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'If only!' How the Science of Happiness Would Have Helped England Win the World Cup

26/06/2014 11:46 BST | Updated 25/08/2014 10:59 BST

This has got football in it but it is NOT about football...

Please note, this article isn't 'having a go' at our failed superstars. The lads return on the early flight from Rio (3 weeks early to be fair) with our pride intact. One hard-earned point off those pesky Costa Ricans may not have been enough to qualify for round 2. But there is a bright-side. No hooliganism. And no biting. Plus Roy Hodgson has been unbelievably articulate and upbeat.

But there is also a down-side. Was it me, or did the lads look terrified? We're they gagging to get the ball or was it a hot potato? Was captain Stevie G bathed in smiles and confidence, or all furrowed-brow and downcast eyes?

We lost narrowly against Italy in game one. But that's not where it went wrong. Here's where it went wrong!

Three things:

Firstly, elder statesmen, Gerrard and Lamps, sat the team down and spoke of the horrors of returning home winless. The press reported on it. "Gerrard has failed in three previous world cups," said one of the BBC team, "so was able to give a first-hand account of the numb feeling of coming home empty-handed."

And that was when I knew.

With their heads full of exactly what they didn't want, they lost feebly against a little-known South American nation with a population the size of Wales, and scraped a nil nil against the powerhouse of Costa Rica (excuse the hint of sarcasm, I'm hurting, okay?)

Like I said, I'm not being critical, I'm merely pointing out how the science of positive psychology would have helped. Language and leadership are crucial. Scaring the living daylights out of your team by visioning how badly things might turn out, might be, with hindsight, exactly the wrong language and leadership.

A much better strategy would have been to sit the lads down and get them to imagine returning home to a tumultuous welcome. Luton airport decked out in flags. Supporters camping in the terminal to await our arrival. Tea at number 10. Knighthoods all round.

The lads would have been sat there, Cheshire cat-style, eyes shining, chests puffed. Yes please skipper.

And Stevie G delivers his awesome question, 'So what are we going to do against Uruguay and Cost Rica to make that happen?'

Then Stevie, do what all great leaders do, shut up and listen.

The second lesson that positive psychology can teach us about England's early exit, centres around 'playing to your strengths'. It's almost too obvious for words so I won't waste many. Playing players in their best positions is a no-brainer. End of.

I'm not meaning to sound harsh. But there's also a third point. And it's a whopper. We end up trying so hard that we almost try too hard? The best preparation (4 years' of it) the finest hotels, first class flights, the best food, physio & facilities. Nothing was left to chance. And what lets us down? Our thinking! Our internal dialogue that ends up paralysing us with the consequences of what might go wrong. So we stop having fun. We stop taking risks. We end up playing a pale imitation of the game we love. The nation mourns. Again!

Here's my World Cup 2014 prediction. The winning team will be the one that's having the most fun. It's a sure-fire certainty that they will be grinning, in 3 weeks' time, as they hold the trophy aloft. Of course they will. But my guess is that the winning team are grinning now, 3 weeks prior.

Positive psychology tells us that happiness won't just be the end product. It will be the vital ingredient!

And, in 4 years' time we'll rev up and do it all again. But in Russia. I suspect I'll just be able to copy & paste, changing a few names to suit. Please, please my beloved In-ger-land, stop saying you will learn the lessons and learn the lessons. Prove me wrong. I'm begging you