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By ESPN Staff
Sep 5, 2006

Psychologist plotting England's route past minnows

Steve McClaren's sport psychologist believes he can toughen England up for tricky away games like Macedonia.

Bill Beswick has been invited onto McClaren's backroom staff to coach the minds of the players.

The former lecturer and basketball coach insists he can nurture a winning mentality for England by helping the players cope at key moments.

These could come in a penalty shoot-out or when the team travels away to an important qualifier or a big tournament in unfamiliar territory.

Beswick said: 'In international football, nearly all key games for a player will be played away from home and in tournaments.

'In those circumstances, there are so many more opportunities for negatives to affect and influence attitude.

'So I do think, when we look at World Cup and European Championship winners, we find teams who have developed a mental strength.'

Beswick first met McClaren when the psychologist gave a lecture to a group of football youth-team coaches at Lilleshall.

Since then, McClaren has utilised his skills during his time at Derby, Manchester United and Middlesbrough before inviting him into the England set-up.

Beswick added: 'My role is to support Steve McClaren in developing a winning England team by focusing on the mental and emotional strengths that are part and parcel of winning international teams.

'My belief centres around the basis that performance follows attitude. My job is to look at all the elements that create a winning attitude.

'Some of those would include confidence, concentration, emotional control, mental toughness, resilience and so on.'

McClaren believes Beswick's advice can help his players in penalty shoot-out situations - an area where the team need all the help they can get.

England have developed a mental block from 12 yards after losing five out of six shoot-outs since 1990.

McClaren said: 'I feel that the mental side is a big part of the game. I believe that at this elite level sometimes the difference can be about confidence and belief - or even penalties.

'People talk about penalties being a test of mind. I don't want to leave any stone unturned if it can make us more successful.'

Football, for so long accused of looking backwards, has embraced sports science in recent years and Beswick is no Eileen Drewery.

Faith-healer Drewery became a figure of fun during Glenn Hoddle's reign as England boss.

Beswick, in contrast, is respected in the sport and has found modern footballers increasingly open to his ideas.

Beswick said: 'There is a difference now in today's elite players from those of the past.

'These players will willingly grasp any opportunity to build and develop their game.

'If they see me as someone who can help they will make full use of me.'