England squad drew inspiration from Rowing Marine
The motivational words of the Rowing Marine, Lee Spencer, may have helped England clinch a stunning 6-1 score against Panama last Sunday.
Mr Spencer, a below the knee amputee, aims to become the world’s first physically disabled person to row solo and unsupported from Gibraltar to mainland South America later this year.
But as he prepared for his trans-Atlantic challenge, Mr Spencer’s drive and motivation may have provided a fillip to the English side.
Earlier this year, the English football team were taken to the Royal Marine Commando Training Centre in Lympstone, where they engaged in some team building exercises in the same way as the English rugby team did before winning the World Cup.
Out of this process came the idea for an inspirational training day with Mr Spencer and two other amputees, Royal Marine Andy Grant and Royal Marine Baz Barrett.
The squad met with Mr Spencer at St. George’s Park National Football Centre earlier this month, just before the players left for Russia.
“We went down there and spent the day with the guys, talked to them about being resilient and overcoming adversity, and just sharing our experiences with them,” Mr Spencer told the Chronicle.
The day clearly had an impact on the players, as Mr Spencer confirms that some of them had mentioned him and the other two men in the media.
Danny Rose is quoted in an article in the Mail on Sunday on Mr Spencer’s influence.
The article reads: “Rose was particularly taken with the testimony of Lee Spencer, a former Marine who has lost his leg but who is rowing the Atlantic solo. ‘That was a real eye-opener,’ said Rose. ‘I thought I had a difficult year and you hear their stories. He’s been through adversity and he’s not going to let that stop him. And that’s the same that the gaffer wants from the lads. If the guy to the left of you is in trouble, in the Marines you would literally have to give your life to help.’”
Mr Spencer is aware that when he tells people his narrative it may leave an imprint on them.
“When you tell someone your story, no one ever goes away thinking ‘ah yeah cheers for that’ and forgets it,” he said.
“In fact everyone is very complimentary, but you always wonder how much of that is genuine.”
“Subsequently from interviews they have given and what the players and Gareth Southgate said, it seems we have made a big impact, a positive impact, which is really pleasing,” he added.
Mr Grant, who lost his leg below the knee in an explosion, is a motivational speaker and holds the record for the fastest amputee over 10,000 metres.
He spoke about his experience and how he keeps himself focused and how he gives himself a challenge.
Mr Barrett, who lost his leg high above the knee and the fingers of one hand when he was caught in an explosion, started his own company specialising in Health and Safety when he left the Royal Marines.
On the day the three men met the squad, they all individually spoke to the whole team and then they split into smaller groups to address the footballers for 30 minutes at a time.
Mr Spencer and the two other men played a few games including baseball and tug-of-war with the team and ended the day with a barbecue.
“We got to meet them, got to speak to them and spend time with them, it was special,” Mr Spencer said.
“I came away from the whole experienced enthused by what they are trying to do as a team and how they are approaching it.”
“Gareth Southgate was actually quite candid with us, with the way he wanted and what he wanted to do and how he wanted to develop the team.”
Mr Spencer believes the English team have what it takes to get the whole way to the final and win the World Cup.
And with tongue firmly in cheek, he said he would take some of the credit for it when they do.