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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 April 2007, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
Kevin Nolan column
The Kevin Nolan column
By Kevin Nolan
Bolton captain

Do mind games work?

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho and Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez exchanged a lot of comments ahead of Wednesday's Champions League match.

Rafael Benitez (left) and Jose Mourinho are managerial rivals
Mourinho uses mind games to take the heat off his players

I think that sometimes it can give a team an advantage.

Some comments do succeed in winding up players or opposition managers and this affects their focus.

Mourinho also does it to take a lot of the heat off his players.

It would have suited him that going into the game on Tuesday most of the talk was about the enduring rivalry between the Chelsea boss and Benitez.

Chelsea are chasing three trophies and every one of their remaining matches can be classed as must-win games.

During this vital period Mourinho is trying to place the issue of penalties on the news agenda.

After each of Chelsea's last two games he has suggested his team should have been awarded a penalty - a tactic with several possible positive effects.

Firstly, there is now such a big fuss over Mourinho talking about penalties that it has become a story in itself, distracting attention away from his players.

Secondly, by keeping the issue in the news and hinting at an injustice to his side, Mourinho might contribute to his team winning a penalty in a crunch fixture.

Sometimes people might think he has gone too far or that he is losing it - but I don't believe that for a second.

Mourinho is a superb manager who knows how to work the media and is compulsive viewing.

Of course, a lot of the supposed mind games have no effect at all - or in some cases actually serve as a positive motivation for the opposition.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has said a few things about Bolton over the years.

And Bolton have been described by several managers as bullies or a team that plays ugly football.

This often makes us think that the opposition is a little bit frightened of playing against us and don't really fancy it - which in turn makes us feel good about ourselves.

Mind games or not, a fixture at Stamford Bridge is always tough - and that is what we at Bolton face on Saturday.

I watched Wednesday's game and thought Chelsea were very solid and, when Liverpool tried to take the game to them, a massive threat on the counter-attack.

I just hope that I am fit to play on Saturday.

I thought that I had broken a bone after being the victim of a very bad tackle just above my ankle from Reading's Michael Duberry last weekend.

I went for a scan during the game and was relieved the find out it was not a break. I had another scan on Wednesday to confirm that I had not chipped a bone.

What really annoyed me was that at no point did Duberry ask if I was OK.

There was no tap on the back at the time or quick enquiry after the game. I was substituted at the break and for all he knew I might have broken my leg.

Bad tackles happen but I was disappointed by what Duberry did - or rather didn't - afterwards.


Hi Kevin,
I read in one of your previous columns that you have a snooker table and enjoy the game. Will you be watching the World Championships? Who are your favourites to win?
Caleb Khew, Malaysia

I always watch the major tournaments as often as I can.

As soon as I return home from training I put it on the television and the other half quite likes it so that is a major bonus. Some nights if I cannot sleep I will watch the later programme with the day's highlights.

In terms of winning the trophy I cannot see past Ronnie O'Sullivan, especially after defeating Ding Junhui in the first round.

Hi Kevin,
As a Premiership player you have to be super fit. I play for a local side and often struggle with my fitness over 90 minutes - what is the best advice you can give to help me train better?
Christopher Bready, Scotland

A lot of people run as part of their attempt to get fit - but do so at an even pace. Of course in a match there is a lot of stopping and starting as well as sprinting.

At Bolton we try to design our running sessions so they mirror what might happen in a match. We vary the pace with regular shuttle runs and a lot of 20-second sprints.

Also, match sharpness only comes by actually playing games. That is why we will play seven or eight pre-season fixtures before a new campaign actually starts.

The more you play, the better you will last.

Hi Kevin,
Female commentators and officials - what is your verdict on women getting involved in the professional game?
Hassan Mustafa, England

Good question.

With regard to officials, I think that if they are good enough and fit enough then they deserve to be there.

It is worth remembering that we are very short of referees in this country at so many levels of the game and new people wanting to become involved should be welcomed regardless of gender.

One thing I would say is that professional football is very tough and physical - and it is important that whoever officiates has a massive understanding of the game in addition to knowing the rules.

With regard to commentators, I think that if women know what they are talking about then there is no reason why they should not be involved.

I just hope they grasp the offside rule better than my mum, who has been watching me play for years but still has no idea what it is.

In the event of a bad injury what happens to your car? Does a driver take it home for you?
YouriLeGod, England

After I was injured last Saturday my dad came down from the family stand to sit with me before I went to hospital. He normally drives me to games at the Reebok Stadium but it was my brother behind the wheel last weekend and he was able to take the car home.

If they had not been there I would spoken to the player liaison officer to arrange a driver for the car.

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