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League Two

Sammy McIlroy's Blog 3

5 September 2012

After four years away from the town, Rotherham United fans are turning out in their droves to cheer on the Millers at the New York Stadium, and what a sight to behold they are. To pack over 11,000 into the ground for their first two npower League 2 home matches is seriously impressive. The place is buzzing.

Although it seems to be working in the team's favour at the moment with two thumping victories to celebrate, I do wonder if it will continue to be such a help, or turn into a bit of a hindrance. Big crowds mean big pressure, and when expectations are sky high it's not so easy to produce your best stuff.

Looking at the players Steve Evans has, I still make them favourites to win the title, but they'll experience some tense, anxious moments this season with a huge and expectant following watching on. Don't get me wrong, it's lovely to play in front of a full house but when things aren't going to plan it can have a different kind of effect. It will be fascinating to see how they cope.

Bristol Rovers are another big club at this level who need to do the business, and manager Mark McGhee was clearly furious with his men for slumping to a 3-0 defeat at home to Morecambe at the weekend.

A week earlier, they had been leading Wycombe Wanderers 3-1 before the heavens opened, so I wonder if that abandonment played on their minds. If I'd been playing, it would have upset me and I'd have been choked to have missed out on three precious away points, but you just can't afford to let it get to you.

McGhee made his players watch the video straight after the match, such was his fury, and I must confess that I too have done that in the past when I felt the team had let me down.

Is it the right thing to do? Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. I have seen it backfire as players don't always need to see 90 painful minutes all over again. Mentally it can hurt to have a poor performance replayed to you, so it's a delicate balancing act.

I fully understand the frustration and can see the logic in pointing out mistakes but managers do tread a fine line. A 3-0 home defeat to Yeovil Town in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy on Tuesday might indicate it didn't have the desired effect this time for the Pirates.

I'm not sure what Paul Tisdale did to pick his players up from their own 3-0 loss to Morecambe on the opening day but they seem to have banished those memories with three impressive wins since.

The Grecians boss admitted that defeat was damaging, and I bet it was. Losing like that in your first game is sure to sting you. Luckily for them, the players haven't sulked about it, and appear to have put it well behind them. It's hard not to fancy the Devon side to be right up there this year.

One team I felt sorry for this week were Northampton Town, who had less than 48 hours to recover from a Capital One Cup clash against Wolverhampton Wanderers before kicking off at Plymouth Argyle in npower League 2 on Saturday. That scheduling was tough on them.

Physically, the players may have felt OK, but people forget that the mental exertions of matches can also get to you. One minute they're up against a Championship club trying to take a scalp with adrenalin flowing through their bodies, the next they're trotting out at Home Park for another game. Personally, I feel you need longer than they had to recuperate properly, especially inside your mind.

I did note that Aidy Boothroyd took his squad to a cryogenic ice chamber on Friday morning for a four-minute recovery session but that wasn't ever likely to provide a miraculous cure.

Back in the 1970's when I was a Manchester United player, Tommy Docherty used to take us to the Derby Baths in Blackpool for recovery sessions in an ice cold plunge pool - so it's not a new phenomenon - but I always felt it helped your mind as much as your muscles.

Yes, the cold temperatures help your muscles and fibres but it's the psychological feeling that you've done something worthwhile that is just as important. Players can't complain about tiredness after you've gone to the effort of making them sit in an ice bath can they? If footballers believe they have recovered properly you've won half the battle.

At Morecambe, we couldn't afford to use outside facilities so we'd fill black dustbins with ice and make the lads jump in them for a minute at a time. I dipped my toe in but that was enough for me.


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