By Lahnee Pavlovich, Head of Research and Writing, Athlete Assessments
Leicester City’s recent EPL title win has sparked a wave of reaction across the globe. An underdog story to compete with the best of them, Leicester City made an incredible turnaround after a 14th place finish for the 2014-15 season — their first season back in the Premier League since 2004. So what can we learn from this? How did a team at 5000/1 come back to defeat the odds and win?
Bo Hanson shares four valuable lessons we can ‘Learn from Leicester’.
Threshold levels count: Equipment doesn’t win championships, salaries don’t win championships – the right people do. At the highest level in any sport you need access to a quality training facility, correct soccer conditioning programs and sufficient equipment. But the reality is each of these factors need only be at the threshold level. For example, if you have a 20kg dumbbell that’s brand new, and one that’s 10 years old – they are both still 20kg dumbbells and they both still allow productive practice to occur. Same goes for every other factor. It needs to be able to “get the job done” but does not need to be constantly renewed or even improved. There exists a law of diminishing returns with everything except the quality of your people and the growth and development they will experience over time. Equipment can be sufficient to get the job done and a lot of resources and money can be saved in having access to effective equipment. In fact, I can argue how having constantly renewed equipment can teach the wrong lessons about the need to respectfully look after, be accountable for equipment longevity and having to have a “bit of struggle” in our training environments is actually something which drives toughness – and you can never have enough of toughness in your players.
Understanding your players strengths and playing to them: During the preparation of Leicester City for their season, new Manager Claudio Ranieri devised the teams systems and tactics so perfectly with the strengths and weaknesses of his team in mind – defending in long stretches, but locking opponents out of the centre, utilising Jamie Vardy’s incredible ability to run past and/or through anyone in his way, and creating space for Riyad Mahrez to cut in and make magic – that it didn’t matter the fact that this team didn’t have the same budgets for equipment as some of the other teams, they won because of the relationships, culture, and deep understanding between players and Coaches/Management.
It’s all about relationships: We are always talking about the importance of getting the people side right in sport. In reality, it is all about the Coach and their ability to personally connect with their players and build productive relationships within the team. It’s also about the players’ ability to build on and constantly develop their team culture. Leicester City captain Wes Morgan summed this up well when credited the club’s maiden Premier League title to an incredible spirit within the squad saying “I’ve never known a spirit like the one between these boys, we’re like brothers.”
The importance of a new perspective: Sometimes what it takes is a fresh perspective. Susan Whelan, the clubs CEO was certainly this when she was appointed to run the club five years ago. She had no football experience but her business expertise worked wonders for Leicester City, repositioning their merchandising, branding, and critically, turning millions of pounds of debt into equity. This is the perfect example of how we should value diversity and accept new ideas.
— Foxes became the first team to win a maiden top league title since Nottingham Forest in 1977-78.
— Leicester’s entire squad was assembled at a cost of £54.4 million (AUD $104 million), just a fraction less than the amount of money Manchester City paid for Kevin de Bruyne last year.
— The club’s previous best top-flight finish was second place in the 1928-1929 season.
— Leicester have nearly doubled their points score of 41 from last season, sitting on 77 with two games still to play.