England: disengaged and out of the Euros (again)

29th June 2016

The headline joke was obvious: “out of Europe for the second time in a week”.  Sadly, the performance was just as predictable.

England, as we all painfully know, are out of the Euros.  Beaten 2-1 by Iceland.  We didn’t even lose in our traditional penalty shoot-out.  The reaction from supporters, the press and pundits alike was scathing.  Notably, it was particularly bad from ex-players: “the worst defeat in our history” (Lineker); “the worst performance I have ever seen from an England team” (Shearer); “embarrassing…no finesse and no inventiveness” (Ferdinand).

So what went wrong and what could we learn more broadly in business from this latest defeat?  Here’s our top three take-aways:


  1. Poor leadership leads to poor results

Roy Hodgson looked like a man with no plan.  Throughout the tournament, there seems to have been little strategy in terms of formation or game-plan.  While the strategy has been poor, the tactics have been even worse: “inept” according to most pundits.

This was compounded by a weak sense of ambition.  Other coaches have talked about winning the tournament. Ahead of the Iceland game, Hodgson could only muster “I would like us to win this game”.  Against a country with a population not much bigger than Plymouth.

The lack of vision, strategy and ambition led to the team under-performing.  Ultimately, it led to Hodgson’s inevitable post-match resignation.  You cannot engage people to perform without these essential ingredients.


  1. Talent and team work underpin everything

Basic talent is vital for performance, particularly in a technically challenging areas such as sport.  But much of the criticism of the team has been around some basic errors:  the lack of running off the ball; always passing the ball to feet; poor control and passing from even experienced players such as Wayne Rooney; the distinct lack of finishing.  Hodgson has been accused of displaying loyalty to players despite their performances or their match-fitness levels.  Raheem Sterling and Jack Wilshere are the two most quoted examples.  Without core talent performing at its best, it’s not surprising the results didn’t come.

By contrast, what Iceland may have lacked in talent or experience was more than made up for in terms of teamwork.  The Icelanders played a basic system.  But the team spirit, tackling back for each other and the evident camaraderie with the supporters in the stadium helped them to outplay England.  Teamwork goes a long way to create strong performance.


  1. Engagement creates wins

Simply looking at the England team last night told a lot of people that they looked disengaged – with any plan or strategy devised by Hodgson, with each other and with the any ambition of winning.  When Jamie Vardy was brought on as a substitute, there were simply a set of shrugs between players as none seemed to understand the system they were supposed to be playing under.

We know engagement creates performance.  But there was little evidence of it in Nice.  The next England manager may need to ask what is he engaging the players with? Are they only passionate about being paid to play professional football or are they engaged with performing and winning for their country?


By Dr Andy Brown
CEO & Practice Head: ENGAGE Leadership