I am writing this at the end of May 2011: it has been one of the most exciting Premiership seasons for years, with the relegation battles going right to the wire on the last day. Followed by the extraordinary experience of our League champions being totally outclassed by Barcelona in the European Cup Final. Since so many men share my love for the game, it seems wise to use it as a guide or metaphor for the inner life in a blog intended for men.
The image of the club is like your image in the world around you. Whatever your present reality, the glories or otherwise of your past have created a mass of associations which are held by many others. Like a club, you will have fans and opponents, and their beliefs about you will change only slowly.
The players at the club are like the aspects of your personality. Some are wild, some are quiet. Some break the rules often, others keep their nose clean. Some appear on the pitch often, some stay mostly in the reserves. Your players could be called sub-personalities: the romantic, the geek, the angry hitman, the saintly sage and so on.
Often you may be only aware of one of your players at a time: the geek may lead in a work task, the romantic may lead on a hot date
One of the things I love about soccer is the astonishing difference the manager can make. This season, look at Liverpool with Kenny Dalglish. Or more intriguingly, look at the poor impact Roy Hodgson had at Liverpool, and the immediate benefit he brought to West Bromwich. What’s the analogy for your inner life? As in football, your inner manager needs to bring a combination of intelligence and inspiration, technique and passion, to your inner team.but substituted by the lonely moper if you are losing the match. But although only one of your inner players has your attention, ie the ball, other aspects of you are on the pitch, in the team, and it can help you to draw them into the manoeuvres.
Just as different football teams respond to different managers and approaches, there’s no one prescription for your inner life. But somehow, you need to connect with your sense of purpose and passion, so that your inner players go out with fire in their hearts, and can pull themselves back against impossible odds.
Looking at Barcelona’s continuing success, it’s so clear that it arises from brilliance in both method and motivation. Your inner manager needs to know what training and techniques will help your players face the challenges of your life. He needs to find the right team choices among your inner players, so that you bring a mix of skills to bear on every situation.
The coaching team are also vital in the morale and the skills of your players. Your coaching inputs may come from friends, professionals like counsellors, blogs like this, or weekend workshops like the one I am offering in November (Maturing Men: Making Sense of Life Past 50 – see www.hazelhill.org.uk for details).
My local paper in Bridport, West Dorset, had a caption last week which nearly gave me heart failure. It read Here’s to the Premier!, over a picture of four men with bubbly at the low-key ground of Bridport Football Club. They are celebrating promotion to the Toolstation Western League Premier Division. It’s a useful reminder that few of us as individuals will be in the limelight of a UK Premier League. Most of us will be in the equivalent of the Toolstation Premier Division, be it Western or elsewhere. Local football clubs have just the same dramas and delights as their big brothers, so whatever your league your personal club may be in, find the passion and wisdom to manage it well.