As I sit here writing this post, it’s the eve of the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy. Yes, I know we’re in 2021 but, 2020 was meant to be the 60th anniversary of the Euro’s, so there was some reluctance from UEFA to change it. UEFA are also trying to ensure the tournament is more sustainable. With so many promotional materials already printed, they decided the Euro’s would be more environmentally friendly if it kept its original name.
Anyway, back to my original point…
Yes. You read that right. The England football team. In a final. For the first time in my lifetime. In fact, it’s the first time England’s Senior Men’s team have been in a major final since 1966 when they beat West Germany to win the World Cup.
55 Years of Hurt
55 years of hurt followed the victory of the 1966 World Cup, as England failed continuously to live up to a nation’s expectations.
It hasn’t all been doom and gloom, not that you would believe it speaking to most England fans.
Euro 96 brought us some much-needed hope, and we made the semi-finals of the World Cup in 1990 and 2018. Yet, we always fell short of repeating the high of 1966.
This year, something feels different.
In fact, everything’s felt different since Gareth Southgate became Manager of the Senior England team in 2016.
A former England player and the former manager of the England U21 team, Gareth Southgate knows what it feels like to have the weight of a nation on your shoulders. He knows what it’s like to get to the semi-final of the Euro’s only to miss a crucial penalty, which saw England exit Euro 96 in the semi-finals against Germany.
A True Leader
Gareth has a different air about him compared to previous England managers. He appears to be a genuine Mr Nice Guy. Well dressed, calm and collected in front of our often animal-like media, the ability to think before he speaks, an overriding sense of empathy. Yet, he also seems to know how to be tough when it’s needed. Gareth’s not afraid to make game-changing decisions. Decisions which, let’s face it, have often left England fans scratching their heads before kick-off, only for everything to fall into place just minutes into a game.
Could Gareth Southgate really be about to prove that you can make an incredibly effective leader by being ‘nice’? I really hope so. Having Gareth Southgate as an example of an exemplary leader could change leadership in businesses around the world.
Having spent five years in a leadership role myself, I had bosses constantly trying to take away my authenticity. They didn’t want a leader who was nice and empathetic. They wanted a monster. They truly believed you had to be a dick to get results. Oh, how very wrong they were.
Gareth has shown the importance of empathy, respect, teamwork, loyalty, passion, and professionalism over the last five years.
Whether we win the final or not, I truly believe that Gareth and the squad he’s put together are on the brink of something epic.
It’s not just about Gareth, of course. Under Gareth’s leadership, there is much more of a team approach to proceedings. Not just to the game itself, but also behind the scenes and in front of the media. The players have developed the ability to take accountability for the mistakes they make. Yet, there is no finger-pointing. They are a true team in every sense of the word. They have an incredible amount of respect for each other and for their leader too. Something which is so hard to find in today’s society.
I’m not actually sure it really matters if England wins or loses tomorrow. As football fans, we’ve ridden this incredible wave of joy over the last few weeks. As I sit at my table writing this post, the nerves I had in the lead up to the semi-final have disappeared. Instead, I feel this incredible sense of pride and an overwhelming level of excitement.
After 16 torrid months at the hands of Covid 19, this England team has lifted a nation’s spirits. They’ve shown us what it’s like to have hope again.
Win or lose, I have a feeling that football’s already home.
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