Chelsea have hired the mental skills coach behind the All Blacks rugby union team’s “no leader” policy to help create the one thing Todd Boehly’s money can’t buy: a winning culture.
Gilbert Enoka, who has been the All Blacks’ lead manager for the past seven years after spending 15 years as the team’s mental skills coach, is to begin what is being described as a short-term advisory role with Chelsea.
Enoka is seen as a hugely influential influence on the All Blacks for more than two decades, particularly when New Zealand’s dominance of Test rugby union peaked with back-to-back World Cup victories in 2011 and 2015.
Helping players cope with a suffocating prospect, especially at the World Cup at home in 2011, was among his main responsibilities in the previous job. New Zealand won that tournament four years after France were knocked out in the 2007 quarter-finals, a match seen as an indication of their tendency to “boil” under pressure given their series performances. British and Irish Lions 2005.
Rugby is not the only sport Enoka has worked in, as the former PE teacher also spent six years as a mental skills coach with the New Zealand cricket team and three years with the Silver Ferns netball team.
But working with Chelsea will be Enoka’s first foray into football, with his remit being to help the club develop a new world-class culture under Boehly-Clearlake Capital ownership.
Boehly and his Clearlake co-owner Behdad Eghbali have spent more than £600 million on new signings over two transfer windows and hired a new recruitment team.
Head coach Graham Potter’s bloated squad is brimming with different personalities and mindsets, and there is an acknowledgment that Chelsea’s expensive new signings could sink under the weight of expectation if the right culture is not created.
That is the area Enoka has been hired to help, and the 57-year-old will emphasize the importance of the team over the individual at a time when Potter has been left with the unenviable task of trying to help all his new players . settling in, and trying to make sure the current members of the squad don’t become disillusioned.
The mental fortitude of Chelsea’s squad has been questioned by managers and coaches since the club last won the Premier League title in 2017.
‘One d— makes everything about them’
Enoka developed a culture where every member of the squad took responsibility for their actions with the All Blacks and players took it in turns to sweep the dressing rooms clean after games. When a collision has occurred, such as Aaron Cruden’s missed flight, a player is responsible to his teammates rather than the coaches.
The coach himself can also be drawn up by the players, as shown by Enoka when he describes the definition of d—heads as “people who put themselves before the team, people who think that they are entitled to things or expect the rules to be different to them, people operating deceptively in the dark, or being unnecessarily loud about their work.”
He added: “The management may not see these counter-productive behaviours. The players and the leaders themselves should call others out of their inflated egos.
“Our coach Steve Hansen, a great guy, came into a team meeting a few minutes late. As he walked in, one of the senior players stood up and said, ‘Coach, you can’t be late. Not again, please. .’ So this behavior is monitored by the team.
“One d— makes everything about them. Teams often put up with it because a player has so much talent. We look for early warning signs and get the big memos out pretty quickly. Our motto is, if you can’t change the people, change the people.”
Potter made his first senior squad call-up last week by dropping Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Chelsea’s Champions League squad and picked Enzo Fernandez, Mykhaylo Mudryk and Joao Felix on loan as the three January signings to add, meaning Benoit Badiashile and Noni Madueke missed out.
Reports have claimed that MLS club Los Angeles FC are interested in signing Aubameyang immediately, while Barcelona, AC Milan and Atletico Madrid are believed to be considering summer moves.
Chelsea previously worked with performance coach Owen Eastwood, from New Zealand who was hired as a consultant to the England football team and has worked with Gareth Southgate’s side since 2017.