Ardent Warrington Wolves fan and Warrington Guardian columnist Rob Watson, aka Spirit of 55, has penned this open letter to the Warrington Wolves players following the run of five consecutive losses...

To whom may be concerned,

One of the frustrations of being a fan of a sports team is not knowing what is going on behind the scenes.

There are two questions I would always love to know the answer to – are the players all giving as close to 100 percent effort as possible and are all the players pulling in exactly the same direction?

If you can answer yes to both then as always you have my utmost respect. I imagine that you are at least as frustrated as all of us right now.

My job is to provide mental health support to young people, having one-to-one sessions with teenagers – some of whom are having the darkest thoughts imaginable.

Some people would read that and say my job is more important than yours. While I cannot afford to have any days where I am not giving my best effort to at least try to make the session as beneficial as possible, I am a big believer in how important your jobs are.

From speaking to people when they are at their lowest points, it becomes clear how important escapism is for them.

For some the best type of escapism is following and watching a sports team.

If you ever think that all you do is run around a field, throwing a ball around and it is not important, trust me your job does matter and that should be something to be proud of.

I can only help one person at a time. You can have a positive impact on thousands of people’s mental health in the space of less than two hours.

When it comes to lifting the mood of fans, of course it would be great to see their team winning plenty of matches and a few trophies, but the biggest boost to their wellbeing can be seeing a team that they are proud to support being full of players giving maximum effort every week and showing the same sort of pride in representing that team.

I guess you could say that is a big pressure to be under, but when what is required to improve how those people feel is simply to give your best effort then I believe that pressure is a privilege.

If you are ever struggling for motivation for a game, think of a fan who is struggling with their mental health and the boost you can give to their mood with a performance full of energy and enthusiasm.

Speaking of mental health, I have no idea what it is like to be you.

If any of you are struggling with your own mental health, then all I can say is do your best to get any support you think will help – and take a break if you need to and re-join the battle when you are ready.

Most fans have our own theories on what the problem is, but from the outside looking in they are always going to be guesses at best.

I am not a big fan of the ‘buy two props’ campaign for a few reasons.

One, it cannot be doing much for confidence of the lads who are currently playing there.

Secondly, it can either consciously or subconsciously give you a reason to lose, some may even call it an excuse.

Thirdly, it gives the impression that all the issues can be solved by making a couple more signings.

There has been a lot of talk about the ‘culture’ of the club. People only tend to talk about that being bad when the team is losing. Any team culture is ultimately made up of individuals and everyone involved is responsible in some way for that team culture.

Having everybody pulling in the same direction is arguably a non-negotiable requirement of success in team sport.

If everybody pulls in that direction and the performances and results are still bad, then either the head coach can change the direction, or the club can change the head coach.

But if some players are going in different directions, then we will never know if the planned direction is a good one.

The importance of having leaders in sport is much talked about.

Many people have an opinion on what makes an excellent leader.

One thing that often gets neglected is the importance of followers.

If nobody follows you then you are not leading, if everybody is only a leader, then nobody is a leader because there is nobody left to follow anyone.

Being a follower does not make you weaker than a leader, it is simply a different role within a team set-up.

Often it is the first follower who is the most important person in the process, as without them the leader is left looking like a loner with their own philosophy.

Branches of the military have a saying when it comes to teamwork and that is “Fit in or…..go away”. They do not actually say ‘go away’ but the first word of their two-word phrase is not one that I think the Warrington Guardian publishes. If you do not like the direction the train is travelling, then get off the train, do not try to derail it.

Part of creating that culture can be holding people accountable. If you see one of your teammates not living up to the standards the team has set then I would say call them out on it, and they can do the same to you.

This is not Hollywood, whatever the issue is it is not going to be fixed by an Al Pacino type speech from Any Given Sunday (although it will not do any harm to watch that a few times and ideally get one of you to recreate it). Creating a culture is a process that includes every moment of everyday process.

I know you are not all from Warrington, but you are all from somewhere, so you know how much of a privilege it is to represent a town.

If you do not already, I would consider getting to know more about the town, visit a few schools, youth groups and amateur rugby league clubs for example to get a clearer idea of who and what you are representing.

Playing elite sport can bring its own stresses and negative impacts on your mental health, but as jobs go, I still think playing rugby league for a living is an awesome one to have, even if you probably do finish every match feeling like you have been involved in a few high-speed car crashes.

I would try to embrace it as much as you can, create as many magic moments with your teammates as possible and build bonds that will last a lifetime as we have seen so brilliantly demonstrated with the way the old Leeds players and Kevin Sinfield in particular support Rob Burrow now. That is an example of a leader showing how much he appreciates one of his most loyal followers.

Are you giving as close to 100 percent effort as you can? And are you all pulling in exactly the same direction? Do not tell us your answers, show us your answers.

Spirit of 55