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Leicester City's Psychologist Allows A Glimpse Inside The Minds Of The Title Chasers

Leicester City's Psychologist Allows A Glimpse Inside The Minds Of The Title Chasers
By Conor O'Leary

Just a week removed from events at Augusta we're extremely aware of the pressures of being in a lead and within touching distance of glory. That's exactly the situation that Leicester City see themselves in right now.

The pre-season favourites for relegation are defying the odds in their march to the title, and there are some corners that still expect them to slip up. The mental challenge of challenging for a trophy is something that the majority of their players wouldn't have faced before - but their club psychologist says that they are taking it in their stride.

In a fascinating interview with the Times - Ken Wray, the club's psychologist since 2011, says that the players don't even need to use his services that much - such is there lack of stress levels. Even when Leicester hit the top of the table - Wray expected that he would be in demand, but the players have taken things in their stride:

I was actually busier this time last season. I was even able to take a short holiday last week and not worry about it.

I was concerned at one point, earlier in the season, about how it might start to affect the players. But it honestly hasn’t. It’s not a stressful situation. It’s only stressful if you allow it to be.

It's astonishing to think in a world where we see sportspeople from all walks of life enlist Enda McNulty's services to fix things - that Leicester feel so confident in an unfamiliar situation that the psychologist is able to take a mid-season break when most would have expected that Leicester would need him most.

There's clearly no sign of any lack of self belief in the Foxes. They are a team that trust in their abilities, and the relaxed atmosphere that Ranieri has instilled has them playing well and not thinking about failure:

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One issue is where you start thinking about the consequences of the result — the consequences of winning or of not winning — rather than focusing on doing all the things that got you to that point. It can change your thinking and performance. We possibly saw that in the Masters. At Leicester, the players have remained focused.

The majority of the individual work that Wray does is with the strikers he says. The goalkeepers don't really have one-to-one sessions, and there is some for defenders and midfielders - but the strikers who need to be focused on scoring goals seek him out most. Not that Wray is taking credit for Vardy's run this season, he'd prefer to focus the spotlight on other people.

Wray puts a huge amount of credit to Nigel Pearson and the building that he did before this season. He says that Jamie Vardy credits his self belief in Pearson's methods, and that Ranieri has built on that with the England striker. But Pearson's biggest moves when he arrived weren't to bring in players and coaches - but rather to rid the team of negative influences:

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I would go back to when Nigel Pearson came in. The club wasn’t in a good place. There were some players and possibly some staff members who didn’t fit the profile of what he wanted. I’ll confess I was quite shocked at the time by some of the people he moved on, but it showed that for a team to perform at its best, you have to manage the dynamics. When a team isn’t performing, most managers think about who they can bring in. Sometimes it might be about taking someone out. Managers talk about ‘energy-suckers’ — players or staff who can suck the positive energy out of a dressing room, the ones who always have a grumble. At Leicester, there’s not one like that.

The biggest thing that Ranieri deserves credit for according to Wray is how little he's changed. It would have been very easy for a manager to do a complete overhaul to get things into his way - but Ranieri recognised the good foundation that Pearson had put in place and slowly built upon it:

When Claudio arrived, I was nervous because Nigel had fashioned a great staff and we weren’t sure what was going to happen. Claudio brought some colleagues with him and I thought might change the approach, but one of the great things he has done is to change very little in terms of the way things work off the pitch.

Things may not have changed at the training ground, but something is clearly working as the Foxes march on to the Premier League title.

[The Times]

See Also: Claudio Ranieri's Approach To Get Jamie Vardy Scoring Is The Most Ranieri Idea Ever

See Also: A Life-Long Leicester City Fan Explains What Happens After The Foxes Won The Premier League In 2016

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