Sixteen years as a top level pro would be perceived by most as having reached the ultimate goal; the stuff of dreams; real-life Roy of the Rovers.
Not for Paul McVeigh.
Macca, as we now know him thanks to his BBC Radio Norfolk double-act with Rob Butler, used his retirement from top level football as a springboard. An opportunity to explore and achieve all the dreams, ambitions and goals that had been unobtainable while living life in the bubble that is professional football.
Inspired by the psychological techniques that he’d honed over the years, and refined thanks to working closely with his mentor Gavin Drake, Paul has already ticked off several things from his ‘bucket list’. These include running a marathon, jumping out of an aeroplane, cycling from London to Belfast, a bungee jump, keynote speaking, starting a company and writing a book.
The book in question, which has recently been published, is entitled The Stupid Footballer is Dead.
It examines Paul’s footballing journey via the aforementioned thought processing techniques and is spiced with sporting anecdotes throughout – many of them from his time at Carrow Road. Initially aimed at those who aspired to make the grade in the professional game, it gradually morphed into a fascinating guide to the mental side of performance.
While related specifically to football in the book, Macca explains that it can be equally applied to other sports or, in fact, any career or situation. “Once you have ‘trained’ your brain to process in this way it can be used to improve your performance across life in general, whether that be playing football, mountaineering or starting a new job”.
In an interview with MyFootballWriter, Paul explains that within top level sport the psychology aspect is the one area that is yet to fully explored, especially in football. “Data produced by the FA showed that just two professional clubs employ full-time sports psychologists, which is astonishing given the benefits it can provide to a top-level sportsman. All other areas such as nutrition, sports science and data-analysis form a massive part of football these days and have really been exhausted to death. The one area left is the psychology of the mind and while it’s only just hitting the radar I expect, by 2020, this to form an integral part of every club, with full-time professionals employed across the board”.
Macca acknowledges that while he benefitted massively from employing these techniques throughout his career, others in the pro game are less willing to embrace its benefits. “In many cases, lads make it to the top level in spite of their mentality, not because of it. These same players however often find themselves ‘standing still’, with their longevity in the game often compromised because of their unwillingness to develop the mental side of things. Pure talent alone is not enough to succeed”.
In terms of those who influenced him most on the pitch he cites Teddy Sheringham and Gianfranco Zola, both of whom allied a positive mental attitude and an unquenchable desire to improve with their God given natural talent. “Teddy was a legend. I made my league debut for Spurs playing alongside him and as a youngster tried to model my style of play on his. When Zola came to English football, given that he was of a similar stature to me, I then further adapted my style of play to replicate his. I was lucky enough to chat with him one day and he explained that there was no magic formula… it just came down to practise, practise and more practise.”
One of the aforementioned goals that Macca has achieved is to form a company, which he has done in partnership with his mentor, Gavin Drake. ThinkPRO was created by them with a view to use their knowledge of top level sport and sports psychology to improve the performance and success levels of serious amateurs and top level professionals.
The book provides fascinating insights into the mindset of managers that Paul has played under, in particular Nigel Worthington and Paul Lambert – the latter of whom tellingly described his single aim in the game as ‘to win trophies’.
Others who feature are Craig Bellamy, Darren Huckerby, Malky MacKay and Robert Green; all of whom have been on the McVeigh radar for a variety of reasons – some good, some not so good. The story of Malky giving a young McVeigh a ‘rough ride’ in the early days will be of particular interest to the Yellow Army.
All in all the book provides a fascinating and ‘out of the norm’ insight into the mind of a City ‘hall of famer’ and, as well as highlighting the benefits of positive thinking, tells an intriguing story that includes a first-hand view of a troubled Belfast of the mid-eighties.
The Stupid Footballer is Dead is published by Bloomsbury. Signed and personalised copies of the book can be ordered from www.paulmcveigh.co.uk/author