the keeper late in a game, with tired legs, most players would just smash the ball low and hard, hoping for the best (ie: their number 8 had a similar 1v1 chance that Drenchy smothered low to his right). Not here, Josh kept his wits about him and beat the keeper with a classy chip.

We are all disappointed we didn’t win the title. I can guarantee that the guard of honour before the game, though it was appropriate, was not easy for any of the players or staff.

As I have said in the last article, Tough Times, consistency is key. Chester were, without a doubt, the most consistent team through the season and credit to them for that.

I couldn’t help but compare today’s game with the Manchester Derby last Monday. From our respective standings to the scoreline, the similarities were aplenty.

United, sitting comfortably in first, have been brutally consistent, not only this season, but for the last 20 or so. Chester has been similarly consistent winning 3 consecutive promotions on the bounce. Guiseley, representing City sitting in 2nd, may arguably play prettier football on their day, but have struggled to consistently, as a group, put in match winning performances.

I’m not saying we haven’t been a good team throughout the season, we have been fantastic and – as I’ve heard it said a number of times – in any other year would be sitting in first or thereabouts. However, it’s not any other year and Chester has run away with the title.

If United had won, I am sure that City would have lost quite a bit of credibility leading into next season. Mancini would sound like a crazy old man telling the press that he has a better team than United.

On the other hand, even though it’s highly likely that United will still win the title, you can bet your life that they did not want to lose that game.

Similarly, if we had lost today, I’m sure people, even within the club, would be asking about our credibility. And again, you can bet your life that Chester did not want to lose that game.

This brings me back to the mental side of the game. Not only was the Chester win a statistical victory, it was a psychological win for us. We showed we can rise to the occasion.

Momentum and belief are both crucial leading into a playoff situation.

You can only have momentum if you win, and we did that against Chester. If we play like we did against Chester, we will no doubt win the next 6 and get promoted.

You can have belief at anytime, but I don’t think there is a better way to improve it than beating the Champions. We have all had belief throughout this season, but I would guess it’s higher than it’s been so far, which is exactly what we need going into playoffs.

So congrats to the lads for winning the physical battle and letting their class shine through.

In order to maintain our momentum and our belief we need everyone at the club; from the players and staff, to the volunteers and the casual fans to continue their support.

Only then will we move ever onward and upward.

It’s never easy, but it’s worth it.

We are Guiseley.

Follow Sean on Twitter @seano55 and check out my blog