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  • Josh Schneider-Weiler

Interview with Alan Tonge: Inside the Groundbreaking Research on Player Psychology

Updated: Jan 21, 2019

Today I am joined by ex-Man United footballer and current sports lecturer at UCFB, Alan Tonge.

Alan was a player at Manchester United in the late 80s, before Sir Alex Ferguson told him he wasn't good enough for United. He then moved to Exeter City and at the age of 24 his career was cut short by a brutal spine injury and he was forced to retire.


He has been a sports lecturer for the last 15 years but what really interested me about Alan is his current work. He has completed a survey of more than 200 footballers for his PhD about the emotional challenges that players face in their careers. For example, this could be being de-selected by a manager.

He has his own experience with these obstacles and now studies it so I thought there would be no better person to help us go behind the scenes and into the psyche of a player who is struggling to cope.


If you want to contact Alan and tell him your takeaways from this interview or what you learned, his twitter handle is @Alan_Tonge.


Listen Here

Timeline:

8:45 Academy environment in the late 80s

17:18 Living in U23 Limbo

25:34 The Injury that could have paralyzed him

35:49 Handling deselection

47:20 Sports psychology in practice vs theory


Highlights:

  • "The doctor said to me you were one tackle away from maybe severing your spinal nerves"

  • "When Sir Alex called me up to his office and said 'we are going to have to move you out.’ I think that was like a bit of shock to the system."

  • "Completely lost. Completely lost. The one thing that probably saved me at the time was that I'd been reasonably educated."

  • "Well the only real life scenario that I think probably people could resonate with is maybe coming out the military."

  • "I asked them [players] did they prefer to work the issue out themselves [instead of seeking help], and something like 88% [sample of 212] said they did."

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