In Focus: VSI - Wes Morgan: Captain Of Change

Premier League title and FA Cup winning former captain of Leicester City FC, Wes Morgan prepares to take the next step in his career by advancing his leadership skills with VSI Executive Education.



As a player Wes Morgan has had an outstanding career in football that has seen him lift the Premier League title and FA Cup as captain at Leicester City. Retiring in the summer of 2021 after more than two decades and over 700 professional games for club and country he’s now taking the opportunity to develop some of the leadership skills he learnt on the field in the classroom.


Morgan’s senior career started at Nottingham Forest where he spent 10 years (with a brief loan spell at Kidderminster Harriers in 2003) before transferring to Leicester City in January 2012 where his performances up to the end of that season and natural leadership qualities earned him the captaincy ahead of the 2012-13 season. Over the next 9 years, Morgan would grow as a player and leader on the field under some of Leicester’s most influential managers such as Nigel Pearson, Claudio Ranieri and Brendan Rogers.


Morgan explains: “I’ve had a long career and I’ve always been in that senior leadership role amongst my team. Halfway through my career I got handed the official captaincy – I’ve always been captain when players have been injured or the manager wanted to change things up selection-wise.


“But I got the official captaincy at Leicester City which I kept for almost 10 years and that taught me a lot, particularly in the sense of leadership and speaking up on behalf of the team, confrontation, addressing situations, taking charge and responsibility.


“I’m not sure what the manager at the time – Nigel Pearson – saw in me to give me the captaincy. I imagine it was probably the way I go about my work on the pitch, the way I’m respected among my peers and my colleagues and the way I like to lead by example and stand up and be counted.”


Taking on the role of captain requires a level of dedication and understanding of the numerous issues in the relationship between players, the manager and the club. During his time as captain, Morgan learnt a range of transferable skills in leadership both on and off the pitch.


“I quickly learnt it’s not just what you do on the field but what you do off the field as well,” Morgan added.


“I like to support other players, help them when they are struggling, give them a kick up the bum when they need it – I’m that type of guy which will tell people what I think but in the right type of way – I’ll be positive and encouraging and I’m always there to be spoken to or if anyone needs help I’d like to think I’m the guy they can turn to.”


Those lessons have been further developed with the differing management styles under the likes of Pearson, Ranieri and Rogers as he explained further: “I’ve played under a number of different managers and they all had their own ways. In football, you’re with a group of players but only 11 can play in a squad of 25. The manager has a very difficult job of keeping all those 25 players happy.


“The best managers manage the whole squad and are not afraid of confrontation. Not afraid of dealing with players that aren’t happy. The best mangers are the ones that can deal with players and their different characteristics and issues that arise from those that are not performing, they can deal with them on a sound level and get them onside to get the best out of them.


“I’d like to say I’ve studied those different managers and seen the attributes they possess. I’ve taken the best of those and adapted them into my own style and direction I want to go. I’d like to go into a senior leadership or management role and the qualities I’ve taken will definitely help me on my journey.


Since retiring in the summer of 2021, Morgan is now looking at next stage in his career and has the aspiration to develop his practical leadership knowledge in an academic capacity having signed up to the MSc in Sports Directorship with VSI Executive Education and their partners GIS.


“I’m at a stage now where I want to learn. I wouldn’t want to go into something and not be capable of completing the job or fulfilling the tasks. I’m now in a transition stage where I’m studying for a Masters degree in Sports Directorship.”


In addition to the course Morgan sits on the PFA players’ board dealing with a range of issues that must be managed in that area. But ultimately, he has his sights set on attaining a senior management position in football utilising the skills he’s developed to influence performances on the pitch but admits the course has been challenging as he adapts to life in the classroom.


“It’s been an eye-opener and it’s not been straightforward as you can imagine,” he stated. “The transition from on-field football activities to academic learning, reading and writing has been a big change but it’s something that I’ve thought post-career is what I want to go into.


“I know I’m capable but this is a whole new level and so I’ve had to make a few adjustments to get up to speed and be on par with the rest of the cohort but there is lots of support and the tutors are always available. We have study groups and when we get our assignments, there’s always support there if you need it.”


The transition to academic learning has of course given Morgan the chance to understand the theory behind leadership and allowed him to understand the impact it has on individuals and in the team environment. The course is also designed to give learners the opportunity to develop their skills and learn from senior figures in the game with a range of guest industry speakers.


“We have a lot of guests that talk about how they approach their tasks, how they communicate and the right way to go about it to get the best out of people. Sometimes I look at my time as captain and a lot of the situations the guests speak about, I have approached in some way which is very encouraging.


“I always discuss the experiences and situations I’ve had to deal with in my position as captain at Leicester City. I’ve always thought of myself as the bridge between the players and management and I used to be constantly at the manager’s or the football director’s door trying to sort things for the boys and vice-versa.


“It’s good to get a feel for both sides of the job. I’ve had the unique privilege of being able to speak to a manager or director of football on a daily basis and have a unique insight into the different situations and how they are dealt with in that environment which has helped me enormously. I will use that information to try and help my peers and colleagues too.”


In 2016, Leicester City achieved what was thought impossible and won the Premier League title in a glorious season under then manager Claudio Ranieri. That provided a unique challenge and a heaped a huge amount of pressure on Morgan as captain of the club as he helped steer the team through an unforgettable and historic season. What did he learn from that situation?


“You’re always in the spotlight, you’re always under pressure and always under scrutiny and I think over the years you learn how to deal with that in general,” he explained.


“There are always ups and downs, and winning the league was definitely a big up. But what comes with success comes with pressure at the same time because you have to maintain that level and the following season we didn’t quite get there so there was a lot of pressure on the team.


“A lot of people were asking what’s going wrong, what’s happening and you have to have the answers. I think the experiences of those ups and downs helps you in life, helps you in your career. It’s never plain sailing, it’s never smooth – especially in football – everyone has their moments.


“But it’s how you deal with the low moments which are the toughest. You have to learn to deal with the outside noise and get through it in the right type of way. All the experiences I’ve had have definitely helped me and will help me move forward in my future career.”


As Morgan moves through the next stage in his career what is his advice for those coming towards the end of their playing career now?


“My advice would be well before you come to your retirement age you need to start preparing for a life after football. As we know a football career can finish at any time. You can’t be thinking ‘I’ll get to 35, then I’ll start thinking about what I want to do next’.


“It’ll come quickly and before you know it you’ve not thought about the next step until you’ve actually finished. You need to start preparing for life after football as soon as possible.


“Ask yourself questions like what do I want to do, what are my interests? Once you’ve established that then start looking at courses, speak to people in those areas, or can you get a mentor to help you get the necessary qualifications and contacts to eventually start getting into your chosen area.


“The most difficult thing for players is actually taking that side of things seriously and being prepared for when it’s over. In football, you sometimes get blinded and only focus on the game. But it doesn’t last forever and you need to be prepared for life after football, so my advice is start preparing as soon as possible.”



The MSc in Sports Directorship qualifies you for one of the most important roles in modern sport. Tailored to meet the real demands of leading sporting organisations the course covers sports leadership, personal development, masterminding innovation and change, sport governance and best practice along with a diverse range of extra-curricular experiences. All the formal skills needed to operate at the highest level of any corporate structure.


This degree course provides unrivalled preparation for the role of Sport Director. Uniquely the course is underpinned by the skills of neuroscience – the science of performance. Already used to great effect in many sports, this degree course brings the power of neuroscience into the business arena too.


The structure of the programme is based on detailed research from VSI which revealed an appetite among franchises across a range of sports for a new generation of leaders capable of managing, massive financial growth with all the challenges such wealth placed on their traditional, creaking corporate infrastructures.


Sports organisations recognised the need for a Sporting Director, equipped to sit as a statutory board member and capable of shaping an organisation’s vision and philosophy while managing its sporting operations. Their challenge was the absence of an appropriately qualified talent pool.


The programme is designed to accommodate individuals who may have left the classroom as 16-year-olds but had enjoyed a life-time of extraordinary experience the like of which made them uniquely equipped for such a ground-breaking finishing school.


Working with VSI, and in collaboration with GIS (Global Institute of Sport) and UEL (University of East London) represents the perfect for opportunity for individuals with ambition to showcase and refine their talent at a location seen as synonymous with innovation and change.


An extra ordinary group of master-class speakers exposes cohorts to owners, Chairman, Chief Executives from the world of sport, business and politics.


Find out more at


Image: Imago/GEPA  Pictures





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