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Friday, 21 June, 2002, 12:36 GMT 13:36 UK
England fans: Don't worry be happy
David Beckham salutes fans after England are knocked out of the world cup 2002
Beckham: 'Mission mentality' right to the last whistle

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Reasons to be cheerful:

It's the summer, Tim Henman is returning to Wimbledon and we've just been booted out of the World Cup by the greatest footballing nation ever.

Well it isn't that hard to accept defeat say psychologists. In fact it's quite easy to turn losing into something to value.

Not that they're recommending the eternal gloom of Scotland fans. But the first step to happiness is to stop dreaming England were actually going to win something for once and learn a little from the great Sven.

And if we follow these simple steps, by the time the players walk down the aircraft steps at Heathrow we'll all be in a better frame of mind - even if it is raining.

1. Recognise players and fans are mentally different

Psychologists say that while we may be miserable in the coming weeks, the England squad have been through the sporting equivalent of a war.
Women sit in the rain at Wimbledon
Hurrah for rain: Ally against Wimbledon defeat

They've had to juggle national expectations and individual determination, while we've just been juggling our work hours to get to the pub.

Professor Dave Collins, an expert in sports performance at the University of Edinburgh, says fans have completely different expectations to players and this affects how they deal with defeat. Top players develop "mission mentality" and cope with differences between national expectation and reality. We the fans, on the other hand, are a bit useless in this department.

"Major championships are very odd. It's like being in a bubble," says Prof Collins.

"It's like the Vietnam experience or the First World War. Outside there is relative calm. Then the players are put into this cauldron and then taken out again."

One of the best ideas for both fans and the players would be to repeat the welcome that Ireland's team were given when they returned home after defeat.

"Ireland was able to say, 'look at us, we have worth, we did fantastic," says Prof Collins.

"Everyone has to find a perspective and say things like, 'We did well, we got knocked out but we didn't do badly."

2. Stop trying to imagine you were on the pitch with them

Carole Seheult, a consultant sports psychologist, says the deflation experienced by fans is often of their own making.
Sven-Goran Eriksson looking enigmatic
Masterful influence: Can he work it on fans too?

"Fans just don't know what goes into making a Beckham or an Owen. They don't know anything about the hard work," says Mrs Seheult who knows a thing or two about how footballers tick.

"Fans think that they identify with the players and so their hopes become unrealistic. Beckham and the boys knew how hard it was going to be, they knew the score with Brazil."

3. Learn to think like Sven

The key remedy for helping to overcome feelings of national trauma and loss is to learn to think like Sven, says Carole Seheult.

An England fan from Doncaster celebrates after a match
No Sven required: This fan knows the way of Eriksson
"I have read Sven's book [Sven-Goran Eriksson on Football]. David Beckham is now talking like that book. He is saying things and has a perspective that he never had before.

"Sven's influence is rubbing off on the players. He talks about learning to show respect for things that are worth respecting.

"If Brazil go on to win, then we should take pride in recognising that we were only beaten by the best team in the world."

4. We weren't even on the plane a year ago

Not really a psychologist, but Alan Bloore of the fans' new body-in-waiting, the Football Supporter's Federation, knows a thing or two on this.

"About 18 months ago, we looked down and out at that stage with no chance of getting to the World Cup," he says.

"Then Sven came along and look what happened. But then we were drawn in the Group of Death. They said that we wouldn't make it, but we did - and came through with flying colours.

"I think teams always need a bit of luck but Sven's ran out this morning."

5. There's a corner of a foreign field that's forever England

Our travelling fans have been a credit to the nation and have changed perceptions of who really represents England and its people abroad.

An England fan crying after losing to Brazil
The world loves you: Fans have done us proud
"We've all worked hard for the past few years on this and you've seen the results with how our supporters behaved at the World Cup," says Alan Bloore.

"They all went out there to enjoy themselves.

"Not only that, but they became part of the local culture and were welcomed by all they met.

When we welcome back the England team, we should also welcome back the fans who have done us proud."

6. Reasons to be cheerful if you are Scottish:

I shan't be uncharitable and suggest that Scots weren't cheering on the home nation in the finals - that would be clearly untrue. We appreciate that you share the pain.

But, you have indeed been spared the ultimate horror: England fans finding something else to go on about other than 1966. What a blessing in disguise this defeat is for the future of the Union...


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