Man of the Match

First half:

Shaking off the tiredness of the day
ushered black skin dayglo into concessionary parking
(it’s not Premier League you understand)
we trudge to Eastlands
side by side strangers
whose separate feelings
we don’t understand
but whose goal we share.
Parking charges upwards
through five poundland to eight poundland.
The crowd thickens, the heartbeat quickens
by pubs and scarf sellers geared and guarded
for their once in a while chance of trade and profit.
Tickets are for sale.
Queues pour from tiny windows like snakes
slowly slithering. We could complain.
It was an hour. But we’re not united.
We are City and what is a missing half?

Second Half:

A boy in the crowd waits to be found
amongst wannabes dreaming catapults
from limelight to spotlight.
Many moons from Titograd
to the moment of his life
a debut, two goals and a loud speaker
hailing the name Stevan Jovetic,
Number 35. Man of the Match
found and fanned to high heaven,
feelings united, everything forgotten.
Five nil.

Olympic medalling

Ellesmere Port gets the Olympics

I was there – at the Olympics on the day that Team GB won 3 golds in an hour! So were 70,000 others at Old Trafford to see Japan beat Egypt (eventually down to 9 men) 3-0. I got the Olympic sprit, had a great time and look forward to a return to Old Trafford on Tuesday to see the semifnals. It could have been Team GB v Brazil.

My blog stats read like the Olympic medal table. Except United States lead and UK comes second. China are nowhere – but it’s good to see French Polynesia getting a look in (only once, so not shown). The Olympic spirit is being in touch with each other, graciously. By the way, when did “medal” become a verb? I medalled, you medalled, he medalled, she medalled, they medalled.

Where are you heading?

red bricks wall
It’s a week for appreciating leadership and for scrutinising leadership. Roy Hodgson’s leadership will be under scrutiny as England’s campaign in Euro ’12 begins, and nation and Commonwealth have been jubilating in appreciation of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. Leaders often make the mistake of thinking that they know what is good for those who are their followers. Parents trying to get children to do homework often meet their own French resistance. Congregational leaders trying to introduce change “because it’s good for them” often feel like they are banging their head against a brick wall. The response to resistance is to try even harder and be rewarded with even greater frustration. For Edwin Friedman, in Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue, “In such situations, the motivators function as though their followers did not know what was good for them, and, furthermore, would never change were it not for their efforts.”

Traditional models of leadership focus on individualism on a continuum of charisma/concensus. None of these models can effectively combat resistace and inertia, according to Friedman. He suggests that a family systems approach which focuses on the organic nature of the leadership/follower relationship as constituent parts of the same organism is far more effective. “The family approach to leadership, precisely because it is systemic, offers a more effective, less enervating, way of dealing with such resistance to change because it considers the paradoxes of resistance not as something blocking efective leadership, but, as part and parcel of the leadership process itself.” (p.225)

Friedman emphasises the importance of position. “If a leader will take prime responsibility for his or her own position as “head” and work to define his or her own goals and self, while staying in touch with the rest of the organism, there is a ore than reasonable chance that the body will follow.” (p.229) “It is in the capacity of the leader to maintain a position and still stay in touch that the organism’s potential growth resides.”

What Friedman is here saying about “self-differentiation” is a reminder of Dee Hock’s advice that we should invest our time in self care and managing “up” rather than “down”.  Hock suggests that we should spend 50% of our time managing ourselves and 25% on managing those who have authority over us. Instead of concentrating on the functioning of others, the “self-differentiating” leader’s focus is their own functioning.

For Friedman, the effects of dependency are reversed when the leader is concentrating on where we are “headed”. “It is the leader who now becomes the resistant one as he or she, instead of having to work to change others, now works to resist their (the followers) efforts to change him or her back.”

Photo by Ezioman.

Tiki Taka

One of the highlights of my week has been spending time with a group of clergy committed to developing more leaderful communities and congregations, but facing the problems of working with those who don’t see leadership as their responsibility. How do we bridge that gap?

Leadership models have focused on individuals and individualism. New models of leadership inspired by “new science” focus on process and what goes on between people (this has coincided with a renewed awareness of the interplay and community of the Trinity). Other facilitators, like Viv McWaters and Chris Corrigan talk about developing play. The result is that leadership develops as a community activity rather than a one man (often gender specific) band.

Tomorrow is Cup Final Day. Kenny Dalglish and Roberto di Matteo, managers of Liverpool and Chelsea respectively will be giving their team talks. The winning team will most likely be the team that plays better together, and that is less like a collection of interviews. As we play together, we grow together. As we play together, we take more risks together. Chris Corrigan picks up the theme of football teamwork when he refers to a style of play called Tiki Taka:

A style of play characterised by short passing and movement, working the ball through various channels, and maintaining possession.” With Tiki Taka the ball is continuously passed between team members in a way that the whole team operates as one intelligent field, rather than sum total of talented individuals.

Is that it? Do we need a rich passage of interplay to become a successful team? Is it the short passes, working the channels, the give and go which turns an unresponsive group of individuals into one intelligent field and a leaderful organisation.

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Football supporters

Tributes to Gary Speed

The tragic death of Gary Speed, has, according to Peter Kay, Chief Executive of the Sporting Chance Clinic, prompted other footballers to become conscious of help they need to cope with the issues of footballers’ lives. Kay saysFootballers suffer illness in exactly the same way as the rest of society. They can become more detached from the outside world because of the money they earn. They are as vulnerable as the next man. In the light of Gary Speed’s terribly sad death I hope players who recognise they have a problem will put their hands up to ask for help”.

The issues of footballers’ lives was explored on White Lines with reference to an article on Nigel Reo-Coker’s working week featured in Guardian Money. White Lines summarised the working week:

Monday: A “warm-down training session. You’d probably be out there on the pitch for and hour, an hour and a half.” This runs between 10.30 a.m. and 12 p.m., and is followed by lunch (“prepared by chefs”). After lunch, “the rest of the day is yours”. By 1 p.m., he’s gone.Tuesday: As for Monday.Wednesday: Day off.Thursday: As for Monday and Tuesday.Friday: A light training session, “an hour maximum”.

Entrance to castle at Castle Eden
The drive to Castle Eden

So much time. So much money. So much possible isolation. When Roy Keane was looking for a house for his family in the north-east while he was manager of Sunderland, the Sunday Sun ran an article suggesting that Castle Eden would be worth looking at. One look at the drive shows that there’s not much in the way of neighbours. The house looks the perfect fit for the Downton set, but Downton is anachronistic. The castle of former times would be home for a whole community. Now the castle has been nuked with the nuclear family being king of the castle in isolation from any supporting cast.

The idea that wealth is the cause of isolation is explored by Charles Dickens in Great Expectations and by Fitzgerald in the Great Gatsby. The gated communities of East Cheshire, home to many famous footballers, may be the envy of many, but they are gated communities (if they can be called “communities” defended against others, whether neighbour or prying reporter.

Castle Eden
Castle Eden

We isolate our footballing celebrities on such dangerously high perches. Football supporters cheer them on for their performance. But that support is only for the team. The team members are only cheered for their part in the team’s win. Then adrenalin buzz of turning it on for 40000 people must give such a high, but also be so scary with the knowledge that the winning streak has to end and the recognition of the risk of a slide down the divisions into oblivion.

What are we doing as football supporters? I would suggest that every sad footballing story (and there are so many) should encourage us to become footballer supporters recognising the complications of wealth, time and isolation. Many footballers and celebrities are able to take care of themselves, their time and their wealth. Many have set up charitable foundations, and many prepare themselves for careers beyond their playing days. But others are not so lucky.