From Rhys Jaggar
Clough (holding a football): ‘What’s this?’
Forest player: ‘It’s a ball, boss.’
Clough: ‘Right: go and play with it….’
And that was all he said before a Nottingham Forest victory.
It is the ultimate empowerment team talk but only works if players can adapt to circumstances on the pitch, at least if they are playing decent opposition. The players, after all, have just been told: ‘You’re the ones wearing the shirt. Prove you deserve to being wearing it!’
Would it free up the England players to be unpredictable revolutionaries or would too many individuals emerge and cause disjointed, ineffective play?
I am not sure myself, but I reckon that is the hurdle the teams needs to cross to win major tournaments. Eleven players taking responsibility, sensing what will work as the game proceeds and being part of half time discussions as interim assessments are made.
It does require a team comfortable with changing shape at will, responding to high press calls from on field leaders, setting the opposition an array of different tests and not relying on one or two stars to turn a game.
There are no Messis or Ronaldos in the squad.
So they need a tactical and strategic edge to max out on their collective abilities.
Big risk of course that the team would go tits up playing like this, so I suspect it would not be done in every game.
But it is one approach to climbing Everest.
Southgate may of course decide on other approaches.
His job, his responsibility, I guess.
Charisma is the most overused word of the 21st century.
But Brian Clough had charisma.
At Derby he never had eleven English players as good Colin Todd.
At Forest, Larry Lloyd had Scot Kenny Burns next to him, Irishman Martin O’Neill was on the right in a 4-4-2 with John McGovern and Archie Gemmill (two more Scots) were in centre-mid. They were told to work and tackle and allow the genius of John Robertson to win the games.
Nottingham Forest amazed the world by winning the European Cup in 1979 and retaining it in 1980. There was no disjointed play because everyone was a team player.
England going forward under Southgate?
One of my mantras is: Skill make it easier.
Maybe James Maddison can glue the team together in the way that Gary Neville wants. Maybe Mason Mount can help him.
Clearly, Trent Alexander must start every game.