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What we can all learn from football

Whether you regard the delayed Euros 2020 football tournament as cause to be joyful or see it as a blight on our summer, there are some useful pointers we can take from the England boss, Gareth Southgate, and the way he manages his team.

Starting with the man himself, he is probably not most people’s idea of the archetypal football ‘gaffer’. He is neither loud nor flamboyant and never uses colourful, blokey language. Neither does he show his temper by kicking innocent bottles of water along the touchline in frustration. Rather, he is quiet, serious, articulate and thoughtful. His approach relies on carefully marshalled reason rather than full-volume verbal assault. To some, his manner might be interpreted as weakness, but they would be wrong to underestimate his resolve and appetite for success.

That said, the only measure that means anything to football fans is the performance of the team under his stewardship – not just in terms of match results, but also how the players behaved and worked together as a professional unit. You should win or lose as a team.

Just prior to the Euros, he penned a letter addressed to “Dear England” in which he explained his lifelong love affair with football and what it meant to him to wear the England shirt. He has tried to instill the same values into his England squad, and it shows.

The essence of his management style has been defined by others as follows:

· Be honest and authentic. Do your research, put thought and time into making a confident plan, explain the direction and targets to your team. Be open to other people’s suggestions for further improvement. · Be brave with decisions. Don’t dodge the difficult ones, don’t act on impulse and be prepared to explain the reasons behind your decisions. · Be positive and generous. Use encouragement and guidance to achieve results, create the right atmosphere through regular engagement with the players and openly and honestly discuss team performance. · Trust your people. Hire the people you believe can do the job, but who are also a good cultural fit. Skills can be learned, but attitude is more difficult to teach. Trust your team, make them feel valued by sharing ideas. · Lead by example. Be calm and measured and don’t panic when things go wrong. Work hard, be thorough and make sure everyone in the team shares the same values.

Football is a tough sporting arena where sentiment can sometimes take second place to commercial interests. Lets hope that all the home nations are not remembered as polite losers.