How off-the-field assistance can help struggling players find their confidence and belief on it again - Sue Smith

Last weekend I watched Hull City for the first time this season. I went into the game against Luton Town with my eyes wide open but had heard and read quite a lot about the belief in the squad, and I completely agree with those who say Hull are badly missing it.

Last weekend I watched Hull City for the first time this season. I went into the game against Luton Town with my eyes wide open but had heard and read quite a lot about the belief in the squad, and I completely agree with those who say Hull are badly missing it.

There was a moment when Mallik Wilks beat a couple of men but his shot was poor. If he had the confidence of the Mallik Wilks I saw last season, it would have gone in the top corner.

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Hull look like they could do with a sports psychologist because it is not necessarily their ability on the pitch which has put them in the Championship relegation zone.

Off the mark: Barnsley’s Aaron Leya Iseka scored his first Championship goal against Sheffield United and that could provide the perfect lift for player and club according to Sue Smith.Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Confidence is probably just as big an issue for Barnsley, Doncaster Rovers and Leeds United. Others, like Rotherham United, are maybe getting the opposite effect.

You can see it in Sheffield United’s bad habit of conceding late goals at Oakwell last week, or across the city, where Wednesday have not come from behind to win away for an incredible five-and-a-half years. The Owls employ a sports psychologist, which I am in favour of because the ones I worked with England and coming back from injury with Doncaster Rovers Belles helped my career.

I would be up for anything that could help me be a better player, like visualising positive moments or watching the videos they produced for us of all our best clips. I know Leeds have injury issues too, but perhaps some of their players would benefit from looking at what they did so well in the last few seasons.

Our sports psychologist had no clue about football when she began working with England but she told me on the ball it was like watching a dancer, and off it I was like a meerkat in terms of awareness, and a Jack Russell in how I never gave up. It just gave me a little boost when I was feeling down.

Confidence boost: Barnsley's Devante Cole also got off the mark against the Blades. Picture Bruce Rollinson

There would be times when other people might be talking me up but I knew deep down I had missed a few one-on-ones or was not quite as sharp as I wanted to be. Sometimes in those situations you try too hard when maybe you just need to relax.

I had a few seasons where plantar fasciitis meant I could not train as much as the others and it put doubts in my mind.

After a bad result you occasionally hear of a manager locking the team in the dressing room for an hour to clear the air. At other times players have it out themselves. Often it does help.

At times when you are not playing well you wonder if your team-mates are bitching about you in the corner, so better to get it all out in the open. People will question if the manager is good enough, or the tactics are right, as seems to be happening at Barnsley.

Especially back in the day teams would go out and get drunk together so players lost their inhibitions but the danger is if big characters take over and the youngsters are a bit shy.

When England had a terrible record against Germany we talked through all the things happening in our lives to make us realise it was nothing.

Hull have clearly got good players and were brilliant at set pieces last season but it is just not the same now. Maybe they are working on them less, maybe it is just the higher standard of opposition, but I think belief probably plays a part too.

I used to hate it when people told me negative stats such as me not having scored against an opponent or the team not having won at a particular ground because they can become self-fulfilling. Once at Doncaster we were 3-0 up playing brilliantly at home to Bristol Academy. It was pointed out in the dressing room at half-time how good they were at comebacks and as soon as we conceded I could not calm the girls down from my position out on the wing and we lost 4-3.

We in the media always talk about these things so they are hard to avoid, although if they were positive, I would not want to! They can be just as powerful.

I wonder if the lack of Championship experience in Hull’s squad means some players do not believe they belong at that level. Like Barnsley, they just need something to get them going, even winning an awful game with a goal going in off somebody’s backside.

Hopefully Devante Cole and Aaron Leya Iseka’s first Championship goals for Barnsley on Sunday do that. So much of top-level sport is in the mind.