Sir Dave Brailsford says he'd consider move into football

British Cycling and Sky supremo adds that players can learn to contol inner chimp as well as the ball

by Simon_MacMichael   March 20, 2013  

Dave Brailsford and Roberto Mancini (copyright Getty Images)

British Cycling performance director and Sky team principal Sir Dave Brailsford has said that he might consider a move into football, and believes that techniques that have helped the country’s cyclists find success could translate to the soccer pitch.

Brailsford, speaking at the Advertising Week Conference in London earlier this week, said "Football is something I would look at," and singled out Everton manager David Moyes as someone who "does an unbelievably good job," reports

The prospect of such a move on Brailsford’s part inevitably gives rise to thoughts of another sporting knight, Sir Clive Woodward.

Two years after leading England to victory in the Rugby World Cup in 2003, Woodward joined Southampton FC as its performance director and was subsequently made director of football. Things didn’t go well, however, and he was out within a year.

Subsequently, Woodward became director of elite performance for the British Olympic Association, a post he left last October.

Brailsford, who was born in Derbyshire but grew up in Wales, outlined how psychological techniques used by British Cycling, including overcoming the infamous “inner chimp,” could also help the England football team overcome their unfortunate habit of exiting major tournaments after losing penalty shootouts.

"In sport people talk about the zone, switch off the frontal lobe, emotional engagement," he explained.  "Switch off the chimp. Penalty kicks are a great example [where] silencing the chimp would be beneficial."

While British Cycling is on good terms with neighbours Manchester City – manager Roberto Mancini visited the velodrome last year to swap advice with Brailsford and this Friday, the two organisations team up for a 24 hour charity cycling event, Velocity – Brailsford looked to the red half of Manchester for an example of a coach who gets it right.

Referring to Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, the most successful manager in English football history, he said: "You never read about conflict like you do with most other managers and clubs."

Presumably, the British Cycling supremo was otherwise engaged and missed the blanket media coverage when two of the club’s biggest stars of recent years, David Beckham and Roy Keane, left after reportedly falling out with the manager.

Brailsford said he was impressed by Ferguson’s “drive and ability to manage people,” adding that “his knack is to retain total control about what goes on at that club."

Inevitably, given the sport he operates in, Brailsford was asked about doping, and he compared the path taken by some to the one that outside sport sees people progress from soft drugs to harder ones.

"To me [riders who doped] are not bad people as such," he maintained. "It is similar to someone having their first joint and then moving onto ecstasy or whatever. Then the next thing you know it is everyone on crack cocaine."

13 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Delusions of Grandeur?


antonio's picture

posted by antonio [1081 posts]
20th March 2013 - 16:10

1 Like

"Presumably, the British Cycling supremo was otherwise engaged and missed the blanket media coverage when two of the club’s biggest stars of recent years, David Beckham and Roy Keane, left after reportedly falling out with the manager."
I think Brailsford was right. There was little to no conflict. No matter how big a star they thought they were, they were out, not Ferguson. It was the same with Brian Clough.

posted by pwake [347 posts]
20th March 2013 - 20:40

1 Like

Little or no conflict? Ferguson cut Beckham's head when he threw a boot across the dressing room at him, while Keane left after a massive row.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4182 posts]
20th March 2013 - 20:58


maybe he has delusions of grandeur, but I think the FA have already approached him!

posted by Alastair Norton [12 posts]
20th March 2013 - 21:09

1 Like

Can we not get him to run for PM? Department of Getting the job done.

posted by Doug Hall [1 posts]
20th March 2013 - 21:45


I'm riding in the velocity event on Friday night, despite never having ridden on the track before(!) think I might have to give my inner chimp a bash over the head beforehand...

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice...

posted by notfastenough [3631 posts]
20th March 2013 - 21:47

1 Like

@ tony_farrelly: Didn't quite make it to the end of the post did we?

Zombie Cucumber's picture

posted by Zombie Cucumber [1 posts]
20th March 2013 - 22:26


@Zombie Cucumber er, yes we did?

Our story pointed out that there had been conflict at Man Utd and that Brailsford seemed to have forgotten that fact, Pwake agreed with Sir Dave and said there hadn't. I supplied a couple of examples.

Maybe Sir Dave was confusing lack of conflict with the manager getting his own way - and Man U these days being very good at making sure news of any rows doesn't get out. The manager obviously gets his own way at Man Utd because no star is bigger than him and if anyone threatens to get too big for his boots he's out. In an interview earlier this year Brailsford said he'd asked Ferguson what was the secret to constantly having to re-build a successful team Ferguson's reported response was "get rid of the c**ts". That doesn't suggest lack of conflict it simply suggests that when there is conflict the power is all on one side.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4182 posts]
20th March 2013 - 23:59

1 Like

Can't help recalling Woodward's training Southampton, and telling professional footballers how to kick a ball.

From a coaching point of view, footie is a different and more multifaceted team ethic and dynamic to cycling. It has different individual skills and needs in terms of physical and psychological preparation. When to attack, when to press, when to go expansive or stay compact, how to back up or link up with my teammates - with respect, I suspect Brailsford doesn't have much of clue what's going through a footballer's head before, during and after a game.

I'd love Brailsford for an hour or so at the end of the week if it got me off the training ground doing sprints. But ultimately, it'd be 20 blokes wanting to tell him to take his inner chimp and do some rude things with it (West Ham have a song along these lines), so we can slope off home.

posted by Argos74 [327 posts]
21st March 2013 - 7:57

1 Like

The sports psychologist who went to athletics might well be useful to the England football team but there's no guarantee his input would help solve the penalty problem. That depends on regular practice from a young age (so that your technical foundation is so solid you can deal with nerves) and from my experience of watching girls' academy coaching that's not going to happen because in 4 years I never saw them practice penalties once. I've no idea if the boys' ones are any better but I doubt it.

Not sure Brailsford dealt with the Victoria Pendleton situation very well either! Cycling is a sport with very little serious international competition compared to football, so success in it doesn't prove that much. Even Man U haven't been very successful in the Champion's League in spite of their money and access to the competition. But it is possible for a country with little history of success to make it as Spain have shown and Spain had a worse history in penalty shootouts than we did. In fact Spain is the only country we've ever defeated on penalties. The solution is lots and lots of well-qualified coaches at all levels, thousands of them. That is what Spain has that gives them an edge in football and it's probably what gives British cycling its edge rather than any one individual.

posted by Alan Tullett [1513 posts]
21st March 2013 - 12:31

1 Like

What do you mean by 'the penalty problem' Alan? Is this when you don't know whether to throw yourself on the floor and claim a penalty or try and shoot for goal Wink

posted by SideBurn [906 posts]
21st March 2013 - 12:48


Alan Tullett wrote:
The solution is lots and lots of well-qualified coaches at all levels, thousands of them. That is what Spain has that gives them an edge in football

That, and a Government sponsored doping programme that makes US Postal look like an old granny knocking out Werther's Originals.

posted by farrell [1746 posts]
21st March 2013 - 14:13

1 Like

I think Brailsford need to talk to his 'inner chump' and just say no. Marginal gains for track and road racing is a little more quantifiable than heading the ball into the net and having Dr Steve Peters Vulcan mind melding the nervous types only works if the athletes have enough brain to work with in the first place... "My mind to your mind... My thoughts to Hello..?" Big Grin

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1124 posts]
21st March 2013 - 14:26

1 Like