How Traore is turning his QPR career around by managing his ‘chimp’

QPR’s Armand Traore is overcoming the anxiety attacks that threatened to ruin his career.

The 24-year-old, an underachiever while at Arsenal and also since his move to west London in 2011, is enjoying a run of good form despite his team’s recent slump.

And he has revealed the reasons behind his past lacklustre performances, his frequent injury problems, and how managing his ‘chimp’ is enabling him to deliver on the pitch.

“When I’ve played for QPR I might have given the impression I don’t care enough, but God knows I care.”

“I’ve started reading a book that explains to you about the weak part of your brain that tells you that you can’t do certain things,” he explained.

“The book tells you there’s a ‘chimp’ in your head – in everybody’s head – and it tells you [negative] things. The book tells you how to manage that ‘chimp’.

“It explains to you how you can fight these type of things that are going through your brain. I’ve been going through the book and it has helped me a lot.”

The renowned self-help book, called The Chimp Paradox, has been endorsed by the likes of snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan and cycling stars Sir Bradley Wiggins, Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton.

It has helped Traore deal with anxiety problems he says seriously affected him earlier in his career and led to many doubting his commitment.

Those doubters included Rangers boss Harry Redknapp, who has previously been highly critical of the France-born Senegal international but more recently described him as “a different person”.

Traore, 24, said: “If I’d come across the book a few years ago and it explained to me how my brain works, I think I would have done much better.

“I think I could have changed a few things, taken opportunities and managed my ‘chimp’, because it has bothered me so much, with problems with anxiety.

“I used to get anxiety from nothing – I’d just be chilling and then all of a sudden I’d start to get anxious.

“I have really high expectations of myself. If I misplace a pass, for me it’s a really bad thing. Even before games I would think ‘What if this happens? What if that happens?’

“But sometimes, when you want to do really well and things don’t go right, you can actually look like you don’t care.

“Trust me, you can ask my wife, I do care. When I’ve played for QPR I might have given the impression I don’t care enough, but God knows I care.

“I want to do well. I don’t want people to say ‘Oh he’s been a failure at QPR’.”

Traore says his anxieties also caused his seemingly constant injury niggles – often during games.

Eyebrows were raised at his apparent willingness to be substituted with what appeared to be minor problems.

Redknapp has often struggled to hide his irritation – and tried in vain to offload him last summer. Benfica were among the clubs that showed some interest.

Traore, whose contract expires this summer, admitted: “Before, I used to feel a twitch in my hamstring and think ‘I don’t think I can play, because I could end up with a grade three (muscle tear)’.

Traore has been in good form for Rangers.
Traore has been in good form for Rangers.

“But now I think ‘I’ve got the twitch in my hamstring and if it goes it goes’. I no longer think that I’m not sure I can do 100%.

“Now I tend to just think ‘If it has to be a grade three then it has to be a grade three – it’s not going to be a leg break, so I don’t really care’.”

Traore has also been helped by a change of position.

Conscious of scepticism over his competence as a left-back, he has looked comfortable on the left of midfield in recent weeks.

“Before games I always used to think ‘What if I don’t play good defensively?’,” he said.

“It [the anxiety] was never about going forward, but I always had worries about my play defensively.

“Now I’ve been playing left midfield I feel more free and I think I’m quite comfortable there. But I’ll play anywhere – wherever I’m asked to.

“I wouldn’t say I’m having a good spell but I think I’m doing good – good enough. It’s only been a few games so I wouldn’t call it a good spell.

“The main thing is for me to try and help the team. It’s all about consistency really. It’s no good playing a few good games and then after that you’re no good for the rest of the season.

“Ideally, we get promoted and I stay at QPR. I’ve always stuck with QPR. I had an offer from Benfica but even after last season I felt we could do something here.

“I like playing for QPR, so why would I want to leave now things have started going well for me?”

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