If you asked me to name one attribute that is a prerequisite of you becoming a truly great player, it would be speed of thought.

Paul Scholes had it, Wayne Rooney has it and Lionel Messi uses it to devastating effect, more so than any other player we have ever seen.

Physios and sports scientists refer to this as proprioception - basically the speed at which your brain can communicate with other parts of your body to produce an action such as a shot or a trick.

Importantly for you, this is something you can add to your training programme and improve with a series of simple exercises.

Before I tell you how, let me give you a couple of examples of speed of thought that you might be seeing and hearing without realising the significance.

Quite often when praising a great player you hear the expert commentator talk about the fact that opposition players "just can't near him".

That's because someone like Messi or Rooney's thought process is that bit quicker than the rest and their brains tell the body to move milliseconds faster than others.

If there is an opposition player who your playing against this weekend who always seems to just avoid the tackle, or just manages to skip away from a defender every time, it isn't luck, its speed of thought and is an essential quality of any top class performer.

Players are born with a certain level of proprioception, but they will train it, day in and day out to maximise it to improve their chances of success.

Scholes is the best I have ever worked with at this. Even in training sessions his speed of thought would be such that before us mere mortals had time to work out where he might pass the ball, we were realising that he had already done it.

When great players step down to the lower leagues, speed of thought is often an issue. When Craig Hignett came to Darlington, he would think so much quicker than the other players that he would occasionally play a great ball into a space where their wasn't even a player, expecting that someone should be there, and then look in amazement that no one was.

His brain was working much faster than the other players, often to his frustration. You may have seen this happen when Peter Beardsley arrived at Hartlepool in 1999 and you might just be seeing this happen at the Victoria Park this season with Nobby Solano.

Spare him a thought if the odd ball goes astray, he is probably expecting Craig Bellamy or Alan Shearer to be thinking just as quickly as him to get into position!

This weekend whether you are playing or watching, look more closely for this essential quality, you maybe shocked at how much it influences the game you are involved in, whether a five-a-side player or the coach of a Under-10's team - it will be happening every few minutes.

Now you know what speed of thought is and how it can help improve your game or teams performance, in next week's column I'll reveal the specific exercises that you can do to improve it.

If you're the coach of junior football team I recommended that proprioception and balance exercise become a must in your training and warm up sessions, it can lead to a huge improvement in individual performances.

From a players point of view, the other really great aspect of proprioception is that it can also reduce your injury risk significantly. I will reveal how next week.