By Martin Walker
This weekend marks the 10th anniversary of Middlesbrough winning the League Cup – as Sunderland prepare to win the same trophy.
The Black Cats will take on mighty Manchester City in the Capital One Cup Final at Wembley this Sunday – exactly a decade after Boro won their first-ever piece of silverware.
Gus Poyet will need all the help he can get if the Wearsiders are to end their 41-year wait for a cup.
And he could take a leaf out of Steve McClaren’s book, after the England manager in waiting employed renowned sports psychologist Bill Bewsick to employ some priceless motivational tactics.
In a Boro book published by Dave Allan Communications and designed by Mantis Media, One Giant Leap reveals how McClaren’s pre-match team-talk was replaced with the unmistakeable voice of Hollywood star Al Pacino.
As the Boro players watch highlights of their cup run flash up on a screen, the cup finalists were treated to an inspiring speech by Pacino taken from Oliver Stone’s 1999 film, Any Given Sunday, a cult classic about a team of American footballers.
As images of Boro players scoring goals, celebrating and crashing into tackles, Pacino prepares them for “the biggest games of our professional lives”, describing how life, and football, “is a game of inches”.
“The film was the last shot from a week of careful preparation,” explains Beswick.
“We didn’t want a pre-game meeting that told them how to play and how to win. They knew how to do that.
“They came into the room, sat down, the lights dimmed and the pictures, the words and the music came on. It was very cleverly scripted. The video highlighted everybody’s contribution to our run to the final, whether it was players scoring goals, Mark Schwarzer making saves or defenders crunching into tackles.
“It was all about showing us as a team. It was devastatingly effective. Nobody said a word after. The lights came on, they stood up and got on the bus to the stadium.
“The film had the greatest effect on Ugo. He took it to heart. I thought he had his best game for Middlesbrough in that final. I thought he commanded the defence.”
Ehiogu has not forgotten the impact the video made on him. In the book, he recalls: “Pacino talks about the extra inches that you don’t think make a difference but actually do. It was the right speech at the right time for me. I remember getting up and thinking ‘I’m ready’. I think we were all pumped up and ready to go out and win the final right there.”
McClaren talks with pride as he recalls the way Pacino stood in for him on his own team-talk.
“After watching the video, the players said ‘There is no way we are going to lose this game’. It focused the mind. Before a big match like that, all you want the players to do is focus on the game and their job. This was all about focusing them purely on the game.”
Franck Queudrue admits he had goose-bumps as he listened to Pacino, while Zenden, who would have such a dramatic effect on the opening minutes of the final, was another equally moved by the video.
“The manager didn’t even say anything,” recalls Zenden. “The video spoke for itself. We knew the line-up, there was nothing more to say.
“We just got on with it. It got us emotional in a good way. We were really pumped up. It inspired me. In the dressing room before the game, I told the other players ‘We go out there and win, and we’ll come back as heroes. We have the opportunity to write history.”
One Giant Leap is available in MFC stores, priced £15.