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  • Writer's pictureRoss Moughtin

To be proud of our humilty

For those of you who collect hashtags, #SouthgateMustGo no doubt will become an item of rare value, one which will cause much puzzlement to future generations.

It’s difficult to locate when this particular hashtag was last used but most searches would suggest 19 June, soon after the goalless draw against Scotland.

Here is a good example from Danny, although this being a family-friendly blog I have omitted some of his adjectives:


Absolutely * awful in all my years of watching England

The WORST ever !

Check out their wages

Check out their status

Disgraceful !!


Thankfully, given England’s remarkable progress through the EUROs, Danny isn’t on the FA appointments committee.

As it happened I thought I would have a look at some of Danny’s recent tweets. You have to laugh. How about the one showing Southgate taking the applause at Wembley with his comment "Southgate you're the one"?

But that’s football, that’s life written large. Everything can change in a moment. It can just take one fortuitous deflection or one Gerrard slip, even a referee's mistake – and you are on the road to Wembley or on the plane home.

It is in this taut, unforgiving world that Gareth Southgate operates. I guess the secret is, in the words of Rudyard Kipling, to meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same.” Certainly Gareth has impressed us with his composure.

Of course, he is currently at a high, deservedly. However, it is fascinating to read commentators’ appreciation of his managerial manner. Of course, he has a high level of tactical awareness; for example, in replacing substitute Jack Grealish in the 69th minute in order to move from 4-2-3-1 to 3-4-3. Not that I understand this but according to the Times, “a ruthless, pragmatic decision with a shrewd tactical edge.”

However, the qualities of our manager most lauded in the media are values which transcend football, two in particular. Courage and humility. Certainly it takes courage to handle the huge expectations of England’s fans, to hold your nerve and to choose your team – despite everything thrown at you. And it comes in bucketfuls. “Brave Southgate has the courage of his beliefs,” headlines the Irish Times.

However, courage is often linked to football given the physicality of the game. Much less so, humility. And yet Southgate’s humility is what many commentators have focussed on as the key to his success.

Again to quote the Times. “Many pundits expressed concern that Southgate’s modesty might prove a hindrance in what has become known as the impossible job. Did he have enough charisma? Could he get a group of multimillionaires to do his bidding? In fact, his humility has been central to the connection he has formed with his team of millennials.”

Certainly Southgate’s humility has rubbed off onto his players to make them into a team which actually plays together.

As one commentator noted: “Southgate has pulled together a team that psychologically seems to have a shared collective of humility. This way of leading creates a team that has less ego-driven behaviours, less need for anyone to be an individual star, which in turn gives each player more space to be courageous.”

As Southgate himself observed: “These players have a level of humility that is really important. We pride ourselves on it.”

This oxymoron could have been the apostle Paul speaking – we pride ourselves on our humility. As he writes to the hyper-critical Corinthians: ‘But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

Paul knew that humility is the key to teamwork, and teamwork is the key to the Kingdom of God. It is not that Jesus calls a set of superstars but a fellowship of saints working together. As Christians our instinct must always be to pass the ball, to work even that others can take the credit.

So the apostle encourages us: “Mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.” (Ephesians 4:3) Humility is something to be worked on, an ongoing decision to value others above ourselves. As Rick Warren writes in The Purpose Driven Life: “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

However, humility is a battle. Certainly receiving the loud applause of 60,000 plans (minus the Danes) is a dangerous place – and many saints have been brought down by such acclaim.

What we need to hold on to is what truly counts at the end of the day, to hear from the person who counts: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:31)

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