sport news Manchester City legend Willie Donachie on how he uses background in meditation ...

If Gareth Southgate thinks the traffic on the North Circular to Wembley is bad, he should consider Willie Donachie's journey to the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat, where the Scot is national team manager.

'You need to fly to Antigua,' begins Donachie. 'Then you get on a boat or little six-seater plane. The air strip's like a postage stamp but the boat's even worse — it takes an hour and 15 minutes but you can't go on the deck. You have to go below and a sign says, 'Please use these sickness bags'. Luckily so far it's never been that rough.'

Luckily for Montserrat, the British Overseas Territory that suffered a volcanic eruption two decades ago, in Donachie they have a coach who is an island of calm.

Willie Donachie is manager of Monserrat, the British overseas territory in the Carribbean

Willie Donachie is manager of Monserrat, the British overseas territory in the Carribbean

As a 1976 League Cup-winning full back at Manchester City and first-team coach at Oldham and Everton, the Scot was a pioneer of mindfulness techniques. He used them to help Joe Royle turn Oldham into a Premier League team and Everton into FA Cup winners.

His son Danny, sitting with us in a Manchester hotel bar, has followed his father's interest in Buddhist teaching and, as head of therapy services at Goodison Park, once took his favourite yogi to address the Everton team before a Merseyside derby.

Can mindfulness really help Montserrat, a team from an island of 5,000 people whose best player is Charlton Athletic forward Lyle Taylor? 'I've given a few exercises but Montserrat's a special case because they're good players but mainly non-League players and still want to be shouted at really,' says the senior Donachie.

Donachie and his son Danny (right) both help players with the mental side of the game

Donachie and his son Danny (right) both help players with the mental side of the game

'How do you know? Have you asked them?' responds Danny.

His dad proffers an example: 'We lost my first game in the 95th minute because the sub is this chubby little guy who couldn't run and he let this player go and he scored. After the game I said, 'Well done guys'. They were saying, 'Is that it?'

'They were expecting me to have a go at this lad who just couldn't do any better. But it was against El Salvador, six and a half million people and all professionals.'

Willie Donachie is 68 but looks almost as trim as in a playing career which included more than 400 appearances for City before spells at Portland Timbers, Norwich, Burnley and Oldham.

It was at Maine Road that he began to pursue the power of the mind. 'It was after my mum died and I was quite young that I started thinking,' he explains. 'I started following this practical philosophy course when I was 20. They taught awareness exercises — it wasn't called mindfulness then.'

How was a meditating footballer viewed in the 1970s? 'You had to keep it quiet,' he replies. 'My close friends knew I was interested but not many other people.'

His most open-minded manager was Malcolm Allison at City. 'First time round, Malcolm was brilliant, way ahead, bringing in weight-lifting and fitness work, very simple and positive, always encouraging,' remembers Donachie.

The Manchester City legend was way ahead of his time with meditation and mindfulness

The Manchester City legend was way ahead of his time with meditation and mindfulness

Allison introduced him to Lennie Heppell, the former ballroom dancing champion whom Donachie later took into Oldham. 'He taught everybody about speed and movement — boxers, golfers, tennis players, table tennis, footballers.' For both Donachies, working with footballers' minds is just as important as their bodies. Both feel the pressure and scrutiny surrounding the modern game makes this more challenging.

'I became a coach because I wanted players to enjoy playing,' says Willie. 'Dan will tell you now it's changed. With kids it's too complicated — you've got all these learning plans and parents thinking they might become stars. They should be having fun and

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