Rob Holding talks to young people about confidence

April 12, 2023

It's been three days since Rob Holding was thrust into the centre of the most pulsating, potentially title-race-defining game of the season; Arsenal's visit to Anfield. What better time for him to jump on a Zoom call from the Gunners' training ground to talk all things confidence with seven young people from Behind Every Kick.

When the host of the call, Tom from Virtual Soccer Schools, gives a potted history of Holding's career — two FA Cup wins, two Community Shields and caps for England U21s — a shy smile creeps across the defender's face, almost as if he can't quite fully believe the journey he's been on. 

Here are the top takeaways from a brilliantly open and honest conversation:

1) Even Premier League stars feel nervous about moving to a new city and joining a new group of people. Rob explained how daunting it was to give up the comfort of living at home with his parents when he left Bolton as a youngster to come to London's bright lights, where he had to learn to cook, clean and do laundry for himself.

2) Rob draws confidence from having a routine. He focuses on his diet, eating the same food the night before and the morning of a game and tunes in to how his body is feeling. Knowing he has prepared well gives him the platform to perform on a matchday. It might get repetitive, but it works for him.

3) How does Rob recover from his confidence taking a knock following a mistake in a game? Rob explained that he accepts making mistakes is part of football. He acknowledges when he's made an error in a match and takes responsibility for it. But the next step is to move forward. Reflecting on the game versus Liverpool, he uses the example of his pass in the first half that was intercepted and led to Mo Salah being clean through. After the Egyptian forward missed, Rob's teammates gave him a little high-five and told him not to worry and to focus on his next pass. Rob says he played an easy, successful ball to feet and started building belief again that way. This approach enables confidence to grow through our actions rather than just being a feeling that comes and goes without our control. 

4) What about when he was sent off at Spurs last season?

Rob said it was extremely difficult for him a day or two after that. He remembers being alone, walking his dog while replaying the incident endlessly over and over in his mind. However, in the end, he needed to move past the mistake and help the team again in the last game of the season. 

5) What's it like to be on social media when you play for a big club?

Rob is careful about whose opinions he listens to. His family and coaches are the people he trusts, so they're the ones he'll seek out for advice on what went well and what he should work on improving. Rob doesn't read comments from random people. And he also makes sure his Instagram account is private, with certain words filtered out so he isn't subjected to any negativity that can damage his confidence.

6) It's good to feel nervous. Rob says he always has nerves before a game, but that nervous energy is the fuel he needs to perform. It also enables him to focus on the task at hand. He remembers playing at Wembley for the first time in the FA Cup final and not even being aware there was a packed upper tier of people watching the game in the stadium.

Thanks, Rob. It was an absolute pleasure listening to you.