Well, football finally came home last Sunday, but to a rather different world to the one that it left in 1966. It was the Lionesses, not the Lions, who won the Euros Championship, led by Dutch coach, Sarina Wiegman.
I always find it fascinating to see how sports coaches can deliver such different results from the same set of players. Wiegman succeeded Phil Neville as England manager, having previously led the Netherlands to Euros success in 2017 and the World Cup final in 2019.
So, what did Wiegman do that Neville and his predecessors didn’t? Reading the feedback from the England players and others that Wiegman has coached and worked with, three factors emerge.
First, Wiegman builds a collective where everyone feels comfortable and able to contribute. At her first training base with the England team, Wiegman turned one room into a “massive fire pit with beanbags, hot chocolate, the lot,” according to reserve goalkeeper Hannah Hampton. As a result, everyone felt able to share their stories and feel closer to each other. To be honest, for all his strengths and experience, I can’t quite imagine Phil Neville doing anything similar.
Second, Wiegman is crystal clear on everyone’s specific role, from the players on the pitch to the backroom staff. Ahead of the tournament, she told each player whether or not she expected them to be in the starting XI, supportive squad members, or high-impact substitutes. That direct approach worked. It’s little surprise, perhaps, that both of England’s goals in the final were scored by two of those substitutes, Ella Toone and Chloe Kelly.
And third, Wiegman develops and maintains a clear vision about how the team should play, both in attack and defence. As forward Beth England put it, “She tells us when things aren’t right; and she’s not shy to be savage and brutal when she needs to be.”
So, the Wiegman approach, it seems, is to develop and share a clear strategic vision in a high-trust team environment where everyone understands their role. How well does your team or organisation rate against these principles, and how well placed is it to bring it home?
Off The Record: Homeward Bound by Paul Simon
Homeward bound, I wish I was
Home, where my thought’s escaping
Home, where my music’s playing
Home, where my love likes waiting
Silently for me