Football: England – The Dark Night

When Sir Clive Woodward took England to Rugby World Cup glory in 2003 a stop situation was broken. England, as a sporting nation, had, at long last, a triumph to match their capability. Years of under achievement had been exorcised. Then Duncan Fletcher followed up by taking the Ashes from the Australians in 2005. England started to believe in itself as a sporting nation. We could be the best in the world.

The situation was set up for Sven Goran Eriksson at the 2006 World Cup. Surely this would be the tournament when the golden generation of footballers would deliver. The English stop situation had been broken after all. Just like when Sir Roger Bannister broke the four minute barrier, his rivals followed suit within days. So after Woodward and Fletcher, Eriksson would deliver?

But no. Eriksson wasn’t able to break the hold under performance had on English football. Hope and expectancy led to disappointment after disappointment. He paid the price with his job. In turning to his deputy, England presumed that Steve McClaren, being privy to the strengths and weaknesses of the Eriksson years, would be able to go the extra mile. To have the vision and the strategy to lead England to the promised land of success.

Last night at Wembley killed off all such hope. The notion that England are good enough to win at the highest level made to look ridiculous. The stop situation now exerting an even greater hold. As if all the negative influences that have held England back over the years flooded into Wembley through the drizzle and the damp. Steve McClaren was not able to break the stop situation.

To break a stop situation takes a very clear, simple and powerful vision. That is well communicated. And a good reason why you want to execute that vision. A vision that excites and inspires.

It needs a well thought out and well executed strategy and consistent game plan. A strategy that is bought into by the players. One they can trust and execute themselves.

It takes a code of behaviour that all the players buy into. Clear rules that apply to everyone. Rules that they make.

It needs a cycle of confidence that comes from success building upon success. Confidence that each player has in themselves. Confidence that each player has in each other.

It needs to draw on the capability of every member of the squad, however small a part they have to play. They need to know what part they are playing in the collective success.

It needs good leaders at all levels of the team. Players unafraid of speaking their minds, both young and old. Players who will stand for the code.

And it takes patience. And will. A will to keep going when the going gets tough. To keep the faith in what you are trying to do.

Right now England have to go back to the start. To Replan. Reconfigure. And Reset the compass. It will take a strong leader to help England break this stop situation. Someone that can lead and inspire others. Someone who is totally their own person. Who has either broken through a stop situation previously or has a strong idea as to how to. That is, they know what they are taking on.

Whoever they are, this England job now represents the greatest challenge in world football.

Posted in Football Psychology, Sports Psychology Blog.