Performance psychologist Michael Finnigan insists David Moyes will be even more hungry to succeed in his new job as Manchester United boss because he has never won a major trophy as a manager.
Finnigan has worked closely with Moyes for 15 years, ensuring the Scot retains the mental strength required to keep moving forward in the most high pressured of situations.
Moyes will be analysed as never before as he begins the task of replacing Sir Alex Ferguson. His first official day in the new job is today.
There are many reasons to be negative, not least the fact Moyes has none of the silverware his new charges have spent their careers gathering up so hungrily.
He will not be looking at the situation like that though. A decade and a half working with Finnigan ensures it.
“I don’t care what it is, I always turn a situation into a positive,” Finnigan said. “If it was a question of him never winning a title I would say ‘fantastic’. It just makes him more hungry to succeed. Before I worked with Jimmy White he had never beaten Stephen Hendry. I didn’t see that as a problem. I just felt he was learning how to beat him. And he did.
“It doesn’t matter whether David has won titles or not, he will be judged on his interaction and within a couple of minutes the person will win you over. Any further perceptions are in the person’s own head.”
It is difficult to accurately describe Finnigan’s expertise. He recoils at any suggestion of a label and is wary of the kind of tag planted on faith healer Eileen Drewery when Glenn Hoddle brought her in to work with the England team.
Finnigan’s clients also include golfer Darren Clarke, former cricketer Andrew Flintoff, Wigan’s FA Cup-winning squad, plus a growing list of blue chip companies – where most of his income comes from – eager to lift the morale of their staff.
On the back of his own book They Did You Can Finnigan is described as working in “performance psychology”, although he admits he has no psychology qualifications, even if members of his team do.
It is impossible to spend any time with him without being captivated by his enthusiasm or feeling the positive energy that flows from him.
As with the very best in any profession, listening to Finnigan, it all sounds so easy.
“All the actions we take on a daily basis are driven by an unconscious view of where we are going to end up – and I mean in 25 years’ time, or 50 or 100,” he said.
“It sounds ridiculous but if I feel I am only going to be an average footballer, why do I need to see a nutritionist? But if I am going to be the greatest player, I will give the nutritionist half an hour. Every organisation becomes the extended shadow of one person. If that person shows where they are heading, any issues are just kinks in the road. If someone doesn’t buy into that vision, it is no good, it doesn’t matter how good they are. You are better with a lesser skilled man who believes in what is being done because he will do the extra half hour or cajole everyone else.
“The maelstrom makes sense because they are moving towards something.”
Finnigan’s skill comes in delivering such a clear vision without seeming to. As he correctly points out, his strength comes from speaking like a ‘down-to-earth lad from Chorley’.
So, he explains why golfers talk themselves into failure at certain holes, or why 36 people ran the mile in under four minutes straight after Roger Bannister broke the barrier.
“Until the age of 32 I worked in banking, which made me the most cynical and hard-bitten person you could imagine,” he said. “I was trained to look for flaws and weaknesses. My job demanded a negative attitude because really, I only wanted to lend money to the people who didn’t need it. There is a good reason why people instinctively look negatively on situations. One hundred thousand years ago the penalties for being positive were a lot greater. You might stick your hand into a bush and get your fingers bitten by a poisonous snake. In this modern world we don’t need to be that negative.
“There are not many risks attached to being bold and courageous anymore. You might fall on your face but you just get back up again.”
It is that mindset Moyes will carry into Carrington this morning.
When he plonks himself behind his desk and stares up at a fixture list most United fans have assessed with a feeling of dread, the Scot will look at Chelsea (h), Liverpool (a) and Manchester City (a) in those first five games and hear Finnigan’s voice.
“Great. How hungry are you? Bring it on.”