Gareth Southgate’s letter to England has rightly cut through to a country on the eve of the tournament. Capturing the issues about pride, identity, the meaning of what it is to be English, he has rallied not just his team but an entire nation.
It was a masterclass in leadership and authenticity. Beautifully written, he chose to address the country through the Players’ Tribune – the voice of the game – rather than opt for a slick video. It acknowledged the power of the position he holds, and his words carried weight, meaning and perhaps more importantly, credibility. He drew from his own experience as a boy, a player, manager and family-man, to connect with the country.
No-one asked him to do this, no England manager has gone this far in addressing a nation, in written form, ahead of a major competition. But given the fevered post-pandemic atmosphere, with the team playing to booing stadiums, it is likely to settle the fans and the players.
We can learn from what he has said and the means, integrity and purpose with which it was said. He’s created a platform for a nation to support his players and share their hopes and, with a fair wind, perhaps their triumph at the competition. I’m not a football fan, but I’m definitely watching now.