LEADER: Ranieri focused on teamwork

Football is just a game but sometimes games can teach us things that apply to our everyday lives.

I think that is the case with this year’s English Premier League football season.

Leicester City clinched the title 11 days ago when Tottenham gave away a two goal lead to draw with Chelsea.

In the newspaper world the game itself is old news, but the Foxes’ achievement is so extraordinary that their winning the league is still a big story.

Management put the club together for P850 million.

That’s a lot of money, but it is the least amount spent on any squad in the top half of the table.

Manchester United forked out P6 billion on players and Manchester City spent close to P7 billion.

All the same, Leicester won the league so the first lesson is that money is not everything.

The factors that compensated for the difference in funding included humility, the ability to focus on the present and old fashioned hard work.

The humility started at the top and before the season even began when Claudio Ranieri took over from Nigel Pearson as Leicester’s manager.

Pearson lost his job because of bad publicity off the pitch not because of any failings as a manager.

Ranieri recognised he had a strong team and a system that suited the players so he decided to just carry on with what Pearson was doing.

He also kept all the assistant coaches, the medical team and the sports scientists.

He didn’t stamp his identity on the team right away. That was a brave and surprisingly humble move in a profession often dominated by egos.

The second lesson then is, don’t try to fix something that isn’t broken.

What Ranieri did do over the course of the season was bring humour and humility to player management and his relationship with the press, and that set the stage for the team’s amazingly cool run down the home stretch.

Most experts predicted the Foxes would choke, at least a little bit, once they had a realistic shot at winning the title, but that never happened, mainly because Ranieri kept the players focused on something they could actually do.

He just asked them to give their best effort one game at a time.

He gave the players credit for what they accomplished along the way, and even gave them a week off in February when the league leaders had 14 days between games and 12 matches left to play.

The Italian manager also laughed off talk of winning the title and eased the pressure on his players by pointing out they didn’t need to win anything to have a great season.

Interestingly, once the Tottenham players started mouthing off about putting pressure on the Foxes they started choking themselves and soon faded away.

So the third lesson is, concentrate on things you can actually do and keep your mind in the present which is the only place that can be done.

For the final lesson, I am simply going to quote Leicester City Vice-chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha:
“This is not just for the sport, it is life. If people use Leicester as the standard now, if they fight, they try – then they can achieve.”

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