Port Vale’s Tom Pope – Experience helps but I still have to deal with frustrations



Any footballer will tell you the pressure that comes with the job.

For some, especially younger players, that’s playing in front of a crowd when they are on your case.

You don’t have long careers like, for example, myself or Leon Legge or Luke Joyce if you are worried about what fans are going to say or shout at you.

But a player might misplace a pass and cost a goal, or miss an easy chance, and then all the fans are laughing at you and taking the mick.

It can just suck you in and rather than thinking, ‘right I’ll put the next chance away or clear the next ball in,’ they end up crumbling. I have seen that happen to players over my career and it is difficult to watch. 

Also, for young players especially, there’s having to deal with criticism on and off the pitch, something that is multiplied these days with social media.

I used to go on the fans’ sites when I was first starting at Crewe. You want to read praise when you have done well but there is the criticism as well, and I realised I had to stop.

Footballers want to please everybody but I had to accept there will be some people out there that just won’t like you. But some players will take it to heart and feel really hurt.

I learned that I couldn’t spend my time worrying about other people’s opinions. I know if I have had a good game or not, and that’s not necessarily about whether I’ve scored. 

I played with one striker in an away game with another club where he scored but was at fault for two goals as we got well beaten. He lost his man from a corner and also gave the ball away for the other side to go through and score. But he was on the bus saying, ‘yes I scored again’, on the phone on the way home.

So, it’s not just about scoring goals and I know myself if I have done well for the team.

But as you get older there are still challenges and frustrations to deal with.

For example, if I’ve had a bad game it will stay with me all week and grind on me until I can go out and put it right.

When Micky Adams was here, I would come in on some Mondays and he would say ‘you were bloody awful on Saturday’.

I’d try to apologise and he’d say, ‘it’s okay, I know you’ll put it right this Saturday.’

But now at this stage of my career it’s a different challenge because I’m less likely to be starting every week.

So, I might have a bad game and then be sitting on the bench for five or six games afterwards if someone else has come in and done well.

I am a player who wants to put things right straight away but, at nearly 35 now, I have to accept I might not be in the side all the time.

When you have been one of the main players for six or seven years then it is tough.

It’s a different challenge but something I have to accept – knowing I might not get the chance to right a wrong straight away. 





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