FANTASY FOOTBALL: With the England football team failing to ‘click’ in South Africa, manager Fabio Capello, has today taken the extraordinary step of calling in Michael Vaughan to replace David Beckham in the role of principal adviser.
The former England cricket captain is said to be taking the next flight to Cape Town, scene of a number of his best performances.
Why? When Vaughan took over the role of the ODI captain from Nasser Hussain after their ill-fated World Cup mission to South Africa in 2003, he transformed the way the England cricket team was managed. Fitness, enjoyment and personal responsibility became the watchwords. To play with a smile and a felling of joy was the prime objective.
Vaughan wanted the side stronger, fitter and more athletic. He wanted each player to direct their own use of the support staff; not to wait for them to point something out to the player but for the player to take responsibility for what they needed from the staff.
He demanded that individual players took control of their own preparation and their own disciple. In short that they looked after their own game plan on and off the pitch.
Vaughan sought clever cricketers.
“No one else can get inside your head,” he told them. “You know the real reason behind your mistakes.”
He wanted them to manage their own space. To confront the things they weren’t as good at as they could be.
“If you prepare correctly and carefully analyse the opposition you give yourself the best chance.”
So he did all he could to avoid last minute selections, giving players plenty of time to plan and prepare for what was expected of them.
“We also tried to identify exactly what role every player had in the team. (See yesterday’s reference to Matthew Hoggard as the ‘shop floor sweeper’. ) Once you have given a guy a role he knows what to work on in practice.”
This ‘dialogue’ with the player about his role also helped him get to know how a player was thinking. It helped him understand the player’s cricketing brain and encouraged the player to use that brain. Most errors in cricket come when the mind wanders and concentration lapses, he concluded.
He said he wanted eleven captains and was criticised for this as a kind of dereliction of responsibility but he wanted people thinking, involved, alert and bright.
This was clearly a culture shock for an England used to the all-controlling Hussain, but Vaughan’s way is superior; it is how you get the best out of others by delegation.
It is the approach that football in general needs too and England in South Africa in particular.
Third Man is sure that if Vaughan’s time had come ten years earlier, then, Clive Woodward would have had him amongst his Rugby World Cup staff. But does Capello even know his name?
Let’s leave the last words to Michael Vaughan in Calling the Shots, “You want to give (the players) the best opportunity to do well and if you give them what they ask for they have no excuses. That’s a big thing for me: no excuses. I think there are a few teams around the world who use that as their motto and I’m more than happy to make it ours. Prepare well, give people what they need and don’t leave them the get-out of ‘If only this or that had been different then I’d have performed.’
And Vaughan also new that this personal honesty from players takes trust, trust in the management and the selection process and he did his best to supply this. For the captain too, there were to be no excuses.