Nino Severino: Success is about true grit - and the Waghorns have what it takes
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
In this week’s column, Nino Severino shares his pride at seeing close friend and former Ipswich Town star Martyn Waghorn score at Wembley, and the grit he and wife Leoni have shown to achieve success.
The Championship Play-off Final between Aston Villa and Derby County at Wembley Stadium on Monday was the end of an incredible first season of management for Rams' boss Frank Lampard and a cause for celebration for Villa players and their fans across the globe.
This match was also a significant event for ex-Ipswich Townn star Martyn Waghorn who fulfilled a life-long dream of scoring in the most famous stadium in the world.
Two big areas of my life involve Martyn - The Hub, where he plays an incredibly important role as one of our ambassadors, and the Elena Baltacha Foundation, where he holds a place on the list of our official foundation friends.
Martyn and his wife Leoni sent me a message a week before the final, to invite me to join them for this incredible match, but unfortunately I had to travel to Italy and was unable to join them - a massive disappointment for me.
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I really wanted to be part of the family group who would travel to London to support Martyn, during a match that arguably was the biggest of his footballing career.
For me, this was more than just a football final, this was a match that involved a family who I have had the privilege of getting to know very closely, who have opened their arms to me, and welcomed me into their incredibly tight circle.
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This family is not simply about a footballing star, it is also about two people who have shown how resilience, strength, commitment, grit, and of course love and loyalty, in the end win through and create life opportunities.
I am currently reading a book called "Grit", written by Angela Duckworth, it's about how life's achievements are not simply about talent alone, but how you deal with the many challenges along the way, how you can endure, how you can remain in the race when others, sometimes more talented, fall away.
I have had the privilege of growing very close to the Waghorns and what is very apparent to me is that the most important element of their story is not about football at all, it's two people who have an incredible love for each other, who are completely different in character, but fit so perfectly as a couple.
Between them, they have developed a strength, a grit, that has enabled them to endure some very tough times, some challenging experiences, that many would have found very difficult.
I'm sure many who are reading this might be thinking, tough times? Challenging experiences? The Waghorns are living the dream!
But as many who live, or have lived a life in professional sport will know, this is so far from the truth - travelling along the path of success in sport can often deliver the hardest of life's challenges.
Dreaming big comes with a price, it not only brings the very highest of highs, it can bring massive lows that sometimes are very difficult to climb out of. I often say that athletes carry a heavy burden. Living a life that is focused around the business of winning, day in, day out, from a junior all the way through to senior competitive level, and I have seen it break the strongest of characters.
I lived this challenge with Elena for eight years, so it's a life I know very well. I remember how we both felt after a very bad loss at Wimbledon one year.
Our lives were so focused on climbing the world rankings, being the best we could be as professionals, that losing hurt so very much, so very deeply. We were lucky in that we had each other and we climbed out of the darkness of failure together, but many athletes do not have this type of relationship.
It's around this area that the Waghorn story becomes very interesting. Leoni and Martyn are childhood sweethearts, they have literally grown up together, from two young people with no fame or money, just a love for each other, and very big hopes and dreams.
We have all seen so many couples in public life, who simply have been torn apart by the aggressive way life experiences can challenge a relationship. But Leoni and Martyn are that very rare example of how life challenges can bring two people so unbelievably close, they almost seem to work as one.
They know each other inside out, utilise their strengths in an incredible way, they spin off each other and create a storm of positive energy that creates solutions.
I have seen this with my very own eyes, they will work as one, until they over-come the challenge and come through together.
Their incredible Wembley experience was a manifestation of a great love, loyalty, partnership, strength, resilience - and, of course, grit!