England are out of the World Cup!
I know, it’s almost 24 hours but I am still in denial. But, before you click the close button, hear me out.
I am not talking football here.
I am talking about something I have watched unfold over the last few weeks which has had me hooked.
I am not a follower of football. I couldn’t even tell you who finished top of the Premier League or won the FA Cup – does that competition still exist even? But I do pay a passing interest in the World Cup. A nod, if you like, to the fact we have one of our four British nations lining up every four years to play a world tournament. I don’t even watch all their matches. Is that bad?
But this year it was different. This year I found myself drawn in.
I am going to be honest. When Gareth Southgate was announced as the England manager, or is it coach (see, I don’t even know that) all I could remember was THAT missed penalty. So, like many others, my interest in this years tournament was already nil. Mistake No 1. Never judge someones ability to bring out the best in people based on something which is actually unconnected.
So I watched it anyway. And that was me, glued to the TV for the next few weeks.
I am still not talking football.
Because this team seemed to give off a very different vibe to those who have gone before. For a start they really seemed to work together, as a team. Tackling (no pun intended) the task in hand by breaking it down into bite size chunks. Working together to get that ball up the field. Using the strengths of every man, working in a formation they know works for the whole team, working for each other. It’s not all about you.
Perhaps it stemmed from something much earlier than this tournament. Their team manager had a blank canvas remember? So he had nothing to lose in choosing a young squad. Individuals he believed in – who had come up through the ranks. How many times were we reminded of those who had been loaned out to lower division clubs? This was a team of young men who came with no demands. It was evident there was no one individual with an ego bigger than the mission itself. Egos which can degrade a team and its ability to achieve – if not managed.
I had not heard of any one those young men who stepped onto that field around a month ago. Yet, strangely, I knew almost every one of the squad who stepped onto the pitch in 1998.
Remember, I don’t do football.
No, I knew them, not because of their football. I knew them because of their own celebrity status headlines! Headlines about their marriages, their relationships, their behaviour. Anything but their football. And actually, as I sit here, I can’t help but but wonder if that rings true for the business world too. When the hard work and achievements become secondary to the desire for that celebrity status.
So back to this years squad. There were those who had also dealt with very personal challenges. Their manager encouraged them to not be afraid to share the things in their own lives which have shaped them. To take responsibility for who they are, as individuals. The real life stories which cut through all the so called glamour. In an age where mental health issues are all around us, is it not refreshing to see a manager who encourages his team to be more open. With each other and with those watching on. It is okay to not be okay.
And then of course Gareth chose some who he had coached through the Under 21s new way of working. A method which was as much about about shaping our youth for the future as it was about passing and progressing. See, that works doesn’t it. Investing in the young people. And passing and progressing.
But above all, what really showed through was integrity. Selflessness. And a sense that these lads and their manager were enjoying the experience. As a team. Together.
I heard a quote today where Gareth said something like ‘we came as a team and we leave as a team’. Effectively saying there would be no judgements on what could have been done differently (note I don’t say better).
I miss the World Cup
Yes, I am gutted it’s over. Because I think we could learn a lot from Mr Southgate, the England World Cup squad and the real meaning of teamwork. Don’t you?..