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Winning in team sports is almost impossible. That’s why very few do it. You have to take a collection of egos and talents and get them all on the same page at the same time, over the course of a season.
A really shining example of that came during the Chiefs’ Super Bowl win on Sunday, when Travis Kelce collided with Andy Reid and yelled in his face.
The whole world said, ‘My God, how could Kelce do that?’ But my first thought was: this is not what it seems. On the surface, it seemed like Kelce was undermining Reid, and how dare a player yell at a coach like that?
But, in my experience, it was more about the bond and synergy between them. Sure, Kelce was aggressive, but his reaction was more: ‘Give me the damn ball.’ This is the great game. I’m the boy.’
I’ve done that to other players and other players have done it to me. I was shouting at my centre-backs, at guys like Phil Jagielka at Everton, who was a dear friend. It is the opposite of undermining them. It’s a matter of respect and it applies the other way around: someone trusts me enough to attack me like that, knowing I can handle it.
Travis Kelce yelled in Chiefs coach Andy Reid’s face during the Super Bowl in Las Vegas
DailyMail.com sports columnist Tim Howard was not surprised by the crash in Las Vegas.
And I think it says a lot that Reid didn’t even blink. He doesn’t even look at Kelce, he doesn’t react, he just absorbs it. He knows exactly what she is. And he probably liked it: that’s the reaction I want from my most important player in the most important game.
It says everything about the leader Reid is, the winner he is and the culture he creates. That’s why he is a champion on multiple occasions. Any good leader needs humility and a true sense of balance: knowing when to be stern and pound the table with your fist, and when to absorb moments like that.
The way both he and Kelce reacted told me: this wasn’t the first time. I imagine they have had worse confrontations than that. This was just the first time we saw it. He was simply in front of the world.
During my career it’s usually been the other way around: I’ve been on the receiving end of some awful conversations from both Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes and, whether you think you’re right or wrong, a manager has to be able to have a pop towards you and you have to be able to handle it. He often had every excuse possible but they didn’t want to hear any of them.
Former Manchester United captain Roy Keane would clash with Sir Alex Ferguson
Howard used to shout at his “dear friend” and Everton team-mate Phil Jagielka (pictured).
No one at Everton would ever attack David Moyes. Once, a player, who shall remain nameless and who had a lot to say, was adamant that he would not run after a game. Moyes obtained that information and took control of the player: he had him pinned against the wall and I can assure you that the player did the exercise.
At Manchester United, Roy Keane and Sir Alex Ferguson had some clashes; I remember once, after a game at Bolton, they got into a fight in the dressing room. They were throwing things, shouting back and forth while the rest of us were hiding in a corner. It becomes awkward: no one is going to intervene! Everyone fell silent. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to be in a locker room with two huge leaders like that, there’s nothing you can say or do.
But, I repeat, you cannot have those passionate conversations, those shouting matches without respect. Otherwise it overflows. Everything arises from a base of respect.
THE SECRETS TO BUILDING A DYNASTY
The Chiefs’ victory over the 49ers cemented Kansas City as a dynasty. I know from my time at Manchester United that teams that always win have a certain culture. It is established by the coach, but the players live it every day: a strong mentality, holding each other accountable, something that, by the way, is very difficult to do. Because everyone wants to please. Nobody wants difficult conversations.
But on championship-winning teams, difficult conversations happen every day. Players push each other, not caring about being liked. One vision, one goal and they very rarely deviate from that.
When they do, there are enough characters to get it back. And often, coaches don’t have to do much: They’ve already planted those seeds, so the team takes care of itself.
Kelce has helped the Kansas City Chiefs win three Super Bowls in the last five years.
Championship pedigree is all about mentality. Performance, execution… that’s evident. But to be resilient from the start of the season to the final whistle, it’s all about mentality.
You can train that, but it’s rare. You have to identify good characters: people who can handle pressure, who are willing to put themselves in uncomfortable situations, who are willing to be vulnerable. And that has nothing to do with being a good player. It has everything to do with character.
At United, it was all about the minute details. On a day-to-day basis, Fergie would create a training environment where winning mattered. It mattered that you won a small game. Shooting exercises were important. And when your team lost players he would be furious.
You began to understand that, from Monday to Friday, the standard became so high that you were so afraid of disappointing your teammates. That then began to filter down to the day. You are already hardened with that mentality.
Manchester United’s standards were set every day in training by people like Keane.
Reid has built a winning culture in Kansas City that allows the team to overcome adversity.
Every day I was nervous to go to training, and that’s good. It wasn’t just about getting through the next hour and a half. But that standard is only offered to the best teams. And it also applies off the field: not wearing a cap in games, tucked in shirts, being on time for meals, everything mattered. Best practices become a habit.
The 49ers admitted after the Super Bowl that they didn’t know the rules of overtime. A huge mistake. Can you imagine the Chiefs doing that? No.
Yeah, they weren’t brilliant this year. But it still seemed inevitable that they would win the Super Bowl. That comes down to best practices: making sure there is consistency in performance, in the way they do their jobs and in the things they say.
Sometimes I listen to what’s coming out of the Chiefs locker room and think, ‘This is so bland and vanilla.’ But the same thing happened with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s Patriots. They didn’t give you much. It was very much a worker mentality: hard hat, lunch box and you just knew what you were going to get.
MAHOMES HAS QUALITIES THAT YOU CAN’T TEACH
You can give support to someone. You can push them to be better. But if you could train someone to perform in the most pressured moments, everyone would do it. And not everyone can.
Patrick Mahomes has something special. He is innate. Before the playoffs, people were asking: Can he do it on the road? Yes because? Because his mentality is very strong. He hasn’t had to because they’ve been so good, but I don’t think anyone in their right mind has ever doubted that he would perform at that level, away from home, in the cold. I do not care.
Patrick Mahomes led the Chiefs on a winning streak into overtime against San Francisco.
He had something in him from very early on that said: I can be a champion, I can be a leader. And we see that over time with special players.
Roy Keane never blinked in the face of adversity. If he ever felt afraid, he never showed it.
The most important games were the ones he enjoyed, those moments brought out the best in him.
And when you have a good leader, who always shows up, who never lets you down, you are deathly afraid of disappointing him.
So you keep your standards high because you’ve been shown what it takes. Are you playing for pride? Yes. Are you playing for yourself? Yes. Are you playing not to lose, out of fear? Sure. But you are also playing not to let your leader down.
MY SUPER BOWL WEEK IN LAS VEGAS
Tim Howard in Las Vegas for Super Bowl week
I was in Las Vegas last week and it is a very special place because everything is so compact.
Often at the Super Bowl, all the parties, events and glitz are spread out. In Las Vegas that can’t happen. It’s a constant party.
I went to a Siegelman Stable event. I went to the LIV Golf party. I went to see comedian Bill Burr. I bet and lost, which is normal. People who tell you they won, they’re full of it!
The city is becoming the sports capital of the United States and the Golden Knights have shown that Las Vegas supports franchises. So we have to see the NBA there and we have to see the MLS there!