Andy Reid was not to understand, but after a year working in Nottingham Forest’s club store when studying at university in town, I will always feel connected to him.
Matchdays aside, it was a fairly mundane job, where the sole particularly challenging aspect was sometimes having to feign an affinity to the club with enthusiastic clients.
Every now and again particularly quiet days the kit man would fall off the tops to be worn by the players in the weekend, where we would be tasked with printing the names, numbers, and patrons.
Knowing this, I mean being allowed to touch the tops’ – was the closest I was ever going to find to be a professional footballer, it felt like the privilege, particularly when it came to Reid’s shirt.
Whenever Reid played nicely in a top I had painstakingly ensured was perfectly aligned and symmetrical, I could not help but feel like I had somehow contributed to the operation.
“Thank you for that.”
There were periods of guarantee — Forest were at a play-off place until March — but they had been regularly undermined by a carousel of managers, players, and some suspicious characters. It was hard not to draw parallels with my own team, Leeds United, at the moment.
“When you are a footballer sometimes you’ve just got to attempt and put it to one side,” Reid says when asked how hard it’s to do amid such instability. “Some folks find that a bit difficult and some folks find that a bit simpler. I didn’t find it overly tricky.
“I can see why you are making the comparisons to Leeds. They are large clubs and sometimes they can be difficult places to play when things are not going particularly well. You want a strong mindset, you want a winning mindset to play at these clubs. If you do not have that strong mindset the odds are you will fight.
“I have seen a great deal of good players that have played well at lesser clubs come to Forest and with the magnitude of this club and burden of expectation they have found it probably just a little bit too much for them.”
As a 17-year-old from the academy, along with the rest of the youth group, he was introduced to sports psychologist Keith Mincher by trainer Paul Hart
While the players were initially reluctant, Mincher supplied Reid with techniques he managed to use during his career.
“There were not very many [clubs] in the time that didn’t have one. Paul was similar to that in his football and his thinking and his character. He was probably old school for an individual, but in his thinking, about the match, he was really forward-thinking.
“It was a man named Keith Mincher, a totally fantastic guy. I can not speak highly enough of him, I speak to him every now and again. He came in and he did not know what to make of it because a few people had never done it before.
“At the beginning, a few of the lads were thinking, ‘What is this all about?’ After four or five weeks of group sessions once a week each of the lads was going for one on ones with him really buying into it as it was really great stuff.
I attempt to do it today with my training. I am training 17, 18-year-olds, as well as the psychology of the game, is really, really important. To get the most out of them, they need to be in the perfect frame of mind.
“Along with being a soccer coach you have got to become a psychologist. You’ve got to attempt and delve deeper into their minds and discover what makes them tick.
“I think it’s very beneficial so you are in the perfect mentality and equipped to go out on the pitch and perform in sticky conditions and under pressure. But I also find it is very good for mental health also, especially for young players.
“There is a lot happening in their lives, there are plenty of changes happening, it could be very, very tricky for them. Why am I not really there now?’ If they understand that they then have a far greater probability of having the ability to take care of it.”
Reid has spoken passionately about mental health before, telling inews in October that he sought out counselling after the death of his parents over the area of a year of one another.
The former Republic of Ireland international, who’s now director of his country’s Under-18 side, was constantly conscious of the bubble footballers can find themselves living in and frequently sought a discharge by following other interests in his downtime, whether that be playing the guitar, literature, politics or history.
“I was obsessive about [soccer ] and I have been,” he says,”but I simply had other things I managed to perform as well. I discovered that when I had to switch off and had other things to have the ability to revert to it actually helped me.
“I was obsessed with soccer and thought about it all of the time, so if I did not have I think it could have become too much and I would not have been able to switch off from it.
“I find that even more so today as a coach I am even more obsessed with it. I think about it all of the time. I am always thinking about the next game, the players, another squad I will pick, another team I’m going to choose, how we are going to play — all of these things are constantly going through my mind.
“You need a discharge, but at exactly the exact same time you will need to be careful with what your release is. Some people’s discharge is gambling or going out drinking or doing anything.
“Nobody’s saying you can not have a drink but when it becomes your way of switching off then it becomes an issue. You will need to be certain that the thing you are doing to end down isn’t harming your true football.”