How spirit can give hope to everybody

Jamie Vardy
Jamie Vardy
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There is a harmless joy in the ownership of some long desired possession which once acquired becomes prized. I recall collecting stamps as a child, with each new cherished discovery carefully arranged in my album.

The exceptionally wealthy can enjoy such thrills on an altogether different scale, though perhaps without quite the same simple pleasure. Football clubs became the plaything of the super-rich some time ago, with the increasing distinction between many small soccer clubs and the generously financed few having grown ever greater. A handful of richly adorned football businesses, having bought the most expensive players, have dominated the Premier League. Today, this small cabal of super-rich teams tend to monopolize the sport; a basic rule of thumb is that the teams with most money win the most trophies.

Much of modern football feels disconnected from the game of my youth, when working class men cheered players from the same background as their own; an era when clubs were representative of the communities and towns in which they were rooted.

That’s why the extraordinary rise of Leicester City this season has captured the popular imagination. A year ago Leicester were nearly relegated from the Premier League, today they sit atop the table and are just a few matches away from the most incredible title win since Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest triumphed in the late 1970s.

Although normally my sporting passions are directed to cricket and rugby union, in particular Leicester Tigers, it is hard to not to be swept up in the excitement of their neighbouring soccer team’s progress. The Foxes’ improbable ascent reminds us all that success is not limited to those with the deepest pockets, and that each of us are capable of achieving extraordinary things regardless of from where we start.

Perhaps the biggest lesson of all from Leicester City’s phenomenal rise is that time honoured (some would say unfashionable) values of hard work, perseverance, and determination trump all else. It’s not only about teamwork - individual achievements abound too; star striker Jamie Vardy has gone from playing non-league football just a few years ago to breaking Premiership records and representing England. What better demonstration could there be that raw talent will always win out in the end, and that we should never let self-doubt conquer self-belief.

All this contrasts with the wider corporate gloss that envelops contemporary professional sport – given vulgar glamour by the incomprehensible sums of money which flow through it – which explains why so many people are rooting for Leicester City. Few of us can resist a rags to riches tale, but hope is the magic that makes tales come true. As Leicester’s Italian manager Claudio Ranieri says, “in an era when money counts for everything, I think we give hope to everybody.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mr Hayes’ column was written before Jamie Vardy’s indescretion against West Ham at the weekend!