It’s Denmark v. England in Copenhagen and England have capitulated. The chagrin of press and public could be anticipated; David James’, honest admittance that he hadn’t prepared properly couldn’t. Unsurprisingly, he is omitted from the next squad, whether for his goalkeeping errors or his candour is open to debate.
Whilst many have been keen to point the finger at James, it cannot be overlooked that he had been allowed to play while in a state of unreadiness. Surely, it is the duty of a management team to recognise this and deal with it by correcting, like footballing occulists, the focus of the player. Focus occurs with an integration of proper physical preparation, thorough mental rehearsal and a positive attitude.
Good managers are alert to the details of distraction, dispersion and disrespect in players before they become destructive. If Sven failed to notice James’ lack of readiness what does this tells us about his own state of preparedness and how he sees his role?
When Sir Clive Woodward’s England team won the Rugby World Cup, they crashed through a barrier. A STOP sign. How England perceived itself. A STOP sign. World champion underachievers, perennial quarter finalists, falling before the final hurdle. A STOP sign. Talent failing to deliver on the world stage.
When Roger Bannister broke through the ‘impossible’ four-minute barrier, others followed. Woodward’s Sydney success sent out a powerful message. A message that said it is possible, with thorough preparation and belief, to beat the supposed best; others, such as the resurgent England cricket team, with similar management principles, followed. Michael Vaughan and his team were taking the fight to the Aussies, immunised against fear or doubt.
It is as if they had permission to succeed.
After Woodward, came the leadership of Seb Coe in the successful bid for 2012 Olympic Games. Thus, in this inspiring climate of ‘permission to succeed’, the footballing shambles of Copenhagen, Cardiff and Belfast imposes itself. A mood of recrimination has descended.
Yet it doesn’t have to be. A vital chance to create a reset, reappraisal, and realignment has presented itself.
Sports Psychology Summary…
But the vital question is whether Sven and his carefully assembled team would wish so to do. He has created a closed circle of acolytes, both players and coaches, and would be loathe to do anything to undermine their, and as a consequence, his own increasingly precarious position.
When a team loses direction, it is imperative to attend to five key success factors.
Firstly, to reset and redefine goals.
Secondly, reconnect to the collective cause.
Thirdly, to reaffirm the commitment and dedication. Fourthly, ensure the rules of the group are being upheld and respected. Lastly, refine the small, critical details that support all the above.
So, when the fine points are right, players are sent out onto the pitch fully focused and the big points accrue!
All concerned with the England squad need to reassess their roles and responsibilities, but everything begins with the manager. His actions must lead to a state of clarity, decisiveness and certainty.
Eriksson and his team must now seize the moment, for who knows how long the moment will wait for them?