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Gary Bloom is Oxford United’s “talk cure” and the only psychotherapist in English football

The championship is the direct target of Oxford United, but in one respect they are already Premier League.

‘Thinking of psychologically conscious clubs that really want to take care of their players, yes Liverpool, Everton, Southampton, Brighton but also Oxford United and that is a great achievement for a League One club,’ said club psychotherapist Gary Bloom.

“We hit well above our weight. We are now becoming a top Premier League club in terms of how we take care of our players. That really makes me proud. ‘

Gary Bloom is the only psychotherapist working in English football - at League One Oxford

Gary Bloom is the only psychotherapist working in English football – at League One Oxford

Bloom helps the Oxford team with anxiety, depression and addiction issues

Bloom helps the Oxford team with anxiety, depression and addiction issues

Bloom helps the Oxford team with anxiety, depression and addiction issues

Bloom, the only psychotherapist in English football, is a key part of the player care service that helped transform Oxford from relegation forces to hopeful promotion last season.

Psychotherapy, Bloom explains, is “a course of conversation,” rather than medical, for mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and addictive behavior.

Helping athletes with fear of failure and unhappiness related to issues such as injury, non-selection or loss of form is also his responsibility.

“It’s an opportunity to understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it,” he says. “Why do you keep missing when you get the ball around, for example? Why do you make mistakes as a defender? Why are you losing patience?

“Why are you taking yellow cards? Why do you keep arguing with teammates? We can help answer all those kinds of questions and once you understand and have tools through psychotherapy to help you understand what you are doing and why you can change your behavior.

Oxford United are having a great season as they enter the League One Playoffs

Oxford United are having a great season as they enter the League One Playoffs

Oxford United are having a great season as they enter the League One Playoffs

Oxford manager Karl Robinson called for psychological help

Oxford manager Karl Robinson called for psychological help

Oxford manager Karl Robinson called for psychological help

League One Play Offs

SEMI-FINAL, FIRST POT

Friday, July 3

Portsmouth vs Oxford United (5.30pm)

Fleetwood vs Wycombe (7.30pm)

HALF DEAL, SECOND POT

Monday, July 6

Oxford United vs Portsmouth (5pm)

Wycombe vs Fleetwood (7.30pm)

LAST

Monday, July 13

Wembley (7.30pm)

All matches are live on Sky Sports Football

‘Many psychological models go directly to performance. We worry about the person first, making sure they are good physically, as well as mentally. Happier players simply play better. ‘

The evidence is in the pudding, since Bloom got involved with Oxford after being warned by his American supportive son about a plea from Karl Robinson in the local newspaper for some psychological help because his team was not yellowing.

Bloom, who has a talk show on Harley Street and a mental health talk show, quickly saw firsthand the depths the confident Us had sunk into.

On the night of October 2018 from his first visit after Robinson’s call, Luton left the second half of League One at Oxford at the last minute.

This Friday, they will play against Portsmouth in the League One play-off semifinals after finishing fourth in the aborted regular season.

Bloom emphasizes that all credit should not be his and he is instead part of a management team that has worked together to improve the way Oxford operates as a team and club, resulting in better results.

Relationships have improved and players are happier, encouraged to be more open. A noticeably positive environment has been created throughout the club.

However, it was not easy. Initially, there was skepticism about an outsider gaining access to the inner sanctuary of Oxford.

A third of the group loved having Bloom around and would use it, a third welcomed its impact but didn’t consider its methods for them, while the last third ‘just completely ignored me pretending I wasn’t there’ .

Oxford finished fourth and in the League One Playoffs at the points-per-game table

Oxford finished fourth and in the League One Playoffs at the points-per-game table

Oxford finished fourth and in the League One Playoffs at the points-per-game table

Oxford has faced a lot of Premier League opposition this season, including a youthful squad from Manchester City in the quarterfinals of the Carabao Cup

Oxford has faced a lot of Premier League opposition this season, including a youthful squad from Manchester City in the quarterfinals of the Carabao Cup

Oxford has faced a lot of Premier League opposition this season, including a youthful squad from Manchester City in the quarterfinals of the Carabao Cup

Confidence grew slowly over time. “The first and second groups have grown slightly and the third group has become smaller,” he says.

“Many footballers, as soon as they hear ‘psych’, a switch goes in their head, they internalize that and think ‘there is something wrong with me’.

“My job is to normalize these conversations and say,” This is about both performance and resilience. Be a better footballer and a happier footballer. ‘

One problem is that due to patient confidentiality, there are times when Bloom knows more about a player’s personal situation than manager Robinson, whom he cannot reveal.

“At the same time, there are things I could encourage a player to share with the manager or I could bring the concerns of different players to the manager if the players don’t like to raise it,” Bloom explains.

Fortunately, Robinson is open-minded and respects the work Bloom has to do, to the point of even accepting tips on his own management style.

Elliott Moore celebrates scoring in Oxford's 4-0 win over West Ham in the Carabao Cup

Elliott Moore celebrates scoring in Oxford's 4-0 win over West Ham in the Carabao Cup

Elliott Moore celebrates scoring in Oxford’s 4-0 win over West Ham in the Carabao Cup

“It could be the way he addresses players in a team meeting. I can question a team discussion, sometimes press conferences, especially in our early days together, ”Bloom said.

“Was it helpful to do that?” He changed the way he did it and I think that was my role.

“He’s very psychologically prepared and aware, probably more than any manager I’ve ever met.”

Bloom says why he is the only psychotherapist in football, given the impact such work can have “is the question of $ 64,000.”

He estimates that players will miss out on at least 25 percent of potential development if the psychological part of the FA’s Four Corner Model, which also includes the technical, physical and social elements, is ignored.

A match saw Oxford play away 0-0 to Newcastle in the FA Cup fourth round

A match saw Oxford play away 0-0 to Newcastle in the FA Cup fourth round

A match saw Oxford play away 0-0 to Newcastle in the FA Cup fourth round

Studies estimate that using psychotherapy can improve performance by eight to 15 percent.

“Football is at least ten years behind sports like cricket and rugby,” Bloom said.

Bloom’s work could give Oxford an edge in overcoming the challenges of nearly four months of football shutdown.

They went into hiatus with a five-game winning streak and should be ready to pick up where they left off for the playoffs.

Bloom said, “It’s about re-socializing the group because player unity is key and like all the clubs in the playoffs, ours won’t be together for long.

“In the past 18 months, when things were not right, we tried to tackle them immediately, so when they come back to this social environment, all those relationships are ready to reform.

“Imagine we have a garage full of expensive cars with maybe computers on board. My job is to make sure that the software ticks properly because it has one or two glitches. ‘

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