Underdog footballers and SMEs

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Underdog footballers and SMEs

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Many elite footballers had to fight hard to get to the top. And we’d like to think that you’ll be able to take some inspiration from these underdog footballers who went above and beyond what others thought possible. 

Ian Wright 

These days Ian Wright is a ‘national treasure’, whilst Arsenal fans will remember him for his incredible goal-scoring feats. But this wasn’t always the case. 

Wright grew up in a working-class background and ended up leaving home at 14 before spending a week in prison by the age of 18. 

He was rejected at numerous trials and was seemingly resigned to playing Sunday league football until a scout at Crystal Palace spotted his potential and the rest, as they say, is history.

After a few years at Palace, he signed for Arsenal - scoring numerous goals and winning plenty of trophies along the way.

Small business takeaway:

Don’t let any mistakes you have made in the past become an excuse for limiting your potential. If Wright had listened to all the people who rejected him, he wouldn’t be the player or person he has become. 

Mo Salah 

The Liverpool superstar spends most weeks making mincemeat of Premier League defences with his dazzling skills and goal scoring. But, as you might expect, this was never a ‘sure thing’. When Salah lived in Egypt he had to show a huge amount of dedication to really make it. By the age of 14, Salah was taking a 9 hour round bus trip to his club, often not coming home till 10 pm at night. 

He would sometimes need to take three or four buses just to turn up for a 2-hour training session and then do it all again the next day. It’s fair to say his dedication paid off big time. 

Small business takeaway:

What this shows is that in order to make it, sometimes you might need to make sacrifices. That could mean working late or learning a new skill as a way to help your business. You might need to run your business part-time alongside a job before you can get going.

Salah’s inspiring story shows how determined he was to make it as a professional footballer and he is now reaping the rewards in a big way. 

Jamie Vardy 

The ‘rags to riches’ tale of Jamie Vardy has become so well known that Hollywood directors have considered turning it into a film. 

Vardy has climbed the football leagues and was at one point playing for Stockbridge Park Steels, in the 7th division, whilst at the same time working part-time at a carbon fibre factory just to pay the bills. 

In 2012, Vardy was signed by Championship side Leicester city for £1 million. This soon proved to be a masterstroke as his goals would soon propel them back into the Premier League. In 2015, he amazingly broke the record for most consecutive matches for scoring goals, before leading Leicester to that fairytale title triumph in 2016.

Small business takeaway:

In business, it can sometimes work to your advantage to be smaller and more agile than your competitors. Perhaps you have a USP which gives your business an edge over others. Maybe being smaller allows you to do things that others cannot. 

You might be able to have more intimate relationships with suppliers who you access to more varied stock. Perhaps you can get to know your customers on a more personal level by spending bespoke emails to them or even call them up to see how they are enjoying their product. 

Or simply just having friendly staff in your store who show that they want to really help customers might be a simple and effective way to demonstrate that you care about them. 

Whilst other supposed ‘big teams’ were thinking about joining the lucrative money-making super league Leicester and Vardy’s success is a fantastic example of how a truly disruptive business can punch above its weight and really challenge the elite. 

David Goulden

David Goulden


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