The journey of a successful team
The chart below tracks the age profile of a well-known team over three periods between 1998 and 2014. Which period do you think produced the most success?
On limited information there’s no obvious answer, but first impressions might go as follows:
- 1998-2003: plenty of peak-age players combined with experience
- 2004-2009: a balance of ages across the squad, with some young players coming through
- 2010-2014: a reliance on young players with limited experience in support
But despite the apparent lack of experience, this team enjoyed its most successful years between 2010 and 2014. Just over a decade before, between 1998 and 2003, its fans had lost their passion for the team, disillusioned with mediocre performances in big matches.
In its most recent era, the team were able to compensate for a lack of older players by developing more talented and smarter players than the generation before, and were brave enough to give these talents a chance. A succession plan was in place; players were steadily absorbed into the first team to gain experience and success soon followed.
The team, of course, is Germany. It’s a well-known story that bears repeating, and has parallels with a number of clubs including Southampton, Lyon and Feyenoord. A clear, coherent long-term plan was translated into World Cup triumph; the fact that it relied on youth only increased its sustainability.
We often feel that there’s a strong connection between experience and success, and consequently favour older players at critical moments. But with the bravery to execute their succession plan, Germany showed that experience and youth needn’t be mutually exclusive. They have the medals to show for their courage.