New Mansfield Town performance coach Drewe Broughton wants to help the Stags embrace pressure

Drewe Broughton in his playing days for Rushden and Diamonds
Drewe Broughton in his playing days for Rushden and Diamonds

Mansfield Town’s new performance coach has opened up about the pressures footballers are under, the mental side of the game – and the fact that he believes the Stags can win promotion from League Two this season.

Drewe Broughton was appointed after goalkeeper coach Ian Pledger, fitness coach Daryl Taylor and senior performance analyst Dan Ashby left the Stags following Tuesday’s 4-0 home defeat to Cambridge United.

It left the Stags 18th with nine points from nine matches and six points adrift of the top seven – and eight points behind the automatic promotion places.

John Dempster backs performance coach to shine

But Broughton insisted there were plenty of positives in the first half of the midweek loss and said: “Let’s go up, that’s the remit, that’s what it is about.”

Broughton, a former lower league striker, has since built up a successful career as first a fitness coach – including working with the likes of a young Harry Kane, Craig Bellamy at Cardiff, and Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at Arsenal - and then working with players on the mental side of the game and dealing with pressure.

He said he wanted to make sure that when they cross the white line players “can be as free and expressive as they can be” through having honest conversations.

“I was a lower league target man, a number nine… people thought I was tough and horrible,” he said. “But deep down I was a sensitive guy. I would go on to the pitch with a million thoughts – got to play well, don’t give the ball away, your head would be fried and then you don’t play well. You get subbed, then you are in the reserves and then you are in a cycle for 17 years.

“I needed someone to say to me before a game, what are you thinking about and to strip it back. To say it is alright to be scared. After you have been beaten 4-0 it is hard as players to go out on the Saturday and say give me the ball again. That is the hardest thing to do.

“Football is not complicated but pressure can play havoc with people.”

Broughton, who worked with the under-18s at the Stags last season when they were led by now first-team manager John Dempster, promised that fans would be able to see players freer to express themselves more while he was at the club.

He said: “Every squad has pressure… but no one responds to an iron fist. It’s about knowing that life and football is hard, but getting people feeling good emotionally. Then they will play well. You will see players playing freer.”

Broughton, who played with Dempster at Rushden and Diamonds, said that when he finished playing eight years ago he had mental health issues and ended up in rehab.

But he bounced back. “I had studied human movement and injuries, so I built a business for four years working with players privately – Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott at Arsenal, a young Harry Kane when he was having hamstring issues on loan at Millwall, Craig Bellamy at Cardiff, Stephen Caulker – offering different guys different solutions.

“But it wasn’t my passion… I didn’t fulfil my potential and I always felt there was something massively wrong with the game on this side – mental health and obviously now the pressures are huge.

“I started through a friend of a friend. There was a top young player who was struggling. We started talking and he started doing really well. Through word of mouth, journalists, agents, it just started to go crazy.

“I had gone away from the physical stuff to just the mental side – talking to players before games, after games and all week. Making sure that when they cross the white line they can be as free and expressive as they can be. It is very much what Gareth Southgate has done with England. They talk about emotional intelligence. I am a massive believer in that.”

Broughton said while at the Stags he would be able to “just have those softer little conversations in and around the manager’s work”.

After taking part in his first training session on Friday ahead of Saturday’s trip to Port Vale, he added: “I have been in this game 25 years. It was a great training session. There was tempo and intensity with really good players. Probably man for man it is the strongest squad in the league.

“But this is the tragedy. When I trained I was (often) 9 out of 10 in training and then 4 out of 10 on a Saturday at best, but why was that? We have got to try to make sure we can replicate training on a match day.

“I watched back the game from Tuesday night and I thought the first half was excellent, played at tempo. People were having courage and taking the ball off the goalkeeper and passing quick.

“There were chances, shots… it is easy to go we lost 4-0 but it is my job to (show players) the brilliant things we did the other night and to say lets keep doing that. Wins will come, draws will come, everything will come. But we have to be big enough to look at the 4-0, say it hurts and we will be under pressure, but take that and focus on the brilliant stuff that was going on.”

Broughton added that his role would be “to make sure the players are fit and strong using my experience in that world and to be that psychologist, mental coach to work with the players on the mental side – to let Dempster do the stuff the manager needs to do and Lee Glover (what he needs to do) on the training ground. I will do the other side.”

The ex-striker, who made more than 500 appearances, said he was drawn to Mansfield Town because of his experience of playing alongside Dempster at Rushden – and a desire to get back involved with a club again.

“I remember playing with John at Rushden and remember him being a good guy, humble but tough. John is a good man and the kind of person I can work for because there is no ego, he is a good person.

“I have got a privileged life but I miss the buzz and pressure. It makes you feel alive… you embrace it and that is my message to the players.”