Five-time World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan believes that psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters will be vital to England’s hopes of success at the football World Cup in Brazil.
Peters has worked with a variety of athletes including cyclists Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton, and guided O’Sullivan to a new level of maturity on and off the snooker table, which helped the Rocket capture a haul of trophies including the World Championship crown in 2012 and 2013.
England’s World Cup campiagn starts on Saturday night against Italy, and O’Sullivan has no doubt about the importance of Peters’ role.
“The first thing we should say about Dr Steve Peters is that he is a great guy,” said O’Sullivan in an exclusive interview with Eurosport. “He is such a lovely man, but he is not sitting alongside Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers during Premier League matches as a football fan.
“He is not a key part of Roy Hodgson’s staff for this World Cup because he is an England fan. He is a very skilled individual who gets professional sport, professional sportspeople and he gets the pressures and demands of sport at the very highest level.
“Although some of the guys in the England squad haven’t had huge amounts of time with him, he will have a big impact in Brazil. He was working quite intensely with the Liverpool squad during a terrific season, but has had a positive impact with his words of wisdom.
“It takes quite a while to get your head around and buy into the work he is doing, but the advantage of having Steve on your side is that, when you sit down and listen to him, a few light bulbs go off in your head.
“You feel good about yourself. I think he will have a really positive effect on players like Wayne Rooney, who I note is keen to benefit from Steve. For Wayne, the penny will drop when he listens to Steve but all the players will understand themselves a bit more. When you get your mental attitude right, it is a case of staying on track and reinforcing into your head what Steve is saying.
“It becomes a skill to maintain those positive thoughts after the initial euphoria of working with him. He is with the England camp so the players can go to him after training, between games… whenever they like really to benefit from him. It didn’t do Liverpool any harm this season, did it? And it won’t do England any harm if the squad buy into it. It is all a bonus for the Liverpool lads in the squad because they are used to Steve. Fair enough, it might not win them the World Cup, but if they feel good about themselves and feel like winners going into these matches, it might make the difference between a point or two. And a point or two could make the difference in them getting out of a tight section ahead of Italy and Uruguay. You have to understand the mind, and how we all react to certain situations in different ways. Not just in sport. He will really help make England’s players feel better about themselves by just being there.
“The World Cup can be quite long for football players. There is a risk that the pressure can affect them between games. They have two weeks before the tournament then at least a few weeks together in Brazil.There is a risk of cabin fever, but I think that is where Steve will come in. He will understand that. He will give the players ways to deal and cope with that. It is not so much that they will be ‘bored’, but when you are away for 17 days or a month you have to deal with the pressure when you are not playing. When you can deal with that pressure when you are not playing, you can actually enjoy yourself.
“Some people seem to be natural at coping with pressure. I remember reading about the great Italian player Andrea Pirlo speaking about how he relaxed before the 2006 World Cup final. He said he was playing the PlayStation and got a great sleep in the afternoon before going out at night to help his country win the World Cup.You can never underestimate the importance of a settled mind. When I was in Sheffield at the World Championship this year, I had a great time. I wasn’t playing as well on the table as I had the previous two years, but I wasn’t stressing out between matches. I was switching off between the games enjoying my training, my food and my practice, then it was back down to business for the matches.
“That is the skill Steve will bring to England. The playing bit is easy really for the England players because you are out there, you are proud to be giving your all for the country and you get caught up in the moment.You are switched on, and are playing to win. You do your best, but when you come off the pitch you get time to think.You can worry and think ‘I should do this or that’, but if you manage those emotions well it makes such a difference to your performance.
“It then becomes easy for sportsmen to go out and express themselves, and it becomes less of an issue. I hope and think Steve’s presence will allow the England squad to really enjoy their football at these finals.”