Jamie Vardy has revealed one of the masterstroke decisions by Claudio Ranieri that gave Leicester City the impetus they needed to keep their Premier League title challenge going.
Rewind to Valentine's Day. The Foxes were left devastated after Arsenal had defeated them with a last-minute Danny Welbeck header. It was supposed to set the Gunners on a path to triumph and many expected to see Leicester crumble.
Luckily, they were already out of the FA Cup and had a whole fortnight before their next Premier League game against Norwich. That amount of time would have given Ranieri plenty of time to pick his squad up and perhaps reinvigorate them with some fresh tactics.
But instead of getting them back on the training ground, Ranieri gave all of his players the week off. Most of them went to Dubai for a seven-day getaway with their families and, by coincidence, found that Sam Allardyce's Sunderland team were staying in the same resort.
Some critics believed Leicester were heading for disaster after doing no training for a whole week but they returned to win eight of their next 11 games, sealing the unlikeliest of title triumphs as a result.
And Vardy, who has scored 24 Premier League goals on his way to winning the Premier League, believes that decision was key to keeping both he and his team-mates fresh going into the crucial run-in.
"I remember sitting on a sun lounger and in the same hotel, Sunderland were there running up and down the beach doing fitness"
Worked out perfectly
The holiday was made even sweeter by the fact that Vardy got to watch the Sunderland players working themselves into the ground while he sat back with a virgin cocktail or two.
The FWA Footballer of the Year Vardy said: “That was a great idea from the manager. I went to Dubai and I remember sitting on a sun lounger and in the same hotel, Sunderland were there running up and down the beach doing fitness.
“For me to be relaxing while they’re doing the training was quite nice.
“It worked out perfectly because no one was going to go on a seven-day bender. We were there to relax with family and that’s all we did.”
Champions League odyssey
Having been 5,000/1 to win the title at the start of the season, it would be a fool who dismisses their chances of winning the Champions League in the next campaign. Indeed, Vardy says there is no reason why his team can't cause another massive upset in Europe.
He said: "I’m not sure we'll be a surprise. Leicester has been on everyone’s radar all season, they will have heard all the stories about how well we are doing. A lot of the European teams will have been watching us.”
Jamie Vardy was speaking at the launch of his V9 Academy, aiming to discover non-league talent and promote them to the professional game. For more information, see www.V9academy.co.uk