JOHN Harbin is enjoying his best month as a Pilgrim since he started working at the club.Argyle’s Performance Manager is now in his second season at Home Park, and with the Pilgrims going into Saturday’s Sky Bet League 2 game at Burton Albion on the back of a six-game unbeaten run, John believes the team-spirit in the Argyle dressing-room is at a high.
The large influx of summer signings have settled in, with all the players getting along very well, and helping each other out, says the genial Australian.
“Since I’ve been at the club, it’s been the best month,” he said.
“I think the signings have been really good. We get people who haven’t been selected for the team and are a bit down, but they’re up there, applauding players, and they’re the first ones up there to shake their hands when they come in after the game.
“That stands out because they’re putting the team before themselves.”
The observation gives a strong clue as to John’s role at Home Park, one that is less concerned with the intricacies of tactics, more with the mental approach to the game.
“My goal is to have people going out there confident and trying things,” he said, “and, if they fail, they fail trying. But they don’t get into the position of where they’re not going to try and not going to make decisions and have that no fear factor. I’m just glad to see 11 players out there, enjoying themselves on a weekend and hopefully getting the result. There’s a good spirit amongst them.
“There’s been a gradual change. I think the change in personnel has helped that and the players have accepted the philosophy and are getting to understand the manager and coaching staff, where we’re coming from; and vice versa - the manager and coaching staff are understanding individual players.
“All that fits under the umbrella of confidence.”
With communication skills being vital within the Argyle squad, John believes it’s good to have a loud vocal team at all times. Specifically, he spoke of the roles of captain Curtis Nelson, and vice-skipper Peter Hartley.
“[Curtis] was like a wolf sitting in a corner, but now he’s vocal,” said John. “I’m not talking about game-talk; I’m talking throughout the week.
“I think he realised that no matter whether Peter was captain, vice-captain or senior sergeant, his personality would be the same, and the title didn’t mean anything to Peter. I’m not saying that he wouldn’t want to be captain, just that his personality would stay the same – he’d still be loud and vocal, and still be a leader.
“Good leaders develop leaders, not followers, and that’s what’s happened here.”
As well as overseeing the development of leaders within the club, John also focuses on the mental and emotional side of players.
He said: “I have got the philosophy that I treat every player like my son, so my decisions will be based on what’s best for the club.
“Sometimes they might need a kick up the backside; I’m prepared to do that, but I don’t need an audience when I do it. I’ll do it on a one-to-one basis. Same as the ‘arm around’ – I don’t need an audience when I do it.
“I think, in general and in life, people don’t appreciate the problems each individual has. If you can help anyone – a footballer, another athlete, or a person who works in an office – you help. I’m lucky that, in my life, people have helped me when they didn’t have to, and I’ll never forget it.
“I just think it’s a duty as a human being to help others.
“I can’t help what other people do, but hopefully people who I have helped, later on in life, will live the same philosophy. I’m not saying mine is right, but it’s my philosophy, and other people won’t be able to change that.”