The psychological mind games used by managers can have a big effect on the success of their team.
Former Don Jim Hermiston knows that more than most.
In 1970 he was struggling to be fit for the biggest game of his career – Aberdeen’s Scottish Cup final with Celtic, who are also the Reds’ opponents in Sunday’s Hampden semi-final.
It is 49 years to the day since Eddie Turnbull’s Dons defeated the Hoops 3-1 with a goal from Joe Harper and Derek “Cup-Tie” McKay’s double in front of 108,000 at the national stadium to win the cup for the second time in their history.
Hermiston had picked up an injury in the 1-0 last-four win against Kilmarnock and his chances of reaching the final were doubtful. But a motivational masterstroke delivered by boss Turnbull and legendary coach Teddy Scott helped Hermiston make the final.
Speaking to the Evening Express from his home in Brisbane, the 71-year-old said: “It still only feels like yesterday that we won the Scottish Cup.
“I remember I was injured and missed the games before the semi-final.
“Then I was injured again in the semi-final so the memory I always have is of how much Teddy Scott and Eddie Turnbull helped me come back for the final.
“I’m so thankful to them because Teddy and Eddie encouraged me so much and had me working so hard on my fitness to have a chance of playing in the final.
“I had bad ankle injuries but a big part of it was in the mind. My ankles were sore but Eddie found ways to take my mind off it.
“He used to send me down to the beach with Teddy Scott and I would get in the sea to play with a ball in the water, with the idea being it should help my ankles.
“I’ve always remembered the encouragement that they gave me.
“The week before the final there was a reserve team game. Eddie said to me if I came through it unscathed and proved my fitness I would start in the cup final.
“I thought, ‘wow’, because nobody else knew about that and I thought that was brilliant management.
“It gave my an incentive and gave me confidence.
“Usually managers only reveal a team for a cup final on the day of the game or the day before but Eddie did something different with me to help me make the team.
“Only Eddie, Teddy and I knew about it but I went into the reserve game and just ran myself into the ground. I was fine the day after and then able to play in the cup final.”
For the final Turnbull again showed his faith in Hermiston by taking him out of his usual full-back role and asking him to play in midfield and man-mark Celtic playmaker Bobby Murdoch.
It was a shock to Hermiston, as Turnbull only announced his plan on the day of the final.
The retired police officer, who emigrated to Australia in 1977, added: “Bobby was someone I really admired. He had a real work ethic, was a very busy player.
“I remember Eddie gave the team talk and said, ‘Jim will be marking Bobby Murdoch’.
“It was a difficult job, but because Eddie and Teddy were so loyal to me I just went out and worked as hard as I could for them.
“It was a big mental thing because I was sore, but pain is all in the head so I played through it.
“I’d never practised in midfield in training or on a man-marking role like that.
“But I wanted to repay him for what he did for me so I went out and just did that job as best I could.
“It wasn’t like it was something we’d worked on in training – he just put me into that role, which showed a lot of faith in me.”