Motivation, Motivation, Motivation.

Last updated : 27 May 2009 By Fire and Skill
During and after Sunday’s terrific win at Tannadice, many of us were asking ourselves and each other: “why can’t we play like that every game?” It really is one of those quandaries which bedevils football clubs the world over; how to be as consistently good as you are capable of being?

The appetite our players showed in most of most of the final games of the season was quite simply second to none, and exactly what we needed. But why can’t they seem to do the same in September, in December and in March?

Looking at Sunday’s game specifically, it was all set-up. Rangers needed to win (using the assumption that Celtic might well beat Hearts). At the same time, Dundee United needed a point to secure Europa football – a very important prize for a club of their size. In other words, everybody had all the motivation they needed to go the extra mile. Taking the assertion forward that motivating factors were present in everyone, then the difference between the teams would surely be down to the remaining key factors in team sport; mentality, physical strength and skill. And so, the only team of the two assembled at the cost of tens of millions of pounds, collectively paid several million more each year, and enjoying the best of facilities in which to prepare for each match should win out in the end. And that is exactly what happened.

I accept this is not a new problem. We’ve all seen with our own eyes and heard with our own ears the failure of football players to get motivated for ‘smaller’ games. In fact, as supporters, most of us are guilty of the same thing. That’s why you get a great atmosphere sometimes, and a poor one at others. Yet we ask that the players transcend the motivation issue. Is this fair?

It is well documented in literature than money is not, in itself, a motivating factor for most people. For most of us once we have agreed to take a job, we expect our wage as an entitlement. If we don’t get paid it will be a major issue, but the wage itself doesn’t make us work any harder on a given day. Our motivation needs to come from somewhere else. We might think this shouldn’t apply to footballers, but if we think back we realise it is 100% clear that it does. Time and time again a smaller & less-capable team raises its game against Rangers, and it’s not that unusual for points to be lost, especially away from home. I accept that tactics, formation and the failure to optimally perform individually and collectively are also in play here, but the line of argument focuses on motivation; it is surely the key.

If Rangers can unlock the seemingly-eternal question of how to motivate a squad of professional footballers over the course of a season then, given the resources at our disposal, we can pick up the points on our travels and retain our title. We certainly need to avoid some of the dips we have seen this season and in recent years. I wish I knew what the answer was, but more than that, I hope our management team knows.

We want 53!