An expert’s view: Belief is key if Norwich City are to end their troubled travels

The Norwich players look dejected after their conceding a second goal during their 3-0 loss at Swansea City. 
Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd The Norwich players look dejected after their conceding a second goal during their 3-0 loss at Swansea City. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Wednesday, April 2, 2014
12:00 PM

Conquering the fear of playing away from home could well be crucial to Chris Hughton’s long-term future as manager of Norwich City – but it will not be easy.

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Norwich manager Chris Hughton during the Barclays Premier League match at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea. 
Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdNorwich manager Chris Hughton during the Barclays Premier League match at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Arguments against psychologists in sport have long since subsided and England manager Roy Hodgson has already revealed that Dr Steve Peters, a top sports psychiatrist, will be helping England at this summer’s World Cup.

Mottos such as “fail to prepare, prepare to fail” are now common place around the training centres of professional sports teams and City are no different.

The Canaries return to the home comforts of Carrow Road for their crunch Premier League clash with fellow strugglers West Brom on Saturday.

But should they continue their good form and beat the Baggies, will the City players regress to the terrible form seen once again in the 3-0 defeat at Swansea on Saturday?

Simon Hampton, lecturer in psychology at the School of Social Work and Psychology at the UEA.

Simon Hampton, lecturer in psychology at the School of Social Work and Psychology at the UEA.

Dr Simon Hampton, lecturer in psychology at the University of East Anglia, says the answer to that question is simple; yes, unless the City players can change their thinking.

“Professional sport is now played in the head,” said Dr Hampton, who follows the fortunes of the Canaries closely. “Sports psychology is about performance under pressure.

“Why do footballers miss penalties? Why do pro golfers slice a tee shot? Why does a pro tennis player ever make a double fault, the one shot they have total control over.

“It goes back to the facilitation effect. If you believe that you can’t do it, that becomes part of mythical thought and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Dejected looking Norwich fans at the end of the Barclays Premier League match at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea. 
Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdDejected looking Norwich fans at the end of the Barclays Premier League match at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

If that is the case for Hughton’s side, then they are very much fulfilling their prophecies.

Their home turf is a place where confidence has rapidly returned side since the turn of the year, where they have built a six-game unbeaten league run.

Just one goal has been conceded in those games, as City have rebuilt their fortress on the banks of the River Wensum.

Away from home however, it has been little short of disastrous.

Only Cardiff have picked up fewer points on the road, seven to City’s eight, as the Canaries have constantly seemed to lose confidence once outside of Norfolk.

Two wins and two draws from 16 away games, scoring 11 goals and conceding 39, has seen City’s travelling supports reach the end of their tether.

“There could be various explanations for it,” Dr Hampton said of perceived home advantage in sport. “One of the very earliest findings of the facilitation effect was that when someone is under scrutiny and is aware they are being scrutinised, if they are good at something, their performance is good, but if they are not good at something then it gets worse.

“The old example is giving kids a fishing reel and asking them to reel it in, which is very simple, but if you knock their confidence before and then watch them do it then their performance is inhibited, so the mythical almost becomes a reality.

“Way back when modern sports were in their infancy, Norwich travelling to West London was difficult, more like it would be now for Norwich players travelling to Munich, because of the homogenisation of transport and the creation of television, so that thinking is in the bloodstream of sport across the world.

“What happens psychologically is that they anticipate they will perform well at home and they anticipate performing badly away from home, so the myth becomes the reality.”

Dr Hampton points out that this is certainly not just the case for football either, highlighting that tennis, rugby, baseball, American football and even boxing show clear trends of home advantage.

So how can the cycle be broken? What can City do to try and carry some Carrow Road spirit with them on their travels?

“It is about getting people to think differently,” Dr Hampton adds. “It is not as easy as A, B, C, but the psychological way is to get someone to stop thinking in the way that causes them a problem.

“I don’t know what goes on in professional sports dressing rooms or the discussions between managers and players in football but if an alien were to come down, they would think there are two different games going on, regardless of the rules and regulations.

“If you ask players about the effect of the crowd and almost the regulation answer is that they don’t hear it when they are playing.

“When you are driving a car, if something comes into the left of your vision, you stop hearing the radio instantly and it’s the same for players when they are tending to the game, not just if they are ball watching.

“They say they hear the crowd after but not during the crucial moments because their concentration is really high at that moment.

“If you look at the idea of referees showing home bias as well, that is very robust, and you start to see how robust the thinking of home advantage is.”

Do you agree that City’s troubles away from home are psychological? Or do you believe they can be fixed through traditional changes in tactics and personnel? Write to Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE or email norfolksport@archant.co.uk

Follow David Freezer on Twitter @davefreezer

73 comments

  • I was also taken short and had to pop into the Forum, missed the bus and took the train instead. Mitty always seems to wear a navy blue suit often underneath his coat.

    Report this comment

    Steely Dan

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

  • .I did say at the time that he should be nicknamed 'Chough'..,but was shouted down by most of the few we had posting then!.....

    Report this comment

    Stew Pydsodd

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • Psychology can play a part but determination to succeed really is the key. I cannot help but wonder if this is not yet another excuse being wheeled out or a man looking for a highly paid position at the club.

    Report this comment

    TrevorKeith

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • MC, psychology and accountability are not mutually exclusive.

    Report this comment

    Cecil

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • .If you were able to re-read my comments, at the time of the appointment of our current manager you would see that I was not 'Chuffed' by his appointment!

    Report this comment

    Stew Pydsodd

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • Another day and another blocked message for this board. Has Norfolk imposed sanctions on Lincolnshire?

    Report this comment

    Lincs Canary

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

  • In the context of the quote, 'this page' was the Facebook page on which the comment originally appeared. My bill for expert consultancy will be in the post.

    Report this comment

    ScotCan

    Friday, April 4, 2014

  • Just had another try MB but no go, anything more than a sentence fails.

    Report this comment

    Lincs Canary

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • Sort of sums up our season: a picture of the players with heads bowed and Elmander blowing his nose on his shirt (yuk!), a manager all in grey, an academic with a pile of books and a degree in the Bleeding Obvious and, finally, a picture of next season's pairing for centre midfield.

    Report this comment

    User Removed

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • Hampton does at least offer an explanation of and a solution to our poor away performances. Which no one else has including our brainless manager.

    Report this comment

    Cecil

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • It's not a new issue and no-one needed psychologists in the past. It's about man-management. Being a manager isn't just about coaching, it's about managing people. You need someone who can fire enthusiasm and confidence into the players if they are flagging.

    Report this comment

    Surrey Canary

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • What is it you all have against psychologists and consultants? I have been both - though not in the sports world - and my contribution was valuable and valued.

    Report this comment

    Cecil

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • Nobody needed psychologists in the past. Nobody needed cars or mobile phones. Nobody needed cancer screening. Yet we have them now and it is to our benefit.

    Report this comment

    LittleYellowBirdie

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

  • Simon Hampton-the expert is spot on. There is a crisis of self-confidence in the team. To create and manage this should be the primary function of CH and his staff. They are failing in this. But there is another problem- there is no confidence between the players- particularly in the strikers. Remember when you were in the school team and you thought the centre forward was no good? Instead of passing the ball to him you had a go yourself. And that is what our players are doing. They are taking opportunist shots- the best example of this was Tettey in the Sunderland game. No manager with the resources of NCFC would take the risk of putting 8.5 million into one basket as in RVW. Also what is a manager doing buying a player ( Becchio) and then never using him when the first choice striker is such a disaster?

    Report this comment

    Canterbury Tales

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

  • Cecil - in this case I think they are due to money, attitude, fitness, giving 100%, trying, etc.. I believe all areas of NCFC should be accepting responsibility for their performances and results. (The players are a little with their offer to pay the traveling fans entrance cost at Swansea). Part of playing in the top flight has to be self mental discipline.

    Report this comment

    MichiganCanary

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • Do the Coaching staff ever ask the front men why they think they are not scoring goals like they have done in the past? or do they think they know all the answers from their coaching courses. Do the players ever have any input as to what is going wrong or is it just ignored by the highly paid coaches who shouldn't be questioned. I don't suppose we will ever know.

    Report this comment

    goldie

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • I read that she was once described as the most beautiful woman in the World. Even that bloke Mitty who goes in the pub on Fye Bridge couldn't top that.

    Report this comment

    Steely Dan

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

  • You`re not alone, LincsCan. Archie seems to have got his select storm-troopers on duty today.

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • I`ve been retro-deleted yet again. Was saying approximately what ScotCan has said about consultants. Except my version was accurate. If my choice of doctored words turn out to be the problem (eg `offensive`), I say to Archie, Bovine Egesta. La Snott seems to have no problem with the Moderators....

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • Well Cecil you accuse me of "carping" but then provide no evidence to prove me wrong ! It could be the County Vicar, it could be the pitch, it could be the wrong colour shirts ( see Man U a few years back). Who knows ..?

    Report this comment

    Timbo

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

  • 4 attempts at posting on this subject and none appeared. Testing, testing..

    Report this comment

    Lincs Canary

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • Stew you did quietly slip in the fact that your wife resembles Jill Dando. Could you please make sure that you attend our next gathering or ,if not, then send Mrs Stew with an apology note. For what its worth my wife resembles a 40 something Kate O'Mara.

    Report this comment

    Steely Dan

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • Stew & Steely, my late partner looked like Marie Helvin. We were a `Beauty and the Beast` pairing. I think I was regarded as the beast ;-)

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

  • Yep, the one saying nowt got thru. It's not unusual.

    Report this comment

    Lincs Canary

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • I have had about 6 on subject posts rejected as "may be delay, no need to resubmit". All off subject ones get through. Why?

    Report this comment

    Lincs Canary

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

  • I assume that offer was an April Fool's joke. These players, this team need help. How is getting them to take responsibility going to help? In any case the players - some - do take responsibility, the manager seemingly not. Our players need to re-acquire self-belief, a desire to express themselves on the pitch, to play together as a team; qualities sadly lacking under this wretched manager.

    Report this comment

    Cecil

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

  • I didn`t know that Steely, but MH certainly fits the bill. One of my female colleagues at the brewery referred to my partner as `that spectacular woman`. She wasn`t wrong. I think my poor lady must`ve had bad eyesight and no olfactory nerves to get together with me! I`m bound to see that other Walter Mitty character around, and we can exchange notes on whether he`s the same one you refer to. sounds a distinct possibility. I had to miss that bus and catch a later one. Excretion was the better part of valour...

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

  • Ethered. I will investigate further, Fagen.

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

  • B inners..Has any one got RvW on there shirt.. Maybe not as it might stand for.. Really Very Wanting..

    Report this comment

    User Removed

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • In this case, the need for psychology would be an excuse for not the players, coaches and manager not taking responsibility for their own performances. I am not anti psychologists but there are times when they are needed and there are times when individuals need to be accountable. I believe this is the latter.

    Report this comment

    MichiganCanary

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • Wonder how long it will take before Archie scrubs my last comment off the cubicle wall.

    Report this comment

    User Removed

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • I haven't spoken to MY wife for almost 6 months........can't get a word in edge ways. What an eclectic bunch this site attracts.....not just football supporters but train spotters, bee keepers and now pitch measurers. I suppose it takes all sorts.

    Report this comment

    User Removed

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • I am a regular reader of these postings. Without doing any statistical analysis I estimate that around 90% of these are placed by a core of about 15-20 people. More than 26,000 of us go to CR on Saturdays. So basically chaps have fun but don't expect anyone in the club is going to take any notice of what you say. Sorry, because I agree with most of your points. I wonder why is it the Club has no forum in which to engage on line with its supporterscustomersfools- call us what you will!!

    Report this comment

    Canterbury Tales

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

  • Still can't get my post through on this topic. (Except this one of course). Hey MB, your Norfolk boys sure have got it in for Lincolnshire. End the sanctions now.

    Report this comment

    Lincs Canary

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

  • Looks as if I stay off subject I am ok. How's the weather. Has the air cleared in Lowestoft?

    Report this comment

    Lincs Canary

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

  • Ah psychobabble time. When all else has been tried could why not just tell the starting 11 they will be shot at dawn if they lose the next away game.

    Report this comment

    wivenhoebudgie

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • Freud would probably have found some deep seated sexual neurosis, of a group nature, that would point us toward asking the right questions to enable an understanding of the problem and its potential causes. Me , I think some of them dont give a whatsit as long as they get paid, and they should be moved on; you know who you are, some of them dont believe in the manager but after our leading scorer was outed; they are keeping their heads down and doing 'enough to get buy' , some are not trusted to do the managers bidding on the field, and some try so hard that they try too hard. A new hand on the tiller could be just the ticket.

    Report this comment

    wivenhoebudgie

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • So, it seems that one of Archie's little helpers is in a spot of bother for making an offensive comment to CH. I thought I was dreaming, so I pinched myself.......and I wasn't dreaming. It's true!

    Report this comment

    User Removed

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • Many settling on 'Hoots'...although the Tea Lady came up with 'Chrissy'...

    Report this comment

    Stew Pydsodd

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • Even the Town fans think you are a "nasty bitch" Snott. Get a life you bitter troll

    Report this comment

    B Inners

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • Don`t take me seriously there, ScotCan. I think we just have a slightly different take on the real value of "consultants" and "experts". I cannot check on the exact nature of our disagreement because my view was deleted and I cannot be bothered to re-read it in the reverse e-mail I received from Archie - which I also deleted without reading it. Lovely word "curmudgeon". Ask my colleagues in the Mutual Sycophancy Society if it really applies to me. They`ll certainly say "no",,, won`t they?? How did B Inners get away with his accurate comment ref La Snott? Is the miscreant in the Hughton\offensive comment affair really one of Archie`s Little Helpers? I read he is\was a `Moderator` but assumed it was a Facebook position, not for Archie himself. Enlighten me, Blaffen; I`m an ingénu on all matters IT. (I think that`s the male version of ingénue. I`m sure you`ll tell me if I`m wrong). Je vriend in Curmudgeonliness, Gek.

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

  • No of course not Stew. She can drink. She described her love life as a disaster area (Kate O'Mara I mean).

    Report this comment

    Steely Dan

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • Don't worry MB, I would never take you as seriously as I would an expert (or a consultant)!

    Report this comment

    ScotCan

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

  • Cecil - in this case I think they are due to money, attitude, fitness, giving 100%, trying, etc.. I believe all areas of NCFC should be accepting responsibility for their performances and results. (The players are a little with their offer to pay the traveling fans entrance cost at Swansea). Part of playing in the top flight has to be self mental discipline.

    Report this comment

    MichiganCanary

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • Timbo, you are carping. Although LYB is factually incorrect in one detail his point should not be lost. There is a reason why we're so much poorer away from home and the reason is not the physical conditions at the away grounds. Here is where LYB and I part company though. I think the reason, or a reason, is Hughton's defeatism and negativity, and his inability to instil confidence in his players. And you see this is a psychological phenomenon.

    Report this comment

    Cecil

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • Yes nice shot of Meander blowing his snout on his shirt. About sums it up really. Bassong rallying his team mates. Just out of interest, did anyone out there get RVW put on their shirt?

    Report this comment

    B Inners

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • As Cecil points out, psychology is critically important. The fact is that we have a team that has a good record delivering at Carrow Road and an abysmal one away from home, yet the pitches are the same size, the goals are the same size, only the location and who the majority of people in the ground are rooting for is any different, therefore the obstacles can only be in the minds of the team. As the bloke in the article says though, changing attitudes and behaviour patterns can't happen overnight.

    Report this comment

    LittleYellowBirdie

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • Even the Town fans think you are a "nasty bitch" Snott. Get a life you bitter troll

    Report this comment

    B Inners

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • I really would like to know what MB thinks is inaccurate in my post. But maybe I should simply not bother what the old curmudgeon thinks! ;-)

    Report this comment

    ScotCan

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

  • .....I know that I am not the only Stew Pydsodd on these boards!.....

    Report this comment

    Stew Pydsodd

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

  • LincsCan, I`m offended by what they deem to be offensive. There is another agenda in play. Others are also singled out. But Steady On and La Snott are fine.

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • Can't enlighten you, I'm afraid, Gek,....on this subject....or indeed any other (who could?). I only know what I read, and I read the culprit describe himself as "a moderator of this page" at the time the comment was made. Hence my assumption that he was one if Archie's little helpers.

    Report this comment

    User Removed

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

  • What a jaundiced and thoroughly warped bunch of individuals you all are ;-). How about using psychology to help instil the determination to succeed, TK. I am almost reminded, as an expert consultant (I have now ducked and in what I will not say) of what a customer in Jamaica once said to me "A consultant is someone I pay lot of money to tell me what I already know". This was fine, but the reality was that he really did not know at all.

    Report this comment

    ScotCan

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • Timbo I didnt say your comment was wrong. I said it was irrelevant.

    Report this comment

    Cecil

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

  • “The old example is giving kids a fishing reel and asking them to reel it in, which is very simple, but if you knock their confidence before and then watch them do it then their performance is inhibited, so the mythical almost becomes a reality." The old example? Anyone heard this or am I losing the plot.

    Report this comment

    Mattias333

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • Houghton oot, Stew!

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • .....Brew!.....

    Report this comment

    Stew Pydsodd

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • suspect the real key to survival is having a team that is even PL quality. £8.5m on a "striker" that has hit 1 goal!!...."yer 'avin a laugh"

    Report this comment

    Liz Knott

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • Steely is the drinker your Mrs or Kate O'Mara.

    Report this comment

    wivenhoebudgie

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • @ Little Yellow Birdie- Sorry old fruit but Premiership pitches are NOT the same size. Interestingly, the 2 Manchester clubs have large pitches 116 x 78 yds ( actually 116:5 for Man City), while the 2 Liverpool clubs have relatively small ones. West Ham have by far the smallest pitch @ 110 x 70 yds. We are somewhere in the middle @ 114 x 74 yds. Perhaps the different sized pitches are confusing our "star" striker, the Dutch toe-stubber? I think we should be told..!

    Report this comment

    Timbo

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • .....It could be too many people using too many different names!.....

    Report this comment

    Stew Pydsodd

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

  • .....But can she cook, Steely?.....

    Report this comment

    Stew Pydsodd

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • .....I think Archie is going through a mid life crisis ....could never have expected the volume of comments that are being made at the moment,and the damned machine is suffering from overload!.....

    Report this comment

    Stew Pydsodd

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

  • My wife, a Jill Dando lookalike, would tell you that I am a Cynic in the first degree....

    Report this comment

    Stew Pydsodd

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • .....There is no need to be insulting and call me an Ipsviich mole.....

    Report this comment

    Stew Pydsodd

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • Still can't get my post through on this topic. (Except this one of course). Hey MB, your Norfolk boys sure have got it in for Lincolnshire. End the sanctions now.

    Report this comment

    Lincs Canary

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

  • Yes, well, we're not in the past are we? We are in the present and sport and football have moved on even if some fans have not.

    Report this comment

    Cecil

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • Reply verboten, Fagen. I`ll be back.

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

  • Nothing wrong with Lincolnshire, Lincs. great place. It's just the A17 I can't stand. Oh yeah, and Grantham's most infamous daughter......didn't like her either.

    Report this comment

    User Removed

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

  • Stew & Steely, my late partner looked like Marie Helvin. We were a `Beauty and the Beast` pairing. I think I was regarded as the beast ;-)

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

  • I didn`t know that Steely, but Marie H certainly fits the bill. One of my female colleagues at the brewery referred to my partner as `that spectacular woman`. She wasn`t wrong. I think my poor lady must`ve had bad eyesight and no sense of smell to get together with me! I`m bound to see that other Walter Mitty character around, and we can exchange notes on whether he`s the same one you refer to. sounds a distinct possibility. I had to miss that bus and catch a later one. Excretion was the better part of valour...

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

  • I think anyone who has played competitive sports knows if as a team and an individual you really get yourselves syked up for games ahead of the start, you play much better. When you see them chatting away without a care in the world in the tunnel ahead of the game, you know they are not syked up for it. It should not take employing psychologosts to tell manager and players about getting themselves individually and as a group into the right mindset. One would expect a reasonable manager to instill this.

    Report this comment

    MichiganCanary

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  • Yes, well, in the present our bit of this `sport` has `moved on` to mediocrity and cynical money accumulation. These players are all too happy to be `stars` or `heroes`, but are clearly unhappy about being stellar or heroic. Was there an admonishment in that... `Brew!`... statement, Stew? What did I do wrong this time? I`m just `a soul` whose intentions are good..... Oh Lord, please don`t me be misunderstood.

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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