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The Captain Class: The Hidden Force Behind the World’s Greatest Teams By Sam Walker

Release date: 18th May, 2017
Publisher: Ebury Press

List Price: Ł16.99
Our Price: Ł13.60
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In an age when the captain’s armband is sometimes lobbed across to a player unlikely ever to be deemed a natural commander, consider the following instances of sporting leadership.

Example one. Concerned that excessive goal celebrations by his team-mates would rile their opponents and provide them with additional motivation, former Barcelona defender Carles Puyol raced across and broke the exuberant players up, demanding they concentrate on the rest of the match before celebrating.

Example two. Tim Duncan, a name not widely known on this side of the Atlantic (he was the undisputed leader of the Antonio Spurs basketball team that made the NBA play-offs for 19 consecutive seasons), once accepted a significantly reduced salary in order that the team might sign better players and thereby remain under the NBA salary cap.

During their playing days, both men were modest, self-effacing types who put the team above personal considerations; who knew their role was to tackle the job in hand, to lead by example. Both shunned the limelight, yet both were representative of the very soul of their respective teams.

Sam Walker has written what is likely to be 2017’s sports book of the year. Following exhaustive research, the former sports editor of the Wall Street Journal has selected sixteen of the world’s greatest teams, delving deep into each to unearth what he calls “the DNA of greatness”. It is a fascinating read.

Walker found “an uncanny correlation” between a team’s sustained success and the arrival or departure of one player, a driving force, who proved pivotal to that success.

Carles Puyol, Tim Duncan, New Zealand’s Richie McCaw (who refused a knighthood because he didn’t wish to be singled out as the most important of the All Blacks) and a host of others prove that the captain’s armband still means something. The author’s research suggests strongly that putting it on the correct player can often lead to sustained playing success.


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