Words of wisdom can make a world of difference

Half-time speech: Scott Parker
Half-time speech: Scott Parker
Mutiny Festival 2017 Picture: Paul Windsor

Keep children safe – but beware the nanny state

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According to striker Carlton Cole, it was an Agincourt-style tear-jerking half-time address from captain Scott Parker which sparked West Ham’s revival from 3-0 down to get an unlikely point at West Brom.

So can mere words change the course of sporting history?

Fighting Muhammad Ali in the brutally memorable Thriller in Manila, a dangerously-exhausted Joe Frazier was retired with just one round to go by his great corner-man Eddie Futch, who told him: ‘Sit down son. It’s over. But no-one will ever forget what you did here, today.’

And no-one who has seen that fight will ever forget, either.

Frazier never spoke to Futch for a year after that.

But the trainer’s compassionate decision may have saved Joe’s life.

Back in 1966, England’s footballers were heartbroken after West Germany snatched the World Cup from their grasp with a last-minute equaliser.

With extra-time looming, manager Sir Alf Ramsey came on the pitch, told the players to get on their feet and simply said: ‘Look at the Germans. They’re spent. You’ve won this game once. Go and do it again.’

England famously did exactly that, of course, to win football’s greatest prize.

Liverpool legend Bill Shankly addressed his players ahead of a clash with Manchester United by attempting to make illustrious opponents seem beatable.

‘The keeper is dodgy, the full-backs Dunne and Brennan are nothing special, Paddy Crerand in midfield is deceptive and slower than he looks, Foulkes is past it, Stiles can’t play...’

And so it went on until one of the Liverpool players asked: ‘What about Best, Law and Charlton, boss’.

‘Christ, son,’ said Shankly, ‘if ya can nae beat three players we may as well pack up.’

As Sugar Ray Leonard fell behind in his 1981 epic with Thomas Hearns, trainer Angelo Dundee simply shot him an urgent five-word warning: ‘You are blowing this, kid.’ The message struck home and Leonard proceeded to blast Hearns to defeat.

But the best I ever heard was an Oscar-winning effort from trainer Teddy Atlas as his fighter Michael Moorer struggled in a world heavyweight title fight with Evander Holyfield in Las Vegas.

Atlas produced his own Gettysburg address as a hesitant Moorer sat on his stool between rounds: ‘Michael, there comes a time in a man’s life where he’s gotta decide,’ he said.

‘Does he want to lay his soul on the line in pursuit of his dream, or is he going to creep back into the shadows and be forgotten?

‘Do you want to fight – or quit?

‘Which is it? You will only be here once, fighting for the championship of the world. Michael, it’s time to make that decision’.

Michael made it.

He produced his best-ever performance to beat Holyfield on points and take the title.

They are only words. But they can mean so much.