Djite hails mentality of resilient Reds

Adelaide United striker Bruce Djite explained why he considers the mental side of the game so important and who he goes to for advice as his team prepares to continue their pursuit of the Premier's Plate.


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The third-placed Reds will play Sydney FC at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night knowing wins in the last two rounds will give them a top-two finish and week one of the finals series off. They play leaders Melbourne City in the last round and are only one point behind them at present.

Midway through the season, Djite faced criticism during a goal drought stretching back to last season. He eventually ended it after 11 months, in February, and has scored regularly since. He has six goals this season.

Asked how he handled the criticism at the time, Djite said he was never put off by it because no-one could judge his performances as critically as he does himself.

"It was pretty much water off a duck's back," Djite said. "If I was younger, if it had happened when I was 19, I might have been a bit flustered, but not now.

"I know what I can do and what I can't do, what I'm good at and what I'm not good at, so I just persevere. I didn't lose confidence, I just kept playing.

"Perseverance is the cornerstone of being a leader in anything, whether you're an athlete, or a business person, or in any walk of life, a journalist. Especially in the entertainment business that we're in, playing football, there are always going to be people trying to bring you down.

"I think if you ask any sportsperson they'll say they critique themselves harder than anyone else who criticises them and I think that's why a lot of criticism doesn't affect people in these positions.

"At the end of the day, if you're level-headed enough and you know the lay of the land, you're going to look in the mirror and critique yourself and your game more than anyone else can."

Djite said himself and the rest of his team-mates managed to keep their emotions in check, which helped them through their winnless start to the season of five losses and three draws in the first eight games and also their 14-game run of 11 wins and three draws that followed.

"We're very critical of ourselves and we're a very humble team anyway," he said. "When things went amazingly well on that great run we went on, no-one got too excited, and when we were in a spot of bother at the start of the season no-one dropped their heads too far.

"Maybe at another club that wouldn't be the case, but the culture here is such that it's about perseverance and believing in your strategies, believing in the narrative, believing in your teammates , believing in the coaching staff, and we've always had that.

"Sometimes you sacrifice for someone else and other times someone sacrifices for you. At the end of the day you look at where the team is and that's what counts. I mean, it's a team game. I'd rather score 10 goals in a season and win a grand final than score 30 goals and finish last."

Djite said leading tennis coach Roger Rasheed, who has prepared star players Lleyton Hewitt, Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at different times over the years, was a tremendous sounding board for him.

"Roger Rasheed is one of my mentors," he said. "I've known him for quite a few years and I speak to him a lot. He was actually out at training on Thursday. I'm an ambassador for his sports foundation, which is doing fantastic things for under-privileged children, and I really value our friendship.

"This is a guy who's one of the best tennis coaches in the world, so he's someone who can give you a lot of advice, especially on the mental side of things.

"Tennis is a very mental game and a lot of it can be applied to football. If you can be strong mentally in not just good periods but the bad periods as well, it gives you a real advantage, if you can train your brain.

"Roger is always willing to pass on his advice. It's very beneficial for me to have such a high-calibre mentor, that's for sure."

Sydney FC are in seventh place and need a miracle to make the finals. Melbourne Victory only need to collect a point against Wellington Phoenix in the early Saturday night game at Westpac Stadium to condemn the Sky Blues to missing out.

But when asked what he expected to see from Sydney in their clash, Djite said commitment no matter what.

"They're going to give a professional and very strong performance because they're a big-name club with big-name players and they're very proud of the shirt," he said.

"We're more worried about ourselves and making sure our game is right, but we're preparing for a harder game than last week (when Adelaide beat Central Coast Mariners 4-2 at home) and probably our hardest game of the year."

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5 min read
Published 1 April 2016 at 4:34pm
By Greg Prichard