Gold standard: City look to emulate success of cycling as Mancini meets Brailsford
22:09 GMT, 4 October 2012
Manchester City will be champions of the Barclays Premier League for the next eight months, at least. Interestingly, though, they are not even the most successful sporting team in their own postcode.
Six hundred yards or so across a dual carriageway from City’s Etihad Stadium stands the National Cycling Centre. Home to the team that delivered eight Olympic gold medals and, of course, a Tour de France winner in the last three months, Manchester’s velodrome really is the classic centre of excellence.
Years ago — when he was still plotting British Cycling’s route to the top of the world — performance director Dave Brailsford met Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson to ask his advice on building a successful team.
On your bike! Dave Brailsford with Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini
‘Get rid of the b******s’, was Ferguson’s blunt — and not to mention pertinent — reply.
On Thursday afternoon it was City manager Roberto Mancini’s turn to drink tea and swap ideas with the man without whom Victoria Pendleton and Bradley Wiggins might still be searching for the vital ingredients that turn good athletes into gold medallists.
Having heard Mancini was coming, Wiggins hung around after training to meet him. Sadly, the Italian was slightly delayed and the Tour de France winner had somewhere else to be.
Mancini and Brailsford, however, spent two hours talking sport, physiology and man management as members of the successful GB team rode relentlessly around the indoor track that is their home.
‘Football can certainly learn from this sport,’ said Mancini.
‘Every time I watch the Tour de France on the television I say this is very difficult because only one gets the glory but the other 10 are part of the team but don’t get the yellow jersey. To manage that is not easy. In football we all get a medal if we win.
‘Every manager is human so I will try to change the attitude of a player if I feel it is not good for my club or the team.
Saddle up: A keen cyclist himself, Mancini was happy to talk with the team
‘But we need a contribution from everyone — this is the most important thing.
‘It doesn’t matter who scores the winning goal. Football should understand that sometimes.’
A keen cyclist since he was a child, Mancini regularly rides his sky blue 'Manchester City' bike the half-hour journey from his Cheshire home to the club’s training ground.
He declined the offer of a spin around the velodrome, perhaps not surprising given the elite nature of the company.
Looking rather more relaxed than he had during the tension of the previous night’s Champions League 1-1 draw with Borussia Dortmund, Mancini’s challenge this season is not too different to that which faced Brailsford after Team GB delivered eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics — namely how to do it all again next time.
Brailsford said: ‘In certain respects we’re in the same boat. They won the league and we won the Tour de France. That’s a bit more similar than the Olympics.
‘But pressure is only something in your mind. You can’t buy a tin of pressure. It’s not tangible, it’s not real, it’s only something you allow to exist in your mind if you entertain it.
‘I decided way before London that I wasn’t going to entertain pressure. Focus on the process and not the outcome. Pressure’s only going to come if you think the outcome’s going to go wrong. In each race, or in each match, you’re going to have the ups and downs and ebbs and flows of competition, which I think is different from the long, overall view.
Gold rush: Philip Hindes shows off his gold medal at the velodrome
Sign him up! Mancini poses with a Team Sky cycling jersey
‘If you let yourself think, “Holy Moly, what if we lose” then it’s going to compromise what you’re doing now.
‘If you keep focusing on making sure you’re getting the process right, the outcome will look after itself. You are going there, there will be a race, you will win or lose. Be the best you can be.’
Brailsford admits he looked on with interest as Mancini wrestled with the Carlos Tevez issue a year ago.
‘It soon became clear that there was one guy in charge and one guy only,’ he said. ‘He was the boss and he was the manager. It was impressive.’
For his part, Mancini watched and wondered how Brailsford motivates his athletes to complete circuit after circuit of often tedious riding when he sometimes finds it hard to keep Mario Balotelli occupied for more than 10 minutes.
Asked if Balotelli could benefit from the sports psychologists employed by cycling, Mancini smiled and said: 'Mario would need two.'
He also offered the opinion that football is still ‘too far behind’ other sports in the science of preparation. Overall, it was clear this was a valuable exercise for both men.
Mancini suggested Brailsford could one day work in football. ‘Why not’ the City boss said. ‘Things like this have happened before in Italian football.’
Brailsford, though, has other dreams to fulfil before he leaves a team that carries his personality and his stamp in every way.
‘I would not rule out switching sports,’ he said. ‘But I have unfinished business in cycling. I am still on a voyage of discovery.’