LAMPARD SPOT-KICK SUCCESS DEBATED AT LEADERS CONFERENCE

For the fifth year running, Stamford Bridge became the centre of attention for the football business world this week as our stadium's conference facilities hosted Leaders in Football.

Much of the football news over the past two days, the international fixtures apart, emanated from the West Stand at the Bridge as players, managers, referees, club owners, administrators and broadcasters took to the stage in a wide range of debates.

The football celebrity count was high with World-Cup winning striker Ronaldo there to talk about the next World Cup in his homeland of Brazil and former Chelsea managers Ruud Gullit and Gianluca Vialli were also present. The World Cup itself and the European Championship trophy were on display too. Angel Maria Villar Llona, president of the Spanish Football Federation, was one the speakers, discussing their methods.

Michael Owen's thoughts on diving received much press coverage but in the final session of the whole conference, featuring former England goalkeeper David James, current Swindon manager Paolo Di Canio and Red Bull Salzburg sporting director Ralf Rangnick, it was the penalty taking of Frank Lampard that came under the spotlight.

The debate was on the drivers of behaviour for managers and players and the use of sports psychologists was raised. With a former England international on stage and Rangnick, a German, also present it was asked whether England might have more success in penalty shoot-outs compared with Germany if psychologists are involved more.

'That is just practice on the training field,' insisted James (pictured below centre).

'England's regular scorers from penalties are the ones that regularly practice during England meet-ups,' he added.

Lampard and James

'The likes of Frank Lampard will practice every day taking penalties, repeating the behaviour. The ones who generally miss are the ones who practice just the day before and then when asked will you take a penalty, they say okay, I'll step up and do it.

'If you are in a tournament, especially the World Cup or the Euros, why not practice every day?

'With penalty shoot-outs you can practice them to get comfortable in scoring penalties. People say you can't simulate real-life situations in a penalty shoot-out, you can't simulate the pressure. Well if that was the case we wouldn't need to train at all because you can't simulate a match on a Saturday in training - so it is all about practice.'

Glenn Hoddle, when England manager, was famously quoted as doubting the benefit in practicing for a penalty shoot-out and Di Canio (pictured below left) has more sympathy with that view than James does.

'When you practice there are no fans behind the goal, there is no long walk from the middle of the field to the ball with the goal becoming very small and a small goalkeeper becoming a giant,' said the Italian, who 12 years ago tussled with Lampard over who should take a penalty when both were at West Ham.

'I believe everything you practice you improve the technique but in this moment it is all different because the legs and the ball can become heavy,' Di Canio said.

'Of course you have to practice because if you never practice you don't know how you have to take the penalty, but in the Frank Lampard situation, you can see Frank is very good with composure, he doesn't feel the pressure.'

Di Canio and Lampard


'Lampard gets himself in a situation where he knows he can do it because he does it all the time in training,' insisted James. 'This is what I try to teach young players - if you practice something you get bored with it, you don't get the highs and lows, you just say I can do this - I can score or I can save the shot.'

'I don't agree completely because it is partly because of your character, but obviously you can improve,' argued Di Canio.

'It is not that Frank scores every penalty but you have a guy who is confident he is going to score,' continued James. 'If England had seven players who were confident they were going to score in a shoot-out, we might actually win one.'

Rangnick, who had suggested managers should ask players why they shoot low with penalties when the analysis shows those aimed higher than 1.45m are generally converted, made an observation to conclude this part of the debate:

'Chelsea won on penalties against Bayern Munich,' he said, 'so not all the English teams can't shoot penalties.'