- What is expected?
I know from first-hand experience what it feels like to have the weight of other people’s expectations on you. It can really play on your mind when you start thinking about what others think of you. It doesn’t give you the confidence to do what you do best, and to do it at your full potential. You’re putting extra pressure on yourself and not necessarily focusing your efforts on doing your best.
What I didn’t understand then, but what I am slowly learning now is that all these pressures can be in the mind. In football, it is really important to listen to what you need to hear about how you can improve. You always have to be open to hearing other people’s opinions. They are going to give them to you if you like it or not. The key is to filter what you need to improve, and to block the stuff that just brings you down. When you begin to realize this, you have so much more to gain and less to worry about.
At Millwall, I was told by my coach that I needed to work on my composure and first touch. This was a moment where I thought “Yep! I need to take this on board and really work on that”.
There is a difference between being arrogant, and being confident. Being confident shows that you believe in your own ability, because at the end of the day, if you don’t believe what you can do, then nobody will. You hear many things about Ronaldo being arrogant, or being in it for himself, but at the end of the day, he is a prime example of who I look up to. Ronaldo backs himself 100% and it is precisely this attitude that has paid off for him.
Believing in what you are capable of leads you to become more consistent and better at what you do. In turn, this leads to becoming a more confident footballer.
- Work ethic
One thing that I’ve learnt throughout my journey is that work ethic is one of the most important attributes that all coaches and clubs look for in a footballer. Work ethic cannot be taught. Skills, drills and fitness can all be worked on, but work ethic comes from within you. Consistently working hard creates the work ethic, and after a while it becomes second nature. Hard work takes you further and further because you consistently prove to yourself what you can achieve.
- Establishes your reputation
Consistency in your approach to all that you do in football; from eating well, getting enough sleep, training hard and smart – it is this work ethic that leads to creating a reputation for yourself. It brings people’s attention to what you are capable of. I strongly believe that working hard will bring opportunities your way.
Holding yourself accountable is a good way of keeping yourself on track. For me, it means setting myself daily goals. What do I want to achieve today? Did I eat well? Did I train hard and well enough? Did I drink enough water?
It is easy to slacken off. To give an example, it is cold and raining so I ask myself “do I go for that run?”. The answer is yes! Not sticking to your goals and not keeping yourself accountable will detract from your progress. At the end of the day, it is only yourself that will get you to where you want to be. There are no shortcuts in anything.