ARTICLE ORIGINALLY POSTED ON THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD.
WRITTEN BY: ADRIAN PROSZENKO
Graham Arnold was having a hard time convincing Bradley Charles Stubbs that he truly believed the Socceroos were capable of winning the World Cup.
Arnold, speaking to Stubbs on the phone from his hotel room in Qatar, as they did most days during the Socceroos’ campaign, assured the man dubbed the “Coach Whisperer” that the seemingly impossible was possible.
“I believe, Bradley,” Stubbs recalls Arnold saying.
This, however, wasn’t enough. Stubbs wanted Arnold to shout it from the rooftops. So he asked the Australian coach to channel his inner Jerry Maguire to recreate that famous “Show me the money!” scene. “I believe!” Arnold shouted.
“I still can’t hear you,” Stubbs said from his Gold Coast home.
“I BELIEVE!!! I BELIEVE!!!” Arnold hollered loud enough to do Tom Cruise proud. It is during such unorthodox interactions that the “Invincible Underdogs” – as the Socceroos were later to become known – created the belief required to not only progress to the knockout stage of the World Cup, but to give heavyweights Argentina a genuine scare in their final act at the soccer showpiece.
Stubbs has fielded countless media requests from journalists suspecting he had a role in Australia’s campaign, based on his previous relationship with Arnold. He has knocked them all back and only now, in speaking to The Sun-Herald, is “BCS” prepared to reveal his role in the nation’s unlikely run to the final 16 in Qatar.
“We were on the phone every day or every second day,” Stubbs says. Stubbs first worked with Arnold when they were at A-League club Sydney FC. At their first meeting in 2016, Stubbs says he stood on a chair at Azure Cafe, on the site of the old Sydney Football Stadium, and told him about helping former South Sydney coach Michael Maguire win the 2014 grand final. He finished the address with his signature phrase: “Expect to win. Done. Done. Done.”
Stubbs rang him 10 months later and their relationship was cemented. During the next two seasons, with Arnold at the helm of Sydney FC and Stubbs at his disposal, the club won all but three of their A-League games. It is the type of success Stubbs has also enjoyed working with the likes of Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson, former England rugby mentor Eddie Jones and former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika.
Stubbs has twice walked away from Arnold, including before the Asian Cup in 2019 because, he says, he felt the “energy was not right”. However, the pair secretly agreed to reunite for the World Cup.
It is difficult to describe exactly what it is that Stubbs does – “The coaches I work with won’t say a word about what I do,” he says – but energy is a common theme, whether it be in his book The Science of Belief, or any conversations about his role with elite mentors.
“My job is to look at all the energy, which is physics, the 1 percenters,” says Stubbs, who also works in the medical and corporate worlds. “There’s a science behind that.”
Stubbs says he has studied the subconscious mind from the moment he was sent to a psychiatric ward after failing to deal with an injury that prematurely ended a promising surfing career. His disciples never refer to the opposition team. They use powerful words such as “will” rather than “hope”, and often use the media to send messages to the universe and the opposition, searching for an edge. Surprisingly, “resilience” is a term that has a “completely negative effect” and is not to be uttered.
They are all principles that revolve around “Believership”, a phrase coined to describe an unshakeable faith in someone’s purpose, regardless of the odds.
“I wrote a program for Graham called ‘Belief, Energy, Focus’,” Stubbs says. “It was a program he read every morning and every night; some days he’s read it five-plus times to get into the right headspace because the energy from the subconscious mind transfers to the players.
“In this program, I believed we could win the World Cup. So I had to get Graham to believe we could win the World Cup. Then he had to get the players to believe they could win the World Cup.
“We used the media without the media knowing to send information out to give us a 1 percenter against our opposition and opposition coaches. In all of the stories, he never mentioned the other teams’ names. When you mention another team or player, what you’re actually doing is you’re giving energy away from yourself to the other team.
“That’s the science of it. I’ve been doing this for over 40 years.”
Stubbs’ methods are obviously unorthodox, but it’s hard to argue with the results. He was involved in three NRL premierships – one with Souths and two with the Roosters – as well as some of the best moments of the coaching careers of Arnold and others. The Coach Whisperer says he was also set to be engaged as a mentor at wannabe-EPL franchise Watford FC in 2019, only for the coach to be sacked before the contract was finalised.
At Stubbs’ instruction, Arnold told his players to get off social media after their wins against Tunisia and Denmark, to prioritise sleep and focus.
“People have no clue as to what social media does to high performance in sport, how it affects them mentally,” he says.
Before the squad even left for Qatar, Stubbs said he helped Arnold pick it. The coach, struggling to separate several contenders, was given the tools to make the tough choices. “I gave him something that took all the emotion out of it – it’s all based on gut feeling,” Stubbs says.
Asked how he did this, he replied: “I can’t tell you that, that’s my IP.”
Stubbs also claims that Arnold was the first coach he taught to manifest scorelines before they happened. In the lead up to the Denmark game, Arnold told Mathew Leckie words to the effect of, “It’s about time you scored”. When Stubbs caught wind of the conversation, he told the coach to go back to the player and instead say, “You will score”.
And so it came to pass, Leckie scoring one of the most memorable goals in Socceroos history.
“While I don’t do a lot of interviews, I am speaking now because the success of these coaches is, in a small part, attributed to my intellectual property and copyright that I’ve developed over the past 40 years,” Stubbs claims. “Yes, I’m just the 1 per cent guy.
“I watch the media acknowledge the coaches, staff or players, taking my IP and giving credit to others."
“And while, as my clients and coaches will tell you, I tell them what to say and do, within the team and media, to maximise the belief, energy and focus within the team, I do expect to be correctly acknowledged for my IP.”
The sceptics will remain sceptical. However, Stubbs is adamant his coaching clients are only scratching the surface of what can be achieved.
“With Cheika and Eddie Jones, I’ve only shown them 20 per cent of my programs,” he says. “With Trent Robinson and Graham Arnold, it’s only 35 to 40 per cent.
“I wonder what would happen if I gave an organisation 100 per cent of my program?”