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17th Dec 2015

Mark Chapman: Does football have a patience problem?

Mark Chapman

‘Failure is not an option’ is one of those quotes that I imagine sports psychologists like to use.

It has probably been put up in dressing rooms over recent years by so called ‘forward thinking’ coaches. Increasingly though it could well describe the world we live in when it comes football and a few other sports as well.

Garry Monk lost his Swansea job after a run of 1 win in 12 games. Of course last season he guided them to their highest ever number of points in the Premier League, but that wasn’t enough to save him.

A title last season has not been enough to save Jose Mourinho given where Chelsea are in the league this time around. Yes, you may point to a lot of other stuff that has swirled around him this season, but if they were 3rd and not just above the relegation zone, there would be no discussions about extenuating circumstances.

Have we now reached the stage where one bad run is not an option. Despite experience, despite previous success, it is all about the here and now.

I have often had this conversation with Mike Costello, the sensational 5live boxing commentator and Steve Bunce who is just sensational on all things boxing. We have discussed numerous fighters where it has felt like they weren’t allowed to lose, that if they suffered a defeat and had a 1 in their loss column as opposed to a 0, it could dramatically alter their career.

It certainly felt more forgiving, if boxing can ever be called forgiving, in the last century. Was it more about the fight and the fighters rather than their records. Muhammad Ali lost 5 fights in his career and it doesn’t seem to have harmed how history views him!

One of the reasons I started thinking about how we view failure or a lack of success or a poor run came when I was looking at the England cricket squad currently touring South Africa.

The majority of them have at some point been dropped by England and told to go away and work on their game. Anderson, Compton, Bairstow, Ballance, Finn, Taylor, Stokes, Woakes and even golden bat Joe Root have had their time out of the side. Jos Buttler is another who at the moment is in the squad but unlikely to be in the Test XI due to a lack of form with the bat in the longest form of the game.

Not a single one of them is a bad player. They are all international cricketers. They might have been struggling mentally at one point or with technique and have needed a break or needed to go and work on something but they have fought their way back. They have not been discarded.


One man in that squad should be held up to other sports as what can happen when you show a bit of faith, give someone a bit of time. Alastair Cook has played in 120 consecutive Tests for England. Only Allan Border has had a longer run in history, playing 153 consecutive Tests.

There have been umpteen calls for Cook to be dropped over the years when he has been in a fallow period. And yet every single time he has fought back and proved his doubters wrong.

As he began this Test run in 2006 it is understandable, when you think about it, that he has had the odd shaky time. But he is talented, stubborn and determined and that combination more often than not will win out over a loss of form.


Over the coming months there will be more men and women struggling at the highest level in the world of sport. They didn’t get to that highest level by being bad. There will be a multitude of reasons for why things aren’t going right for them.

They will need patience and support to get them through their bad spells, not a rush to dispense with their services or downgrade their careers.