Meditation beats mind games for Allardyce; In the heat of a battle against relegation, Sam Allardyce uses meditation to alleviate the pressure. Craig Johns reports.
HIS mind games may have been described by Alan Pardew as prehistoric but while Sam Allardyce has always had that 'old school' feel about him, his methods are anything but.
Indeed, when he agreed to take over at the Stadium of Light, he initiated various sports science developments which have significantly improved Sunderland players' fitness - which he had described as previously not being up to the required standard.
If ever there was a man qualified to know exactly what is required of a team fighting at the bottom of the Premier League, it's the man in charge of Sunderland.
Since leading Bolton into the Premier League in 2001, Allardyce has mastered the art of developing sides and moving them away from relegation struggles. But how does he handle the pressure? The answer is yet more proof that Allardyce is anything but prehistoric.
The secret to his relative calmness is transcendental meditation.
The Black Cats manager revealed: "It helps you cope with the pressure you come under in this job.
"It was brought in for the players at Bolton in 2003/04. I was one of these guys who thought I should try it myself to have a better understanding.
"If the players say it is a load of rubbish, I can say I've used it and don't find it like that, so you must be a bit of a non-believer.
"I read the science on it and it gives you a better insight into how it helps to reduce your blood pressure and keeps you calmer.
"How easy it is to carry out 15 minutes, half an hour, you don't need to go into a quiet room with music on.
"You can be anywhere at any time, in a relatively quiet place. It refreshes you and makes you feel good to push on.
"The science behind it proves it actually works if it is done in the right way. It has helped me cope with the pressure of management which is why I still do it today.
"I wouldn't say (I do it) every day because that's not needed. On my day off I didn't need to do it on Wednesday because I was at Chester races! I was relaxed enough for that, but three or four times a week.
"It's all about focusing the mind and focusing on what you particularly want to focus on, and then chilling out. Those who are complete fanatics can go all the way with it, but I am just a moderate user and I find it beneficial. I might be in the office or away from here and I just chill out. I am not a great sleeper so 30 minutes of meditation, they say in research, is as good as two or three hours sleep, which is why you feel a bit better."
Allardyce revealed it is something he uses more often in a season's critical stages. It is not something he's forced upon his players at Sunderland, however.
"There's only so much you want to introduce in one season," he said. "These players are fitter than they have ever been and reduced our injury list dramatically.
"Our changes in the sports science area have made a big difference. We have players available for selection week in and week out.
"When I first started, we didn't have.
"The level of performance was far less than it is now.
"Not everyone will want to do it either and it's not one of those things you force on anyone." The Sunderland boss could have been forgiven for needing a little extra meditation to calm down after his side's lacklustre performance at Stoke City - despite the late equaliser from Jermain Defoe.
Allardyce admitted the performance at the Britannia Stadium was a concern, but is confident that it will be a different story when Chelsea visit the Stadium of Light this weekend.
He said: "It concerned me a great deal.
"I did not expect to see a performance like that.
"I was looking forward to us playing Stoke, based on how we have played since the turn of the year.
"It took me by surprise. "It took me back quickly to some of the performances we gave before the end of December, which concerned me.
"What changed my mind was dogged determination, even though it wasn't going well, to continue to fight until the very end to end up getting a point.
"And even though we didn't play well, the referee took the result away from us in the beginning on two occasions - one by the penalty from (Geoff) Cameron (for handball which wasn't given), and two from the foul (Peter) Crouchy committed on Kaboul (for the goal)."
He continued: "The lads are playing at home and have 47,000 fans who want to shout and scream and help them on Saturday, so that should be a motivation and encouragement to do the same.
"Use the atmosphere and anxiety that they are going to feel - the toilet will be busy before the game - to make you play as best as you can, and use the atmosphere to get your hairs standing up on the back of your neck.
"Say, 'I'm going to run myself into the ground today and if I have to run further and harder than ever, I'm going to do that for the benefit of the team'.
"Then, use your ability to try and beat Chelsea."
TODAY'S TEAM NEWS SAM Allardyce has only one injury doubt as he prepares for today's clash with Chelsea.
Full-back Billy Jones has been hampered by a hip problem and could miss out, although he has not started a game since the beginning of February.
However, Allardyce could make changes after fielding the same side for the last five games and losing only once, but also winning just once. SUNDERLAND (from): Mannone, Pickford, Van Aanholt, Yedlin, O'Shea, Jones, Kone, Kaboul, Brown, Kirchhoff, Cattermole, M'Vila, Khazri, Borini, Rodwell, Toivonen, Larsson, Lens, Defoe, N'Doye, Watmore.
THIBAUT Courtois will be available following his two-match suspension when Chelsea visit Sunderland.
Courtois could displace Asmir Begovic in goal, but Chelsea interim boss Guus Hiddink is not planning wholesale changes to honour the integrity of the competition, as Sunderland battle to avoid relegation.
Striker Loic Remy (groin) and defender Kurt Zouma (knee) are out. CHELSEA (from): Courtois, Begovic, Ivanovic, Fabregas, Rahman, Oscar, Falcao, Hazard, Pato, Mikel, Traore, Kenedy, Pedro, Costa, Miazga, Willian, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Loftus-Cheek, Amelia.
<BSunderland players show the strains of a physically and mentally draining battle against relegation; defying his old school image, Sam Allardyce (right) has stressed the benefits of meditation to his players
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|Publication:||The Journal (Newcastle, England)|
|Date:||May 7, 2016|
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