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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Alan not surprised by rise of Foxes

Maybury credits Thai owners with Leicester transformation from chaos to title challengers

Former Ireland international Alan Maybury, pictured in action for Leicester City back in 2005.
Former Ireland international Alan Maybury, pictured in action for Leicester City back in 2005.

During one remarkable spell at Leicester City ten years ago, Alan Maybury watched six different managers spin through the revolving door.

Craig Levein, Robert Kelly, Nigel Worthington, Martin Allen, Gary Megson and Ian Holloway all had a go and all failed.

In less than a year, six men with six different ideas about the way the world should work tried to make the Foxes bark but hardly raised a whimper.

The players must have wondered what awful quirk of fate had landed them in a basket case club.

It is hard to imagine such a thing now.

Leicester's fairy-tale run to the top of the Premier League is the biggest story of the season and while they hit an obstacle at the Emirates over the weekend, they remain the team to catch.

"It was chaotic when I was there but it's very different now. People probably don't realise that Leicester is a big, big club," said Maybury.

"I arrived after Craig Levein took over and part of his remit was to cut costs and pare it all back.

"When you do that and you're starting again, you're signing younger players and you get inconsistency so results reflected that. I think it did in the time I was there. We were selling. We sold David Connolly for £3m and signed two young lads from League One.

"But it was still a really big club and they have moved on. They have a good training ground, not ultra-modern but they've upgraded massively.

"It's the only club in the city and although it does have some opposition from the Leicester Tigers rugby team, it's a sports mad town and a reasonably affluent place.

"They had their golden period under Martin O'Neill and won the League Cup but since then, they went down a division, got into some financial mess but still managed to build the King Power Stadium.

"It's a brilliant facility, ultra-modern, purpose built with loads of room. It's a stone's throw from the old ground so they've not move it out of town. People haven't had to change where they go watch their football.

"The whole area is a big football area but when I was there Leicester were struggling, Notts Forest were struggling, Derby and Coventry too.

"Maybe that goes in cycles. Leicester are going well, Forest are having a bit of a revival. Derby are up there challenging and even Coventry are making progress after some tough times.

"Sure, Leicester have surprised everybody by sustaining their run at the title, but they have everything in place there. There's a lot more stability now. The current owners from Thailiand seem to have a long term view.

"They are cutting edge in most things; in sports science, physiotherapy all that sort of thing. I know there's a really good staff there.

"In terms of this season, they have a manager who understood immediately that the best thing he could do was very little.

"When I think of the confusion caused by six managers all trying to do their bit in such a short space of time, it is ironic that Claudio Ranieri has achieved so much by doing exactly the opposite."

Maybury believes that Leicester have scored very strongly in terms of player recruitment simply because they have been able to invest time which big clubs do not have. "With all the big clubs it's about instant success. They haven't the time to wait," he said.

"You see it up here in Scotland. It was Celtic's policy under Neil Lennon. They go look for a player like Victor Wanyama. He'll do well for them but he's young, will add value and then they sell him on to a club like Southampton.

"Big clubs don't have time for that kind of development anymore. They have to go out and buy the finished article and that's always tricky."

Maybury's playing career is winding down now with Falkirk after a long and winding road through the professional game.

He began at Leeds United and moved on to Reading, Crewe Alexandra, Heart of Midlothian, Leicester City, Aberdeen, Colchester United, St Johnstone and Hibernian before his current gig with the Bairns.

He has most of his badges and has been put in charge of the development squad. All that's left is a pro licence.

"I would prefer to do it in Scotland only because I've done everything through the SFA. But for different reasons, it might make sense for me to do it in Ireland and I'm talking to the FAI about it at the moment," he said.

His playing career spanned a time when sports psychology emerged as a powerful tool for managers and it is in this area that he has seen the greatest change in the game. "The Pro licence is about how to be a manager, how to deal with chairman, Board, media, players. It's preparing for that," he said.

"There is a big boom in sports psychology. We have to deal with the person not the player. A lot of management now is getting the person right. It's about trying to look after them. Tactics and all of that, that's not the major problem for the top players.

"The big problem for everyone now is that we come across a lot of introverted young lads who never kicked a ball on the street. We're fighting cultures. Everyone gets a medal at the sports day."

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