So, after all the waiting - for the final meaningless-yet-not-meaningless game against Belgium to be played, and for every other second round match to be decided - it’s on.
England’s first World Cup knockout game awaits, together with a juicily open half of the draw following England’s placement - whether deliberate or not - of second in Group G and two-time winners Spain’s elimination against Russia on Sunday.
Should the Three Lions overcome Colombia, they stand to face a quarter-final against Sweden or Switzerland, before a potential semi-final against Russia or Croatia. There has never been a more inviting route to the final for England since Italia ‘90.
So eyes turn once again to Gareth Southgate, the man entrusted with motivating and guiding England’s finest to victory. He’s earned plaudits across the board for the way he has galvanized his young team so far, as well as making that ballsy team choice against Belgium in the final group game, but even he would be forgiven for looking skyward for a little divine inspiration at this juncture.
But, fortunately, he doesn’t need to look up - and he can simply look below - at this exclusive hand-written letter from one of the greatest English managers of all time: Sir Bobby Robson.
Dating back to 1998, it details Sir Bobby’s eleven commandments of management, and has been provided by Sir Bobby’s family to mark the recent release of the brilliant documentary Bobby Robson: More Than a Manager.
It reads as follows:
To build a team of motivated players a good coach should:
1. Be able to control himself before he can control them (the team)
2. Be passionate about the subject (in this case football - but it could be anything eg. cars, electrical goods, furniture!)
3. Be open-minded - good listener
4. A winner - single-minded about the ultimate outcome
5. Honest - to gain respect - fair
6. Command discipline
7. Set good examples
8. Understand individuals (what makes them tick)
9. React positively to criticism. Decrease the stress
10. Be positive and confident himself to give confidence to others
11. Be trustworthy
There can be no doubt that Sir Bobby followed all of his own rules throughout his illustrious career in charge of Fulha, Ipswich, England, PSV Eindhoven, Sporting Lisbon, Porto, Barcelona and Newcastle - indeed, it was that career that almost certainly shaped and honed his golden rules.
In this video, his wife Lady Elsie Robson reads his ‘commandments’ aloud:
“I think they are wonderful guidelines,” says Elsie, correctly.
Let’s hope Gareth takes a read before tonight and Sir Bobby can help guide England for a second time.
Bobby Robson: More Than A Manager is out now on Digital Download, Blu-Ray and DVD