FEATURE: Why cult Owls hero is happy to be playing mind games

Jose Semedo
Jose Semedo

Kind – check. Hard-working – check. A cult hero on the terraces at Hillsborough – check.

Jose Semedo is the consummate professional and one of the most colourful characters in Sheffield Wednesday’s recent history.

Jose Semedo, left, and Owls writer Dom Howson

Jose Semedo, left, and Owls writer Dom Howson

He is a grafter who has worked jolly hard, honing his craft on the training ground and in the gym.

Football is Jose’s life. It is his job and he takes it very seriously.

Underneath his bubbly exterior, Jose is an ultra competitive person. Whether he is playing football or tiddlywinks, he wants to win.

Growing up in Setubal, one of the less affluent suburbs of Lisbon, Setubal, Jose was heavily influenced by his lifelong friend and former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo, who inspired him never to give up and always improve himself.

GOAL...Portoguese double Owls scorers Jose Semedo and Lucas Joao

GOAL...Portoguese double Owls scorers Jose Semedo and Lucas Joao

Of Sporting Lisbon’s class of 1985, only two individuals earned pro contracts: Jose and Ronaldo. Despite being the ‘least talented’ youngster in their set-up, Jose had defied the odds. Another person who has featured prominently in shaping Jose’s journey is psychologist Sam Kotadia. They have worked together closely since 2009.

While at Charlton Athletic, Jose had reached a point in his career where he carried a ‘heavy mind’ on to the pitch and felt unable to ‘tame the lion’ inside of him. Jose claimed his play was too reactive rather than proactive. He was overcomplicating things so he wanted to get out of his comfort zone.

Meeting Sam changed Jose’s life for the better.

Fresh from launching his maiden book called Win the Day in association with Sam, Jose is convinced he would have struggled to have fulfilled his potential and possibly drifted further down the football pyramid had he not started working with Sam when he did.

Jose Semedo

Jose Semedo

“We still talk every day and have sessions every month,” said Jose.

“Sam has been like a brother to me.

“He is a part of my family. We have worked together all these years. It has been intense at times but we have helped each other.”

Sam’s support has toughened Jose up, giving the genial Portuguese man discipline and pushing him to his limits. He has learned to face his fears head on and conquer them.

For Jose, the mind is like a muscle which needs regular stimulation if an individual is to perform to their maximum.

He said: “The good thing with psychology and what I love about it is that every day you have some challenges with your life. Every day is about improving.

“There is a negative stigma attached to psychology. In football, people forget a little bit that the most important muscle we have is the mind and it should not be neglected.

“Football brings you so many adversities. Sometimes a manager doesn’t play you because he prefers someone else. You have to be able to deal with that, do your job properly and keep working hard.”

Three years ago, former Wednesday boss Dave Jones turned to sports psychology to arrest the team’s slump in fortunes.

Jose said: “Things weren’t going well and things started to change when he (Jones) brought in a psychologist to have a session with us.

“We hadn’t won for a long time. When things are going bad, you have to look for a solution and things started to get better after the sessions we started having with him.

“He was a new face and came up with new ideas. All the team worked hard and we came out of the storm.”

Jose is baffled why some football clubs are reluctant to tap into sports psychology.

“It should be more vital in sport,” he said.

“Some of the players were a bit reluctant when Dave Jones brought in a psychologist, thinking it wasn’t for them.

“There is an element of players maybe see it as a weakness.

“What people have to understand is that by working your mind, you are preparing yourself for when negativity comes and you react to it better. Instead of three or four games in bad form, it will be just two games. You react quicker and you find that your mind is flexible to find a technique to come out of that rut more quickly.”

A mental hurdle of his own that the 30-year-old recently had to overcome came when he was left out of Wednesday’s match-day squad following their shock cup win over Newcastle United.

“I remember when we played Newcastle away from home and we changed the whole team,” he said.

“We had an amazing game and on Saturday I didn’t expect myself to be out of 18.

“But I wasn’t included in the 18 at Brentford. I felt embarrassed and was thinking, ‘How is this possible?’ as I sat in the stands watching the team warm up.

“But I realised I did everything right and had an opportunity to play and show the manager what I could do. I had a good game and the team won and that’s good.

“You have to always look for the positives and not give up. Players can react negatively if the manager doesn’t pick them.”

In four and a half years at S6, Jose has established himself as a popular figure in the Owls’ dressing room and won Wednesdayites over with his committed, tigerish displays in the centre of their midfield.

But why has he published a book now?

“I want to help people and was thinking about how I could get closer to the Owls fans,” Jose admitted.

“I want to give something back as I have a special connection to them. I hope people will read this book and it can help them with their lives. My aim through this book is to get the message across that anyone can win and be their best.”

Jose’s remarkable story just goes to show that anything is possible in life if you put your heart, mind and soul into what you do.

*Win The Day is on sale now, priced £14.99, at the Owls’ Megastore. Semedo will be signing copies of his book at the club shop 5.30pm-6.45pm tonight. Visit http://wintheday.alburybooks.com/home/wintheday

For our Owls news and opinion on twitter follow here

For more news from Hillsborough click here

Follow Dom Howson on twitter