Bringing football home – with people, vision and strategy

As an avid football fan and, when I was younger, a very keen footballer, it’s appropriate to comment on the amazing Lionesses.

I would usually watch WSL after Match of the Day on TV, late on a weekend. 

As a number of you will know, I am a Liverpool fan and have talked about Jurgen Klopp’s achievement in driving Liverpool to their first league title in 30 years – namely, it wasn’t quick or easy, requiring a couple of iterations.

Who’s on your team, and who needs coaching to be a valuable member of your team. Strong values, strong strategy.

Therefore, I think it’s appropriate to highlight the impact that the Lionesses’ coach Sarina Wiegman has had on the England team; and the subsequent impact that the team itself will have on young girls and boys across the country.

Many people don’t appreciate that she was a very accomplished player in her own right, playing 104 times for the Netherlands – including as captain. This, and her exceptional record as an international and club manager, meant Wiegman had exceptional credentials for managing the England team. And, she did it with the same 11 players starting each game.

For me, this shows two important aspects:

  • A clear vision of what she wanted the team to achieve; and 
  • A total trust in the team that started the games, alongside faith in the substitutes’ ability to positively impact the team.

Getting to this stage with the players she chose wasn’t plastered over social media or daily updates. She quietly got on with the job and instilled confidence within the group. She also made the decision to change the captain, knowing that Leah Williamson was the new face of the team. Steph Houghton had been important, but the team was moving forward and Wiegman illustrated it with the appointment. 

What is also clearly evident is that the team really enjoy the game. Most of us who have ever kicked a ball have done so because we love it (my mother often found me at dusk kicking a ball around the local park with my friends). That joy, allied with skill, made it clear that the England team were mentally prepared to run through walls for each other.

And for anyone who doubts their ability, they need only look at Russo’s goal in the semi-finals or Toone’s in the final. Any player, at whatever level, would be proud to have scored them. One of the commentators at the weekend said boys and girls would be practising Russo’s move on parks and gardens across the country. 

But will there be a deeper impact on young boys and girls from this tournament? 

What I hope will happen is that boys will see girls as having an equal right to take part in a game. PE teachers across the country need to grasp this opportunity; and it doesn’t have to relate directly to just football.

Parents also have an important role in ensuring that stereotypes don’t continue beyond today. I for one will also make sure I take my daughter to more women’s games this coming season.

And, as someone who has run a business for 20 years, I appreciate the hard work, vision and strategy that has gone into this achievement – let alone the people management. AdvanceTrack is really coming into its own: a busy and happy workforce, engaged clients and top-level tech and security. I certainly appreciate the highs, lows, and time it can take to be successful.

England brought it home. I’m looking forward to the Women’s World Cup next year. I’ll also be watching Qatar 2022. Let’s hope both teams bring the same joy to us all, that all football fans across the land want. Teams playing with a smile on their face and ones that put a smile on the fans’ faces. 

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