Tony Mowbray's attempt to inspire West Bromwich Albion back into the Premiership will involve supplying his players with philosophical quotations from figures as varied as Muhammad Ali and Abraham Lincoln.
Mowbray (above), whose first match in charge of Albion will be at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday, plans to use psychology, as well as sheer hard work on the training pitch, to ensure that his team reach their full potential.
He signed a 12-month rolling contract yesterday after leaving Hibernian and has installed Mark Venus, the former Wolves player, as his assistant. With Albion sitting comfortably in third place in the Coca-Cola Championship and playing well, Mowbray only needs to maintain the momentum.
Mowbray gained a reputation in Edinburgh for being a deep thinker — he reads and analyses books constantly — and he would often pin quotations on the dressing-room wall to extract certain reactions from his players.
One quote from Muhammad Ali, the former world heavyweight boxing champion, inspired the Hibernian players and is sure to do so when Albion begin training under Mowbray today.
Ali famously said: "The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses; behind the lines, in the gym and out there on the road — long before I dance under those lights."
Mowbray likes the quote because, he says, it emphasises the need for his Albion players to do their real work on the training pitch, away from curious eyes.
"I read a lot," Mowbray said. "And whenever I come across something that inspires me, or something that I can pass on to my players, I will use it. That Muhammad Ali quote is exactly the kind of attitude I want in our training sessions, because it is so true. Hard work in training is essential.
"There is also a quotation from Abraham Lincoln where he talks about cutting down a tree. It might take eight hours to chop the tree, but seven of those should be spent sharpening the knife.
"I always like to introduce these things; you know, sayings, funny things — things that will make the players think.
"Every new manager has got his own ideas and I have dropped a couple in already but I will not be changing much. You ease your way into a football club and do not disrupt things.
"I am looking for the right response but the talent is definitely there. They are more than capable of being very competitive at the top end of the table. I have to give Bryan Robson [Mowbray's predecessor at Albion] great credit for putting together this group of players."
When Mowbray arrived at The Hawthorns yesterday afternoon, a handful of supporters gathered around to shake his hand. He also attracted the flash lights of photographers as he began his new job.
The contrasts with his life as manager of Hibernian were striking. "When I realise how good the training facilities are at West Brom," Mowbray said, "I think about not even
having a training ground with Hibs. Often, we had to book a school pitch at short notice."
Robson left The Hawthorns "by mutual consent" on September 18 and was replaced by Mowbray six days ago. The new manager watched Albion's matches away to Ipswich Town last Saturday and away to Crystal Palace two days ago.
Although not officially in charge of the team, Mowbray was involved in a small way. He has already spoken to the Albion players and plans to have meetings with each individual over the course of the next few weeks.
"I have looked at the squad of players already at this club and it is an opportunity I am very excited about," Mowbray said. "I have watched Albion’s past two matches and to win 5-1 at Ipswich Town is some achievement.
"Then at Crystal Palace I saw a different type of performance, when the lads showed great guts and determination. I am looking forward to the challenge ahead and hopefully we can move altogether in the right direction and back to where we all want to be.
"All I have got to try to do is keep the ship steady and pointing in the direction it is currently going and then let us see how far we can go."
There is, Mowbray says, an Albion team forming in his mind. He is not expected to make many, if any, changes but the match against Wolves on Sunday provides him with much food for thought.
"It is a big game but that is exactly what I want," Mowbray said. "That is why I am in the game and at this club. Let us get to the stage when every game is a big game.
"Derbies are different, of course. As for Wolves, they are in a good position and, defensively, they are well structured. That is not to say that I expect them to defend against us.
"I have learnt in my time in the game, which has been nearly 25 years, that there are many different ways to win a match."
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