Sam Allardyce calls on psychologist to rid Crystal Palace of Selhurst fears

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Sam Allardyce calls on psychologist to rid Crystal Palace of Selhurst fears” was written by Paul MacInnes, for The Guardian on Friday 10th February 2017 22.41 UTC

Sam Allardyce has hired a sports psychologist to help his Crystal Palace players overcome the fear they experience when playing at Selhurst Park.

Lee Richardson, a psychologist who was also a professional footballer and a former manager of Chesterfield, has been brought in to consult individually with the squad as they fight to avoid relegation from the Premier League.

Palace travel to Stoke on Saturday having won only two league games since September and are 19th place in the table. “I’ve employed Lee Richardson, because I do feel we’ve got to try to help the lads focus mentally,” Allardyce said. “If we can do that, then they will perform better because when you play at this level your mind has got to work in an efficient way.

“At the moment, with the fear we’ve got at home, they’re losing their concentration when they should be focused. If they’re not responding to the psychologist, then they’re not helping themselves because these guys are superbly trained to allow you to function better on the field.”

Sports psychology is not new to Palace; the former manager Alan Pardew employed the former England cricketer Jeremy Snape in that role. Neither is it new to Allardyce, who has embraced sports science in his career as a manager. He made clear he hopes Richardson’s interventions will prove instrumental over the coming months.

“Looking at our home results for many months, there’s an underlying deep problem that we’ve got to try to work out and get rid of. What better than a man more qualified than me,” Allardyce said.

“I’ve been using them since 1999. The coping skills I got taught by psychologists since becoming a Premier League manager is the reason I’m still here and why I can sit back and deal with the pressure in this particular situation.”

Palace are certainly under pressure. Their 4-0 defeat against Sunderland at Selhurst Park, where they have taken seven points from 12 games this season, led to the chairman, Steve Parish, addressing the players in the dressing room after the match. Allardyce confirmed he had been “fine” with the intervention and he had made the players report for training at 7am the following day. He has been pleased with the players’ response.

“What the chairman said is a behind-closed-doors scenario,” Allardyce said. “That was him releasing his frustration on the basis he’s a Crystal Palace fan and he wanted to talk to the players. It was fine by me. We addressed the situation, one with the chairman, two with me on the Sunday morning and then that was it, it was nailed. We covered everything we needed to cover, we spoke deeply about it. They had Monday off to reflect and then on Tuesday we started to build for this very important game at Stoke City.

“I think the players’ reaction this week, especially in training, has been exceptionally good but it’s something we don’t want to do again. I don’t want to bring them in at seven on a Sunday.

“I thought we’d turned a corner [in the 2-0 win] at Bournemouth, because out of possession Bournemouth probably could have played for two days and didn’t look like scoring. Against Sunderland it was the same players but it looked like different teams.”

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