One of the things that changed over the length of my career was the amount of information you have to take on board. In the early days of my career the general message before the game might have been, “We're playing 4-4-2; get at them, win the battle and turn them in the first five minutes." By the time I retired you had so much more video work, you would do as much as you would on the pitch; taking in all the information about their formation, your formation, how you are going to break them down in terms of what you are good at and what their deficiencies are.
Then you go out on the pitch and you replicate that. That kind of information you get all week, right the way right up to the start of the game. You would be watching a video almost until you go out on to the pitch. There is just so much more you are getting even to the point of getting Whatsapp messages with footage of your direct opponent. So there is a lot more going through your head.
"You are also constantly assessing yourself"
In terms of mental preparation, all players are different and that translates itself on to the pitch. You are not just focusing on your game anymore, so much more is expected of you both offensively and defensively. You are consistently looking at what is going on in the game and how you can be part of it. With everyone getting fitter, the demand for you to be involved in the game at all times has hugely increased. If you are a forward and you don’t have the ball you have to be looking to contribute and I think everyone has bought into that now.
What is on your mind then? Your tactical output is, and a lot of that depends on the position in which you play. If you are a defender, consistently you are thinking about the shape, where am I in relation to everyone else? What about the player I am up against, is he quick – do I need to give myself an extra three or four yards? For me as a striker it would be simply assessing the position I was in and the player I was up against. What doesn’t he like and can I make him play the game that I want to play, as opposed to the game he does.
You are also constantly assessing yourself. If you have a bad touch, you are telling yourself to get the next one right. Also, game management – if you have run with the the ball three times and lost it twice, you'd better make sure that the next time you don’t give it away. In terms of talking to yourself, you are constantly motivating yourself through it all.