The subject of confidence has been exercising me of late (not that I should complain; after all, it’s been the only exercise I’ve had for a while). Specifically, I’ve been wondering how much confidence I’d like our two children to have as they grow up.
Of course, I want them to feel secure in themselves, capable of giving new things a go and sure enough of their opinions to speak up. At the very least, I don’t want them to suffer the self-doubt and social detachment which has often held me back (I thought about starting a support group for fellow sufferers, but I feared no one would come).
On the other hand, I don’t want them to be over-confident to the point of cockiness. Or delusion, come to that. Think of all those contestants who humiliate themselves on TV talent shows because their parents have always told them they’re brilliant when in truth they’re some way off that.
Talking of talent shows, I find Piers Morgan a problematic figure in this context. Despite having no experience or knowledge of performing, he has no problem with voicing his opinion and giving his advice on Britain’s Got Talent. And, even more inexplicably (or ‘less explicably’? Damn these doubts…) on America’s Got Talent. Do they have any idea who he is?
I can’t decide whether to admire his brass neck or deride it. And the same goes for those politicians from privileged backgrounds (*cough*… David Cameron…) who are not inhibited in the least by their lack of personal experience of how most people live.
For the majority, I suspect, confidence is not a permanent and unchanging characteristic; it is fragile, elusive and can vanish as suddenly as it appears. Like a will-o’-the-wisp. Or the flame of a candle. Or, since this is supposed to be a football column, Luke Chadwick.
I certainly found that to be the case in the advertising world. It’s described by Joshua Ferris in his brilliant novel ‘And Then We Came to the End’; one minute, you believe that you can do anything: “We made you want anything that anyone willing to pay us wanted you to want. We were hired guns of the human soul. We pulled the strings on the people across the land and by god they got to their feet and they danced for us.”
The next minute, you’re racked with insecurities: “How could we understand our failure as anything but an indictment of us as benighted, disconnected frauds? We were unhip, off-brand. We had no clue how to tap basic human desire.”
And confidence can come and go just as suddenly and inexplicably in football. When it disappears and can’t be summoned back by will or effort (how often have we heard desperate managers say, “We’ll just have to keep working hard on the training ground to turn things around”?), it’s horrible.
But when it materialises from nowhere, it’s fantastic. In fact, it’s akin to magic. I experienced it a few times in my less-than-illustrious Sunday football career, and that feeling that everything had ‘clicked’ and we were capable of beating anyone was one of the very best things about playing. And it wasn’t just a Sunday thing; the tingly feeling would last all week. We couldn’t wait for the next game.
Such periods have to be savoured when they arrive. And I think we all know we’re in the middle of one of those periods at Carrow Road at the moment. There’s a belief in the team that they are going to win, even when not at the top of their game. We can sense it in the stands – and you can bet that the opposition sense it (confidence – even false confidence on occasions – brings success not just because of the way you feel, but because of the way other people react to it).
There’s no fear about what the other side might do. There was a hand-painted sign at a mini-roundabout in Paulton last Saturday that warned City to ‘be very afred’, but there were no nerves at all on the pitch. We took the game to Leeds at Elland Road – and even though we ended up losing, the defeat was shrugged off in the games that followed.
City’s current confidence is not entirely inexplicable; Paul Lambert and Ian Culverhouse have to take the lion’s share of the plaudits. I don’t know exactly how they’ve instilled the confidence in the players – perhaps the famous Barry could give Neil Adams another ring on Canary Call to ask what they dew in traynun – but I’d guess it’s largely down to giving them a system which works. The confidence then takes care of itself.
At the moment, the biggest danger to guard against is the over-confidence I mentioned earlier. I’m sure the management team are aware of this – but I wonder whether the 7-1 defeat on the opening day of the season, which still gets brought up by the media and by rival fans, also helps to stop the players getting too full of themselves.
That match looks more like a blessing in a very convincing disguise every week.
And finally… as I mentioned in my last column, I took my five-year-old daughter to her first game the other week: Swindon at home. I’m pleased to report that she loved it; the colouring books remained in the bag throughout and she even joined in with some of the songs, though she was puzzled by the singing of ‘Hurrah, we’ve scored a goal’ when the score was still 0-0.
She had lots of questions during the course of the game – including the inevitable one…
Me: Oh, the flag’s up.
Her: What does that mean?
Me: It means he’s offside.
Her: What’s ‘offside’?
Me: Well, it’s when… tell you what, ask Mum when we get home.
Her: Why, don’t you know?
Me: Of course I know. It’ll just be more entertaining listening to her trying to explain it.