Weekly email 5/12/2016
At the start of the EPL last August there weren’t too many people who expected Leicester City to win the title in this prestigious league this year. Many expected them to struggle and the appointment of Claudio Ranieri, who was just let go from coaching the Greek National Team after losing twice to the all mighty Faroe Islands, didn’t give anyone any reason to think differently. Leicester City escaped relegation miraculously by winning 7 out of their last 9 games last season. How can you expect a team like Leicester to do so well among some of the wealthiest soccer clubs in the world?
As the season went on everyone expected the team to trip and fall as they got closer to the finish line. However, every challenge faced was dealt with and every week the support for the team continued to grow. We all love the underdog and there weren’t many people, maybe the Tottenham Hotspurs fans are the exception, who didn’t want them to finish on top. I’m sure many of you have read stories about the players who represented Leicester this season. Some were with the team when they won the title in league 1 (Andy King); others were unknown to the big public and only cost a little (Riyad Mahrez), compared to many of the expensive players they were up against; several of them played at the lowest tier of professional soccer till very recently (Jamie Vardy / N’Golo Kante and even Kasper Smeichel played in League 2) and a few were let go on a free by their last employer (Marc Albrighton / Christian Fuchs).
What does this success story proof to all of us? It is important to recognize that a team can only do well, if the 11 individuals out on the field play as a team. Collecting the best players together, sometimes for a lot of money, doesn’t mean you are going to form a very good team. With that, spending a lot of money based on the history of a player also doesn’t guarantee you this player is capable of doing so when they sign for your team. Newcastle Utd is a great example of a club who has spent a fortune on players the last few years, with only a few really working out for them, but despite all of that money spent they already know that they will be playing in the Championship next season.
Recognizing that a player hasn’t peaked yet, but has the potential to become a very good player can also help a team be very successful. It might take a little bit of time, but as long as we are patient and give players time to develop, your patience will be rewarded. This is obviously even more important when working with youth players. We do not need to win our game this upcoming weekend or the following weekend, but need to understand the importance of being patient with our players. Give them the opportunity to grow and develop.
Another team who surprised many, but who hasn’t gotten as much attention due to the hype around Leicester City lately, is AFC Bournemouth. This is by far the smallest club in the EPL and not long ago they were on their way to the Conference. That could have been the end of the club, but through a miraculous comeback they stayed up and a few years later they are in the EPL. Although some of their key players suffered season ending injuries early on and they lost several games, they always stayed true to their colors. Eddie Howe, their manager, never panicked and stayed on course. He knows exactly how he wants his team to play and continued down the path they were on. This team proved that is important to have a plan, a vision, and to stay on course even when times get tough. He made some slight alterations along the road, but they continued to play the way they have done all the way up to the EPL.
We all love the underdog, but more importantly, I think we can also learn a few important lessons from these 2 examples. We can’t underestimate the importance of healthy team dynamics when players are placed on a team together and that sometimes the best players might not necessarily form the best team. It is also important to have a vision of how you want your team to play, without changing your plan every week or every 2 weeks if your team loses a few games. Stick to the plan and stay on course.
Does this mean that Leicester will win the league again next year? Who knows? That would be amazing if that happens again, but everything needs to work out for them, in order for that to happen again.
Good luck this upcoming weekend,