What football taught me – Lessons from the Euros

By Alfie Mullan

Posted 2nd Jul 2021

Reading Time: 5 Minutes

In 2013, the then Football Association Chairman, Greg Dyke, set out two ambitions for the English football team. He said, “The two targets I have for the England team are – one, to at least reach the semi-finals of Euro 2020 and two, win the World Cup in 2022”.

As it turns out the targets and the plan to make them a reality, outlasted Greg Dyke, who moved on to pastures new in 2016.

For this year’s Euros, I was lucky enough to get tickets to both the semi final and final. While a lot of the behaviour off field at the final was awful, I’m proud of the behaviour of those on the field. This team is one that I can get behind in a number of ways – especially their emotional intelligence and performance.

Understanding the backstory, the focus and the plan that contributed to the team’s performance fills me with confidence for their future. Now I’ve seen the results of having a plan, the absence of one in previous football eras is even more marked. 

In the past, I haven’t had confidence in our ability to field a team that has developed together, who knew how to play together, who had each others’ backs. At so many tournaments, I’ve felt as if the squad was a collection of individual (extremely talented) players; not a team drawing on the benefits of years of a plan consistently applied.  So, inevitably, I always felt that our team was weak – more likely to fall victim to injuries of key players or distracted by off field activities.

This team just feels different – you can sense the confidence in the talent on the bench. We’ve built a team that has depth and longevity. 

That’s the power of making a plan and then sticking to it – for the long term.

I’m hoping it pays off at the World Cup next year but even if it doesn’t, this is the first time in a long time that I’ve felt proud of this team’s conduct. 

The long term pay off

Now, of course, there are parallels to financial planning and investing for the long term, and that’s why I’m sharing my thoughts on the England team with you. 

We’ve seen the results of clear targets and I’m reminded that same applies to your financial plan. These emerge in the conversations we have with you at the beginning of our relationship and when we meet every year. We discuss your hopes and ambitions for life – helping to define what living life fully means to you – those are essentially the targets we need to help you achieve – they are your World Cup or Euros.

We then define the plan to help you achieve those ‘targets’ over the long term. We’ll manage the plan and review it to ensure it continues to help you achieve your ambitions. 

In other words we do exactly the same as the England team has done. In their case it’s meant Gareth Southgate has a wide range of talent to pick from as a result of investing over many years. The same applies to your plan and investment strategy. We design it, we implement it, review it and we stick to it. Success comes from planning for the long term, as well as continuing to invest in yourself and those around you.

It wasn’t luck that got England to the final earlier this month and to the semi final in Russia in 2018 (although I still worked my way through some of my pre-match superstitious rituals). It was sticking to a long term plan. 

It also takes strong leadership and a recent interview interview with Gareth Southgate and Jake Humphrey emphasises this. The podcast covers many areas, all relating back to high performance, leadership and a growth mindset. It discusses that success is the result of a long term plan with incremental changes.

Finally, I’m reminded of the importance of a diverse range of skills and roles in the team. The squad on the pitch are nothing without the backroom team – management, physios and so many different skills that come together to make success possible. I was reminded of this in this recent interview by Brene Brown – one of the world’s most endearing and talented thought leaders – with Dr Pippa Grange, who was Head of People and Team Development at The Football Association, working closely with the England team for the World Cup in 2018 and regularly praised for her role in finally breaking the penalty kick curse.

It’s not just the patchwork of skills that build this success, it’s an open minded approach to different opinions and experiences. There are so many parallels to investing here but I’ll settle for focussing on diversification. In much the same way a blend of skills, experiences and roles have lead to the team’s success, ensuring your investment portfolios are well diversified help us ensure the success of your strategy.   

It’s not often I get the opportunity to combine my love for financial planning with my love for football so I’m sure you’ll forgive me the indulgence of this post.