Dec. 15, 2022

Improving Your Normal with Paul McVeigh, Performance Psychologist and Former Premier League and Int’l Footballer

Improving Your Normal with Paul McVeigh, Performance Psychologist and Former Premier League and Int’l Footballer

In Episode 108, Paul McVeigh, Performance and Sports Psychologist, Author of The Stupid Footballer is Dead, and former footballer with Tottenham Hotspur, Norwich City, and Northern Ireland, talks with Phil and Paul about great life and leadership...

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In Episode 108, Paul McVeigh, Performance and Sports Psychologist, Author of The Stupid Footballer is Dead, and former footballer with Tottenham Hotspur, Norwich City, and Northern Ireland, talks with Phil and Paul about great life and leadership lessons he has learned from his time playing football at the highest level, how to improve your normal, how he has overcome adversity, why we should want failure in our lives, the importance of thinking about thinking and mixing intensity with control, and the best leaders he played with during his football career. Specifically, Paul discusses:

  • His personal story, how he developed his passion for football, leadership, and sports and performance psychology, and why he had an inferiority complex (2:50)
  • Defining moments in Paul’s career and what he learned from them, and why we should want failure in our lives (7:42)
  • His book, The Stupid Footballer is Dead, which discusses some of the life and leadership lessons we can learn from the game of football (soccer) (14:11)
  • Why and how we need to “think about thinking” (21:10)
  • The importance of mixing intensity with control (26:15)
  • The best leaders he played with and what set them apart from the rest (31:03)
  • His podcast, The Psychology of Success and what he hopes people will learn from it (33:42)
  • His recommendations of another great podcast (36:26)

Resources and Links from this Episode


Phil: Welcome back to How Soccer Explains leadership. Thanks again for being a part of the conversation. We have another great show. I'm Phil Darke, you're a host. Got Paul Jobson here with me and we also have another Paul with us today. We got Paul McVeigh. We're here. The morning of the semi-final of the World Cup.

A World Cup where I will say I picked very, very few right things. I'm not gonna lie. So Paul, I think we went back to that list that we put together at the beginning of that World Cup. It would not be very close to what we're seeing in this semi, but when this airs, semi's gonna be over. So, you're gonna be saying, man, you guys got it wrong again, or, man, you guys are brilliant.

One of those two probably won't be the latter. Even if we get the picks right, but. How you doing man? How have you enjoyed this cup? Oh man,

[00:00:46] Paul: it's been awesome and I think that, I think the fact. We didn't pick it correctly means it's been a great World Cup. I mean, I love the surprises. I love the back and forth.

I love the fact that we're about to, you know, we're about to, you know, watch the first African Nation in a semi-final this year. [00:01:00] And just, it's been so much fun to watch. I love, I love the fact that you just don't know what's, what's coming. So for me, that's been fun. I'm, I'm looking forward to when we get to the end to look back and see how badly we, we pro we projected this tournament to be.

And it's gonna be a little confusing today, Paul, because, I mean, Phil and Paul, because there are two Pauls on the call. Right. So we will, we'll decipher what that is, but we'll, we'll know that from here on out. Most of the questions are gonna be for Paul McVeigh, our guest. That's right. Not for me. So I think we'll sort that out.

But excited to get on here with with Paul and get talking here about about this conversation. So excited.

[00:01:31] Phil: Absolutely. We'll talk more about World Cup. I mean, we've, I'm sure we'll spatter it in today. But we'll talk more about that in our our post or actually our halftime show for this season, which will likely be a World Cup Review show as well.

But we do today have Paul McVeigh. Paul played many years in the Premier League, has been. Actually got his masters in psychology as well. And from what I'm reading, the first Premier League player to do that. But Paul, correct me [00:02:00] if I'm wrong on that, but Paul, how are you doing today, ma'am?

[00:02:04] Paul McVeigh: Yeah, I'm embarrassed.

Well, thanks very much for having me, guys. And I, and I was just thinking that as it was about to dive in with the answer was the first question you asked and I was like, oh, that's for Paul Jobson all let you guys talk first of all, and then I'm sure we'll get onto my stuff.

[00:02:20] Phil: Yeah, we had, we had another Phil on at some point too.

So it, you know, we, we, we figure it out. We figure it out. We, we will make this work. So Paul McVeigh we always like to start with just, briefly sharing your story. I, I kind of teased it a little bit there, but really how you developed your passion for, for football how you developed your passion for, sport and performance psychology that you're doing.

[00:02:40] Paul McVeigh: Yeah, it's well, how long have we got? Because it's, it's a pretty long story. Unfortunately, even though I, I do look like a 14 year old, but I've been in this elite performance environment for 30 years now. So it was, it was whenever I left Belfast in Ireland at the age of 16, and I was very, very fortunate to go and join Tottenham Hotspur [00:03:00] over in England.

And, and for me that was just such a, such a huge life event to be able leave your family and friends behind and, and I probably didn't realize at the time of just how significant that would be and probably why my, my mom was in, in tears and uncontrollable sobbing because she just knew I was never gonna be coming home again and, and leaving at the tender age of 16, but, as a 16 year old kid, I dunno what you guys were like, but all I wanted to do was play football.

I just wanted to play professionally. I just wanted to be in that environment all the time. And so the first opportunity I was, I was grabbing 'em with both hands and, and, and it was really fascinating. And I suppose this is good because this, this next part of the story goes, will probably resonate well with anyone who's listening across the us.

My first day at Tottenham Hotspur I was very fortunate to train and play alongside a guy called Jurgen Klinsmann. And it was cause Spurs had just signed him after the, the World Cup. They'd just been in the USA and [00:04:00] in 94 and Spurs signed him. and I remember just training next to this guy and he was obviously already a World Cup winner at the time.

He was an absolute global superstar and, and incredibly humble as well, which was, which was fascinating for me to have this perception of what World Cup winners could be like and realizing how modest he was and, and to be able to train with him on my first day, probably for most of the guys, they were, you know, delighted.

They were, you know, so energized and, and so happy to be with them. And unfortunately for me, it, it probably pronounced my inferiority complex that I had as a kid. And this is very tough to sort of, to show when we're doing a, you know, a call like this when you guys are on the other side of the world where I am over in the UK, but you know, I'm only five feet six.

So I always probably had that inferiority complex that it was always too small. I had lots of pairs, managers tell me I was too small. I could, you know, compete against other teenagers. I was struggling to compete physically and even [00:05:00] technically because they just developed faster and more than I was. So that really heightened it when I met Jurgen Klinsmann and, and of course as we'll probably get into the rest of the story.

It was a tough start, but then very quickly get into this world of, of psychology and mindset and, and growth mindset. And it was actually by reading a book by us author, a guy called Anthony Robbins, Tony Robbins, and mm-hmm. . And to be able to read a book of this kind of, and this ilk of, of personal development as a 17 year old kid.

You know, it was a quite a, quite a big chunky book. There was probably 500 pages in it. And for someone to offer that book to me, for me, a, for me to read it, b, for me to then apply it to the things I was doing in my life was just a complete game changer cuz I suddenly went down a very, very different path than what I was currently going down.

[00:05:48] Phil: Yeah. And, and it, I'm just gonna put you at ease today. I, I'm a 5’8” goalkeeper and Paul is, you know, 5’2” you guys, you, I think he is. You guys

[00:05:58] Paul: are ginormous people. You're [00:06:00] huge. Yeah. You know, 5’6”, you got two whole inches on me, Paul.

[00:06:03] Paul McVeigh: So, so you are, you

[00:06:04] Phil: are, I'm feeling you. Yeah, you're, you're in

[00:06:06] Paul: good.

I, I've learned Phil, that the difference between like an average player and a great player is, is not anything more than just the two inches. Five, four to five six. I'd have been two inches taller.

[00:06:16] Phil: And, you know, and I was two inches too tall and that I'm, I'm seeing that. And so I'm just a giant on this conversation.

So I feel, I feel pretty good right now. I'm not gonna, Paul, he's not gonna,

[00:06:26] Paul: he's not gonna wanna get off this call cause he feels really tall. He's just amazing. Now. It's, this is not going very well as, as we get started, Paul. But, but Paul, I think, man, I, I, I love that. I love hearing people's stories and I think you know this as well as anybody and the people that listen to this show.

Week in and week out, how different everybody's story is when it comes to the game of football. And our paths are also different. I think that could be a really encouraging thing to young people when they just see, you know, in social media one thing after other, that it looks very, very similar, right time in and time out.

But to know that everybody's story is different and you kinda have to make your own story and, and follow, follow whatever [00:07:00] path that you know God has before you or whatever that may be. So I appreciate the things that you share and some great things that I know we'll dive more into and you maybe hit a little bit of it.

In your pl in your, let's dive into your playing career a little bit. What, what were some defining moments as a player that have really maybe directed your path now in the, in the business world? What, what are some of those things maybe that as you look back, kind of stand out as defining moments as a, as a player, you can look back now as you're kind of running your own business and, and doing your day in and day out.

You're like, okay, that, that's kind of made me who I am today as I interact with people through.

[00:07:32] Paul McVeigh: Yeah, it's really interesting you asked that because even last week I was delivering a, a keynote speech to one of our, one of our corporate clients as part of, of part of these kind of longer term leadership programs that we deliver.

And, and the whole subject of failure came up in the, in the conversation. And essentially were trying to tease out from them, you know, kind of what things do you want and what don't you want, and, and the don't wants list came up that you know that they didn't really want failure or [00:08:00] setbacks. And I was just started questioning, and I was like, well, why don't you want failure?

Why don't you want setbacks? And they're like, well, no, who enjoys them? And you know, nobody likes that stuff. And I said, yeah, but how many opportunities are there for you to grow whenever these things happen? And, and if this is the, I suppose, the challenge that most people have, because, you know, I don't think anyone sets out to feel, or no one sets out to come across these real obstacles in the road.

Even if you look at high, if a team plays or an individual plays on a, on a weekend and they either play well or they win the match or they score whatever they wanna do afterwards, there's probably way less analysis or introspection of of, of how you've done versus the CM individual, the CM team who.

Have a really terrible performance. Don't score the goal, don't win the game or don't win the competition, or whatever it is, and just how much they'll then analyze, [00:09:00] start looking inwardly, start probably blaming themselves. All of the things that that probably you do start learning from and and these opportunities.

So that was probably going back to when I talk about this book and why it was such a game changer. , I suppose it introduced me to this whole concept of reframing in this psychological technique of, you know, it's, it's never actually what happens that's, that's important to you. You know, there's, there's, if I was, if I'm going to give you the highlights of my career, you know, I'd probably say, well, very fortunate to play nearly 20 years as a professional and English League.

So I was, you know, played internationally against the best teams in the world. Spain, Italy, France, Germany. just so fortunate. Won championships, we played at Wembley. We, you know, did all of these incredible things and that's great cuz that's one angle of how you look at this sort of career. But the other side of this exact same coin, I'd be saying, well I was released from every club I ever played for

No [00:10:00] coach ever paid one pound, $1, 1 cent for me in my entire career. So how does. All end up into the same, you know, mishmash of a 20 year professional football and career. And, and it, and it, unfortunately it is. That's, that's just the way it goes. You have so many highs and lows, so many ups and downs. But actually to answer your question, it was the learnings.

It was the, the frustration, the anger, you know, getting really paid off just because of a certain coach or another coach or another manager said, I just don't think you're good enough to play in this league or at this level. And it just gave me more and. Hurt and anger, but also more and more motivation and resilience to be able to prove them wrong and also to prove me right, because as much as I had the inferiority complex, when I met Jurgen Klinsmann whenever I was 16 on my first day at Tottenham Hotspur, by 19,

and as the story progressed, one of the players who came through the youth team with me ended [00:11:00] up made his debut against Manchester United in that kind of amazing team of, you know, David Beckham and Roy Keane and Paul Scholes and all these outstanding players at Manchester United had in the late nineties, my team, my youth team player who came through the.

Same level of me played against Man United in, in the Premier League, live on tv, scored against them. And in the exact same moment, I suddenly shifted or switched the belief that I didn't think I was capable of doing it, but because he did it and so could I. And three months later had made my Premier League debut and scored on my home Premier League debut and, and that for me was just such a massive change and shift in what's possible.


[00:11:43] Paul: that's, that's awesome. I, I think there's, just going back to kinda what you were saying at the beginning of that, how many people avoid failure? You know, they, they, they work so hard not to fail that they almost. probably don't reach their potential, right? Because they've avoid the, the failures that are gonna make them eventually stronger in whatever [00:12:00] it is that they're, they're going to do.

And I, I know coaching, you know, being in the college game for 17 years, you know, there's so many kids trying to avoid that failure moment that they just wanna jump onto the, the next thing. And the grass is always greener somewhere else instead of sticking through something and maybe failing a little bit and maybe becoming stronger on the other side of it, like you're saying.

I think we're missing some of those, some of those moments. So appreciate your, your, your valuable lesson that we can learn, kinda learn through your experiences at a really, really high.

[00:12:27] Phil: Yeah, I love that. You kind of hit the flip side of what people will look at. They look at the resume and go, oh, that's amazing.

You know, and it is, right? I mean, you had, as you said, you're extremely fortunate and got to do what a lot of people don't get to do. A lot of people strive for. I know my 11 year old, that's, that's his dream, you know, is to play at the levels you got to play at. And, and, you know, and who knows? You know, it, it happened for you, it could happen.

You know, you, you just gotta to see what what, what, what that plan is. But the other side of it, you know, you're let go people as, as you said in your book, you know, people [00:13:00] don't, they don't, they don't care about you at the end of the day, , you know? Right. You're very dispensable. I mean, they do. It's

[00:13:06] Paul McVeigh: a transaction.

It's just a transaction.

[00:13:08] Phil: Exactly. I was an attorney for eight years and I tell people, if you ever want to feel dispensable, go work at a law firm because when you leave, they, they don't, you know, they don't throw a party for you. They, they're gone and then they keep going and somehow it keeps going without you.

And it, they do, you know, all the firms that I left are now way better and bigger than when I left them, so. That's just the reality of life. And, and it's not to say, oh, we'll go through life in that way. No. Go through life and go, you know what, there's, there's opportunities to learn from those things and to take from it what you can.

And you know, and, and you don't have to be that type of leader as well, right? You can be that. Transformational leader, what does that look like? And, and you wrote a book. So, I, I love the title of this book. It might be one of the, the fav my favorite titles of a book that I've seen called The Stupid Footballer is Dead.

 first of all, why did you write this book? cause not a, not a lot of people are writing books, especially these days. And how'd you come up with that? [00:14:00]

[00:14:01] Paul McVeigh: That is so weird that you ask that because I actually had the title when I was 21 and I played for another 11 years, and then when I stopped playing at the age of 32 and then started writing it a year later when I went into work in the corporate world as, as this keynote speaker and delivering these leadership programs, and I just thought, I feel like I had.

a lot of understanding and knowledge of, of, of like the, the psychological principles or the framework of high performance. And I, and I was constantly getting asked questions by whether there's people in the corporate world, people in the sporting world, whether it was, you know, former players, current players, current coaches, you know, how did you do that?

What you did? How do you implement the psychology and the mindset piece into the whole bigger performance element. And ultimately for me, it was just something that I'd always wanted to work on. Because even when I made my debut at 19, the first thing I went and did was went and got a sports [00:15:00] psychologist.

Not because my career was going downhill and I was at this, you know, real crossroad. It was more because I had already at that stage, and again, probably got it from the Tony Robbins book, but if that's the level I'm performing at, well how do I get better? because, you know, technically I'm probably not gonna improve that much by, by the age of 20.

You're kind of, you're virtually where you're gonna be for most of your career. Physically. Again, I'm only five six, what's that? Like one meter, 67? I'm not probably gonna grow a lot. It can get a little bit stronger, a little bit bigger, but again, probably I'm where I am. But this massive growth area, and the huge potential that I saw was around the psychology.

So started doing things like visualizations, even practical applications. started doing yoga. Like again, you think yoga's a physical thing and, and I didn't really do it for the meditative benefits or the, the mental benefits of yoga, but the fact that it was open-minded enough to start doing yoga when I was 17.

And then that's a whole other story of what happened whenever I then probably didn't [00:16:00] have the, what's called the bravery, the "cajones" that bring my yoga mat into the, into the Norwich City dressing room, and go in and just because I wasn't, probably, didn't feel like I was established to do it. But then once I started playing every week scoring gold become top score, I was like, I'm bringing this in.

I'm kind of, you know, feel like the man here. And then what happened on my first day of bringing the yoga mat in, doing my yoga in the side of the room next to the physio room, I was getting so much abuse, mental abuse, you know, verbal, physical things flying at me. But. I was, this is so weird. I'm just doing a little bit of yoga and everyone else could, had never seen it before, was giving me dogs abused.

But of course, I went out, train and came back in and of course they cut me yoga mat up in the a hundred little pieces. Oh, I'm like, great. That's it. You know, as you'll get to know me, you know, I'm, I'm a stubborn little guy, so I'm like right off to get another one. Bought another one brought in the next day.

Same thing happened. Loads of abuse before training. Tried to hide the yoga mat this time. And then whenever I went back in after training, [00:17:00] they literally set it on fire. set it on fire. I like, right? Beat me. So then the third day I got my third yoga mat. Same thing. Abuse. When the training came back, they brought it into the car park and there was cars, they were doing skids and donuts and everything on.

I'm like, oh my. By the fourth day, I finally, they just got bored, you know, Neanderthals, they just got bored. Couldn't be bothered picking on me anymore until eventually, what do you think happened afterwards? They started doing yoga five or six weeks. Suddenly one of the guys just poke his head around his dorms like Macca, what are you doing? And I went, I'm just doing some stretching. It's not, it's not rocket. And they're like, but we're gonna do that in the warmup. And I said, yeah, but I feel like if I do this here, by the time I get out to the training field, then I will be a hundred percent ready to go rather than 80% and warm up.

To get the a hundred percent. It's like, all right, and of course you can imagine where the rest of the story is. Within three, four months had about five or six of them doing [00:18:00] yoga with me every morning. And the only thing I can say to this is not because, you know, I wanted to be this kind of person to to be different.

It was just cuz it benefited me and that's why I love this whole psychology piece. I'm the one that gets the benefits from it. I'm the one that, whenever I left football after nearly 20 years, had one muscle injury. Now, is that a coincidence? Is it because I did the yoga? Who knows? But all I know is I benefited from it.

And even whenever I came out of professional football, I then had this what could have been a really tricky transition out of professional sport into doing something else. And for me it was virtually seamless. And for nearly 15 years, I've now been doing this other world of. As I say, you know, delivering lots of performance psychology for kind of multinationals and big companies like Microsoft and Cisco and KPMG and Deutsche Bank and everyone else.

And just because I love this subject, I'm passionate about it. Could you imagine being Irish, you know, pretty good at talking, but actually being able to share this high performance free and work [00:19:00]that people in the corporate world don't normally come across. But actually, let's be honest, guys, in the sports world, most people don't.

Very little about.

[00:19:09] Phil: Right? Absolutely. Absolutely. And, and in that book there, there're, well, I mean, the first thing I love is, is I, I, we transcribed this show, and so I'm gonna, I'm curious to see how cajones comes out in that transcript, but in an Irish accent as well. And that's gonna be it. Exactly. Oh, the Irish accent.

That's gonna be a train wreck when it comes to the transcript, but that's okay. But yeah, that, that, that's the things I think about as we're going through these interviews that gives you a little, you. To how the sausage is made here. But one of those, there's a, there's a few real, I mean, there's, there's a lot of great stuff in the book.

It's a, it's a, it's not, I wouldn't say I say it's a quick read. It can be a quick read, but I would say, you know, don't make it a quick read. The great part of, one of the great parts about it, we'll put it in the show notes. You can get it on Paul's website for free, and that was a, a great thing. So the only thing for the American audience, you're gonna have to deal with some ss where CS should be and, you know, some, some Ss where some I'll [00:20:00] say Zs or Zs should be.

But you know, that's okay. You know, I, we're not gonna get into that conversation today. I've done that another podcast and it doesn't go very well. but it's, it's a great book and there's, there's lots of, of great Principles that we as business people, we as players, we as coaches basically any human need to be able to, to learn.

And it really goes along the theme of this show, which is how are these principles from the game from. Elite performance from sports and particularly football in this case. How does it translate to our life? How does it translate to the different things we're doing? And so there's a couple of those principles I do want to touch on today, but I wanna make sure people know it's not just these couples.

There's a, there's more to this. And definitely go grab that book. Definitely read the book. Definitely reach out to Paul if you have any questions about it. But the first one is this idea of think about thinking. and can you just talk about that and, you know, maybe give a, a player you played with or an example of that, that you can you can, you can help the audience understand what you mean by that.[00:21:00]

[00:21:00] Paul McVeigh: Well, I suppose the, the, it just goes back to the end of what I just finished off with at the end of my answer of how many people are working on their mindset, how many people are working on their psychology. Or, or attitudes and, and ultimately this is just, this is just high. We think, and, and because the majority of the time that I spent as a professional athlete, all of our, let's say our training was either technical or physical.

And I'm thinking, right, I get that. Because we all need to be a certain level technically and physically. You need to be, you know, one of the best athletes in the world just to compete at that level. But actually just to get into the door, just to get into the locker room, you need to be at that level. So once we're all at a certain level, what's then the greatest difference between players?

And in my experience, it always came back down to their thinking, their way of thinking, their approach, their attitude, how they [00:22:00] turned up every day, how they get over setbacks, how they dealt with getting dropped, how they dealt with missing a big chance in the last minute of a game. How they dealt with walking out in front of 2000 people who might have been watching one day because there's hardly anyone there and you can't feel like you can perform versus walking out in front of 75,000 people at Old Trafford and not been able to deal with that.

So the only place that this happens or, or needs to be worked, is in people's heads. And if I were to ask, I'm not making this into a session, guys, but if, if you two as a, as a very small sample size, if I were to say, but how much of your time do you consciously dedicate to improving the mental side of your performance?

Well, if you're anything like the players that I've worked with in the primary league group for the past, whether it's the corporate audiences that I work with, if I'm in front of 25 Premier League players, maybe at a push, maybe two. will say that they consciously dedicate time to improve their mental performance, and I'm in front of a room full of [00:23:00] a thousand people, 500 hundred people.

If we take it as a percentage, it's normally by 3% who'll put their hands up and say, yeah, Paul, I'm working on that. Whether it's, you know, I set goals for myself and I'm constantly writing down, reviewing or I'll, or I'll have affirmations, or I'll do vision boards, or I'll listen to po, whatever it is.

It's just such a tiny percentage and it just shocks me. . I think that the amount of benefit that I've seen in my life, that's right. Let me rephrase that. I made a decision a long, long time ago, probably my early twenties, that the only thing I ever needed to work on in my life was my mindset, my psychology, my way of thinking, my attitude, my thought process is because if I get that,

Every single other aspect of my life falls into place that will dictate my career. It will dictate my relationships, it'll dictate my [00:24:00] finances. It'll be my health and fitness. It'll be my self-esteem, my self-belief of what I'm capable of, my self-worth. It's all dictated to by how I think. And whenever you kind of lay it down in front of people like that and say, so how much are you doing?

Most people go zero. Very little. It's not for me to judge people cuz it's, I'm no position and nor should I be judging anyone else, but more of an observation that like, look how well for some people life is already going. And imagine if you added this, which is probably the most important part of life.

And on top of what you're already doing, you see why some people's potential just suddenly gets reached once they add in. For me, this is the most important aspect of the conversation.

[00:24:46] Phil: Absolutely. And you know, one of the things you say in that chapter that I love, it's, it's a book. It's, you know, I first read it in the book Switch On Your Brain by Caroline Leaf.

And she said, you know, we can't control our circumstances, but we can control how we react to our [00:25:00] circumstances. And I think that that is, so much of this is that idea of, you know, are you prepared for that? Are you prepared to know how to react to those failure? to the adversity. To the issues. To the successes.

Mm-hmm. . Cuz you know, how you handle success is also something, you know, are you puffing up or are you saying, okay, this is just one little mountain or hilltop . Um, And it's probably gonna, you know, there's, there's gonna be, there's gonna be failure, there's gonna be adversity, there's gonna be other things.

So what does that look like? I, I, I love that part. Yeah. And I wish we had hours and hours to talk about this, but we don't. So we're gonna move on to the, the. The, the one, and you know, we'll, we'll talk about this real quick too. And I love this one because I've seen this be an issue for so many players, so many people.

You know, I have five kids. All of my kids struggle with this. I struggle with this. Paul doesn't, of course. Cuz you know, Paul, Paul Jobson that is, is is perfect. I'm not tall enough. I'm not tall enough. Yeah,

[00:25:52] Paul McVeigh: that's

[00:25:52] Phil: true. Those things. That's true. But this is this idea of mix intensity with control. can you talk about this very [00:26:00] important thing, and I think particularly for athletes at higher levels, this is a hard one.

[00:26:05] Paul McVeigh: Yeah, it's, it's more to do with the fact of, of just realizing that it's, it is a choice.

It's always these decisions that we have and, and the kind of, the example that I use is that, you know, I, because I wasn't necessarily the most physical player, that I didn't always end up in these confrontations, probably more than most of the players who, who might have done, but also because I was an attacker and a striker, I was always getting kicked.

So you always ended up, you know, in, in some sort of confrontation with a, with a much bigger guy. It's essentially to say the people who lose their control, who are always, you know, getting into situations or reacting probably, or maybe just the fact that they're reacting rather than responding to things that happened to them on the field.

And, and probably the example that I would use in my career is whenever we were playing against Millwall, it was team in the championship. Time always had a reputation for being a really, you know, it was always a horrible game when you went down there. The crowd were giving you, you know, [00:27:00] literally dogs abuse from, from just walking along the sideline or if you're a substitute or getting close to the side.

And I remember just one tackle I had with a certain midfielder who went on to do very well for himself. I won't name him, but. Just cause it doesn't sound very good from his part. But essentially we both went in for a massive, you know, 50 50 tackle. We both were like committed. We were going for it.

Both went in, tried to do what we needed to do. We both hit each other, get up, and as we were about kind of like the, the go away and sort of as the ball skitted out the other side of the field, The referee just kind of saw the tackle, saw that nothing had happened, and as the ball went off, the referee turned his head and looked.

Ray started to run away, and at the same time, the player get up and turn around and just spat in my face Now for probably 99% of the people on a field, you know, that's the lowest of the low. That's the sort of the, almost the permission that people can have to turn around and punch him in the face or to, you know, stud him in the leg or whatever you wanted to do, [00:28:00] just react negatively.

And I remember just as he did that, and I remember just very quickly to the corner of the, I could see the refer, just give a quick look back. And of course he didn't see him spitting at me. He would've seen me punching the guy and I with all my might and with all my little five six frame. I wanted to destroy him at that stage.

But because it was a decision, because I was able to control that intensity with the emotional self-control of everything, my body said I should react in a way. But instead I responded because I knew that if I had have gone the other way, I would've get sent off. We probably would've lost the game and the guy would've got one up on me.

And that's that difference of just realizing ahen you have the ability to choose in all these situations that it's not necessarily just redness comes down, someone tackles you, and you have to react in a way that's not gonna benefit you or your team. There is a choice. , yeah.

[00:28:56] Paul: Always found as a, as a smaller player, that always meant a little bit [00:29:00] more to those guys.

If they came after you and you did nothing, that almost made him more mad anyway, you know, as, as much as you wanted to, to punch 'em or cleat 'em or whatever it was, they almost made 'em more mad that you didn't react at all. Uh, When I figured that out, I realized, okay, I think I got 'em right where I want 'em.

But you're right, you have to, you still have to make that decision, right. You still have to make that decision every time that, that you're not gonna get aggravated.

[00:29:21] Paul McVeigh: and that's what I had to do. I felt like I always had to outsmart my opponents, you know, because again, technically I wasn't the best player in the team.

I was obviously wasn't the worst. I was just somewhere in the middle. Again, all the physical element, you know, I was generally quite fast over five or 10 yards, but once over 20, 30 yards, bigger guys were out outrun on me. So I always felt I had to try and outsmart my opponent to get the advantage. And even if that was me, outsmarting them by saying things to them.

you know, just to try and put them off the game. Because as what you can do, Anna, of course, when you're on the field is you can say whatever you want. It might not be, you know, very sportsmanlike, but you can say what you want as long as you don't go over the line. And as long as you don't end up physically hitting them, then [00:30:00] you can say it.

Because if they react, then they'll get the red card and you'll be getting a little smile as they walk off there in the tunnel. And again, that's all part of the game. So like the competitive element and the gamesmanship of what it can you do to ensure that you win as long as you're staying within kind of the rules of the game.

[00:30:17] Paul: Yeah. There's so much, there's so much in there. And, and again, we probably could do five different episodes of podcasts, Phil, with Paul on different, on these different topics mm-hmm. that we're just touching the tip of the iceberg with. But one thing I want to talk to you a little bit, Paul, before we kind of start to wrap things up, obviously playing the game at, at the highest level and, and against and with some of the best players to ever play the game.

Alongside that, who were some of the best leaders that you came across as? As players. Players you played with, players you played against. who, who are the best leaders that you came across and, and what was it that made them great leaders that, that, that you think, I mean, what, what was it that made them great leaders in, in your mind as, as players?

What sets 'em apart?

[00:30:53] Paul McVeigh: Very, very, very quickly, I'll give you the kind of top levels playing with them. In my debut team at [00:31:00] Tottenham Hotspur, we had just some of the most incredible players we had, like Teddy Shearingham, who won the treble with Manchester United, went on the Star with England up front with Alan Shearer.

And again, speaking to him after he was the star of the English team in the Euro 96 European Championships, you know, and gone up the head of penalty for his country in front of the 90,000, and just realizing how calm he was and how he just took it all in a stride. That, for me, was just another element of leadership.

It's just like, it's just normal. This is what we do. You know, other people might struggle with this pressure, but for him it was. It's just normal, it's fine. Through to the fact that we had Sol Campbell as the center half on our team, and he went on to become one of Invincibles with Arsenal, playing that team with Thierry Henry and Patrick Vierra and all the rest of those guys and, and Sol just had this complete inner confidence that I probably very well have I ever seen it with anyone else?

Maybe not, but definitely he was the first person that I just like, he didn't say a lot. [00:32:00] Very quiet, really introspective guy. But in terms of his ability to believe in himself and the confidence he just oozed and had round around the place for, again, just another element of how leadership shows up because there's so many different ways to, to be a leader all the way through to, you know, after the six years I had a Tottenham Hotspur and, and by the time the manager told me to kind of move on, find another, Ironically cuz it was too small.

and I went to the Norwich City and, and I, my first day training was with a guy called Craig Bellamy and Craig Bellamy was only 17. And then Craig Bellamy went on to play for Liverpool and Man City and West Ham and just, and just the most incredible player. But at 17, he was the leader within that Norwich City first team because he was telling 32 year olds, he was telling people who had won FA cups.

He was telling all these senior professionals what they should be doing and the standards that needed to be set because he could see they weren't always attaining [00:33:00] those. So there's such an array of, of. Characteristics and attributes that, that actually contribute to a leader. And I suppose they're just some of the things that, that I really love.

And then you try and apply them to yourself as well. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:33:15] Paul: Not, not only do you have a, a book out there and, and obviously traveling the world speaking to, to large organizations and companies and footballers and clubs around the world. You also have a podcast right, as well. Why'd you start the psychology of Success podcasts, and what do you hope people are gonna learn?

Learned from

[00:33:32] Paul McVeigh: from that as listeners. I was just really fascinated and I still am, and I, and you know, I did, I did the first season of it. I just wanted to try and understand why other people are successful. You know, I had a good idea for myself. I had a good idea of kind of the world of football and soccer and, and trying to just broaden it out into different sports, you know, everything from, you know, rugby to the Olympics, to actually, we, we had NFL, we had a quarterback on there all the way.

Business. We've got like an entrepreneur who'd, [00:34:00] who'd taken their, their business from like 3 million to a hundred million to people who'd planned Everest, single-handedly rode the Atlantic Ocean and cycled around the world. And you just go on, you know why, why people do this. You know, you wake up in the morning, you think might go for a 5K run today, or might go for a little bike ride in the gym or jump on the Peloton or whatever you're doing.

He's thinking might just go on and rowed the Atlantic. Why not? It just comes back to that, this, it's almost like an, if you can visualize this little, so almost like a diagram, if you had a line at the top of the page and a line at the bottom of the page, and in between those two lines, you just wrote this six letter word that begins with N and it's just normal.

It's normal for me to go out and play in front of the 75,000 people and very fortunate. When I was playing against Manchester United at Old Trafford, your score against Cristiano Ronaldo and his team and Roy Keane and Ryan Giggs, and for people like my friend James [00:35:00] Keel, it's just normal for him to think about climbing Everest or rowing the Atlantic or cycling around the world and does sound really cliche and really cheesy, but probably a good way to just to kind of end the kind of the conversation today is, is how do you raise your.

and that is also, of course, there's a presupposition in there that you want to, or that you should do, or you need to, and, and I'm not suggesting that at all, but more if you're normal allows you to achieve or have the life that you want. , you don't need to do anything if, like most of the people I come across in, in work or in my personal life are aspirational, have goals, have, you know, objectives have things they're working towards.

And what their normal currently is, they actually want to improve what their normal is. And so that for me is always well and how do you improve your normal, and for me, the only way to do that is to, by working on your [00:36:00] mindset.

[00:36:01] Phil: Yeah. I love, I love that. I love that. And you know, we, we have questions we ask everyone at the end.

I'm, I'm just gonna ask you, do you have a recommendation, something you've watched, read, listened to, that has most impacted your thinking on how football explains life and leadership?

[00:36:16] Paul McVeigh: I wouldn't necessarily of, of how football explains life leadership. I, I listen to a podcast called the High Performance Podcast that have got a couple of friends who, who are the hosts of it.

So one of the guys is a guy called Jake Humphrey, who's Who's a, a TV presenter over here, does BT sport and, and is just phenomenally successful in his TV career. And he has a, has a film production business and everything. But the, he, he's the host of the High Performance Podcast. And then there's also a psychology expert in there, guy called Professor Damien Hughes.

And Damien has, you know, written books about Barcelona and Manchester United and all these different amazing institutions. But Damian's, you know, just as you can imagine is being a professor of psychology. Very, very [00:37:00] up to speed with the latest research and between the two of them, they interview some of the most incredibly successful people across every industry on the planet.

And so listening to those kind of people every day as I, you know, go and walk the dog, or I'm commuting to worker, wherever I'm listening to it, it just keeps coming back to the same things. There's no silver bullet. There's no quick wins. There's no, you know, gimme the magic formula. Tell me, tell me what I need to do.

It's like, no, you just keep working. You keep improving. You keep getting over the setbacks. You keep doing the best that you have with the resources you have with your fingertips. You know, you keep challenging. You keep stepping outside your comfort zone. There's all of these same threads, no matter who they speak to, no matter what their background is.

And that for me is just really good reassurance that essentially, if you want to work on something enough. And if you put enough time and effort, you know, most of the times people will do what they want to do because it's not, [00:38:00] there's not a magic formula to it.

[00:38:01] Phil: Yeah, I love that. Well, thanks. Thank you so much Paul for being a part of the conversation today.

Very, very much appreciate you all you're doing. And just, I, I, I hope we can get you back on and expand this conversation cause I know we could have gone much deeper and much longer on all these different things. So thanks.

[00:38:17] Paul McVeigh: No pleasure. And, and I'm actually gonna be in, in the US in, in January speaking at the USC convention in Philly.

So if anyone's listening, if anyone has some time to come along and listen to my sessions or, or just wants to come up and say hello, then then feel free to do that. Or, of course, reach out on the, on the socials, whether it's Instagram, Twitter, just @paulmcveigh77. , as you said earlier, guys, you know, feel free to head to my website, which is, where you can go and download a book for free because it's, it's not a moneymaking opportunity, it's more just trying to spread the word. Yep, absolutely. We'll have

[00:38:50] Paul: I, I can say from experience, Paul, the first time I was introduced to you was at the United Soccer Coaches' Convention a a, a few years ago and heard you speak and highly recommend if anybody has the opportunity.

[00:39:00] To listen to you, to, to do so. If they haven't gotten that just from listening to this podcast they can free that on their own by stepping into a room where you're on stage. And if anything, it's just, you know, it's just the accent. You know, you may not be saying anything. I'm not sure Paul, but the accent is worth listening to.

[00:39:12] Phil: So, yeah, we always say that. We

[00:39:15] Paul McVeigh: always say that. If I had a dollar for every time I heard that, I'd be a very rich man. Yeah.

[00:39:20] Paul: You know what, Paul? I don't get that being from Georgia, from South, you know, the Southern United States. I don't get that accent. People like my accent as much. So you're, you're very blessed, man.

[00:39:29] Phil: Blessed never heard that. Paul and I, Paul Jobs and I, that is, have talked about taking accent lessons cuz we'd probably get, you know, more people listening to this. They think we're smarter. But you know, that's, we haven't done that yet. We haven't done that yet. But I thank Paul I too. Yeah, I was gonna, I was gonna mention that.

I'm glad you did. We do have the United States soccer, or I keep saying the United States, United Soccer Coaches convention coming up here. It is in the United States at, in Philadelphia. But yeah, I'll, I'll be there with Paul and we will have that link in the In the, in the show notes. And so anything else you wanted to learn from this, [00:40:00] that, that will be in the show notes, anything we talked about today, You can, you can click, you can just go there right now. M C V E I G H dot com and or you can go to the. To the episode. Show notes for this and you'll get it there. So, all kinds of other stuff there in the show notes you can check out if you listen to this podcast, you know, we have some other things.

Paul's doing warrior way. We have coaching the bigger game as well. But we will also hopefully see you January 11th through 15th in Philadelphia at the United Soccer Coaches Convention, where you will be able to, to hear Paul speak on different things. I'll be speaking there as well on with a panel on DISC.

And Retention of Players. So, we got all that. But most importantly with all this today, we hope that you're taking what you're learning today and using all of it to help you be a better leader in all that you do. A better parent, a better spouse, a better friend, and continually remind yourself that in this case, today, since we're talking to a man from Belfast, Football explains life and [00:41:00] leadership.

Thanks a lot. Have a great couple weeks.