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18th Jun 2019

The team talks that inspired the greatest comebacks in sporting history


McVitie’s and Mind are encouraging the nation to get together over and biscuit and a cuppa and get talking. To find out more click here

When the chips are down, sometimes it takes something as simple as a word of encouragement to bring you around. We all know how the power of talking and making a connection can change the course of sporting history. Whether it’s a half-time team talk or some timely and inspirational words of wisdom from a family member, the right words from the right person can change everything.

Over the years, the world of sport has seen this power manifest on the biggest stages, and here is a selection of the team talks that inspired the greatest comebacks in sporting history.

Steven Gerrard, 2005 Champions League final

With good reason, Istanbul 2005 is the stuff of legend for all connected with Liverpool Football Club.

3-0 down to AC Milan by half-time in the Champions League final, few – if any at all – would’ve given Rafa Benitez’s side a prayer of salvaging the game.

Not captain Steven Gerrard, however. Before kick-starting a miraculous turnaround by glancing home Liverpool’s first goal of the night, it was his words at the interval that helped inspire his teammates to glory.

“I will never forget Steven Gerrard’s team-talk at half-time during the 2005 Champions League final,” teammate Djibril Cisse recalled in an interview given to RMC Sport last year.

“Stevie gets up and says that Liverpool is all he has, it is his club, all he has ever known and he does not want to be the laughing stock of the history of the Champions League.

“He says that if we respect him and love him as a captain, then we need to dust ourselves off and get back in the match.

“He scores the first goal, he gets the penalty. He has an extraordinary second half, finishing the game as a right-back. He has a crazy match – but that half-time speech will remain imprinted in my mind forever.”

After levelling the game at 3-3, Liverpool went on to beat Milan on penalties, securing the club’s fifth European Cup.

Bill Belichick, Super Bowl LI

By half-time of Super Bowl LI, the New England Patriots were 21-3 down to the Atlanta Falcons and appeared almost certain to be heading towards a Super Bowl defeat in Houston.

Step forward Bill Belichick, who, refusing to panic, calmed his players, dissected what had unfolded in the first half and set about explaining how they were going to overturn the deficit.

Despite the enormity of the occasion and what appeared to be a slim chance of overturning the scoreline, Belichick’s calming words re-focused his players’ minds on the job at hand.

Though the Falcons stretched their lead to 25 points in the third quarter, Belichick’s cool-headed approach at the interval encouraged the Patriots to remain positive. This, along with Tom Brady’s on-field leadership, helped inspire them to pull it back to 28-28 by the end of the fourth, going on to win the contest in overtime.

Jose Maria Olazabal, 2012 Ryder Cup

Trailing 10-4 to the Americans at one stage on the Saturday, Europe’s chances of lifting the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah looked all but over.

They were not.

Fired up by a Saturday night speech from captain Jose Maria Olazabal, in which he urged each member of his team to “go out there and live as if it’s your last day”, Europe clawed their way back into the contest.

After levelling at 10-10 the next morning, Justin Rose, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer and Francesco Molinari secured the necessary 4.5 points to not just retain the trophy, but win it outright.

“We sat there in awe,” Rory McIlroy said of Olazabal’s words in The Players’ Tribune. “Nervous energy was replaced with adrenaline. We were fired up. Something big was happening.”

Bethany Hamilton

Few comeback stories from the world of sport are quite as inspiring as the one involving surfer Bethany Hamilton.

As a 13-year-old, Hamilton was attacked by a shark while surfing in her native Hawaii. Though she lost her left arm (and approximately 60% of the blood in her body) as a result of the attack, she managed to return to a surf board within a month.

Incredibly, a year later, Hamilton competed in and won the NSSA Nationals Surfing Championship, earning her first national title as an amputee.

Conversations with and support from her parents – particularly her father – were crucial in her decision to make a return.

“My dad was really encouraging,” she recalled in an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 2014. “He even came up with a handle on my surfboard so I could duck dive and push myself under the waves.

Sir Alex Ferguson, 1999 Champions League final

At half-time in the 1999 Champions League final, Manchester United – chasing a historic Treble – were trailing Bayern Munich by Mario Basler’s early free-kick.

His team returning to the Nou Camp dressing room, Sir Alex Ferguson delivered one of his most famous team talks, encouraging his players to give one final push to seize glory.

“At the end of this game, the European Cup will be only six feet away from you, and you’ll not even able to touch it if we lose,” he warned the United players. “For many of you, that will be the closest you will ever get. Don’t you dare come back in here without giving your all.”

Though by no means at their best that night, these words were enough to drive United on until the final minutes, securing a 2-1 win in emphatic fashion with two goals in stoppage time.