If you cast your minds back two years you may remember that we held the Talis Aspire User Group in Leicester. For most that attended they may have heard of “Leicester City Football Club” (LCFC), but who knew that two years on that small, unheard of football team would be making the world news. Little did we imagine at Talis that the user group would be an instigator to one of our customers in Australia taking LCFC as their English team and watching their rise to stardom. Below is an account of how this journey played out through the eyes of Joanne Dunham, Head of Collections & Information Systems at the University of Leicester and Rod Rizzi, Subject Librarian Arts Faculty at Monash University.
Joanne says, “Little did I know when agreeing to host what turned out to be the last Talis Aspire User Group in Leicester that two things would happen, Talis Insight would be born and the Foxes would be Premier League Champions.”
Rod had travelled to the user group all the way from Australia and was making the most of the visit: “I had arranged a tour of the refurbished David Wilson Library the morning after the user group had concluded, and before I was set to catch a train to travel to Manchester and further places of interest during my UK stay. My contact at Leicester had been Joanne Dunham, who gave me a guided tour of the library, with plenty of detail and answering as many questions as I could throw at her.”
Joanne and Rod’s conversation soon turned to sport and Joanne sent Rod off in the direction of the King Power stadium.
Rod continues the story, “Joanne’s directions were good but unfortunately misinterpreted and I found myself walking along a busy road for a while with no sign of anything resembling a sports ground. After asking a friendly local who offered to walk me to the ground [in the opposite direction to that I was heading], I was given a brief history of the ground, the club and his understanding of the state of the game in Australia. His knowledge was impressive and his help invaluable. At the ground he introduced me to the name King Power Stadium, the story behind it and went on his way back into town.
Rod continues, “I walked around to the main reception area inquiring about a possible tour. The lady at reception informed me there were no formal tours but she could ask one of the other staff to see if he could show me around. A welcoming young man came out after a while and we were joined by a local couple on an informal tour. It took us into the changing rooms, through the tunnel and out onto the pitch. I took photos wherever I went, feeling absolutely privileged to be getting this degree of access.
The bench area was furnished with plush seats for the reserve players, while the stands were being prepared for the leap into the Premier League in the coming season. The locals spoke with our makeshift tour guide all about winning the Championship the previous season and associates they had in common. I had the impression the club still had a real community feel about it, rather than being a colossal, powerhouse organisation. After the tour I visited the Foxes shop around from the administration area. Here I bought a playing shirt for my 5yr old son who was home in Australia and myself. Not having an English football club that I’d followed to this point, walking out of the shop I felt I’d just committed myself (and my son) to support a new team.”
Rod made his way back to the University of Leicester; “this time I found my way back to the University of Leicester without too many problems. On seeing Joanne and detailing my adventure, looking back now I noted a twinkle in her eye as I told her my son and I would join the Foxes family. The rest of my trip saw me visit some other famous sports clubs but the mementos from King Power Stadium remained special.”
Joanne reflected, “I was amazed at the hospitality Rod received from the club and hearing about his tour of the stadium. Certainly overshadowed the David Wilson Library in terms of excitement. I tried not to let my envy show.”
Rod headed on with the rest of his travels of the UK and picks up the story from when he got back; “On getting back home and distributing various gifts to my 3 children and wife, it was my son’s blue Foxes shirt that got the most immediate and long lasting use. Back at work when I mentioned my experiences and new allegiances to a football mad colleague he said I was crazy to choose a ‘yo-yo’ club. After getting the definition of the term explained, I said I’d made a commitment to myself and was sticking with my new allegiance. When the EPL season rolled around I had to find ways to follow my new team. By asking around I found the right App to get and the best websites to follow. Each Sunday morning, and on the odd Monday, over breakfast I’d explain to young Archie how the Foxes went. Results weren’t great that season but at least we had a team we could call ours. The final 4-6 weeks saw the team rally and avoid relegation, this was as good a championship season for us. Little did we know what was to follow.
Young Archie took up playing football, or as we call it, soccer during the next winter. Needless to say, he wore a shirt to training that no-one else had and hardly anyone recognised. He even took it to school for show and tell to a class full of blank faces when he explained who the team were. Not many knew of teams outside the most popular big clubs that dominate the mainstream media reports.
Season 2015/16 rolled around and as the weeks went by the points mounted for our Foxes. Archie and I created a pitch of our own in the backyard where I’d pretend to be Jamie Vardy and he’d be Riyad Mahrez. My work colleague started cutting out newspaper clippings for me describing the emergence of the Foxes and their star striker. Vardy would go on to break the league record for goals in consecutive games and suddenly a lot of people knew about our team and its players.
My work colleague said the Christmas transfer window would bring things to a halt, but it came and went without any problems. He said he was following Spurs this season and they would come over the top of the Foxes anyway, I didn’t mind as I’d been given a great ride to this point. As the season progressed, the Sunday morning score checking turned into alarms at 2am to watch live EPL feeds from questionable Russian websites. My weekends became an obsession with following Foxes games and calculating the possibilities given how results may or may not go.
Archie’s next season rolled around and he had a choice of any shirt number for his local team, the Sharks. He chose 26, for Mahrez, and when he explained to the team manager why, the face that greeted him was still very blank. Archie scored a hat-trick in one of his early games and then the number 26 was starting to become much more well-known.
As I sat in bed before breakfast with my laptop watching Chelsea finish off Tottenham’s chances of clinching the title, I realised that the unknown, yo-yo team I’d chosen had just achieved the most unlikely of achievements. I woke Archie and he leapt out of bed to watch the highlights. The internet and social media was immediately inundated with images of celebrations around that local football ground I walked into nearly 2 years earlier. My phone went crazy from friends congratulating me on the title. I really had nothing to do with it but still felt an enormous amount of satisfaction.
I wore my Foxes shirt to work that day and my colleague gave me a wry ‘Well done mate’. A week later I saw vision of the team walking through the tunnel in preparation to being presented the EPL trophy at King Power Stadium. To know I had walked the same tunnel sent chills up my spine, and I quickly changed my Facebook profile picture to the photo I took in the tunnel that day.”
Joanne being a long supporter of LCFC shares her feelings of that season; “Move on two years and the city has gone wild #backingtheblues became the theme for the whole of Leicester. Excitement was building could they do it, or would Spurs pip them at the last. A win at Sunderland, would we win the title at Old Trafford. A draw not this Sunday, another chance on Monday, Spurs lose, the unbelievable has happened little old Leicester, the Foxes, the Blues, the Fearless are the Champions. Mass celebrations fans started pouring onto the streets, car horns beeping, flags waving the King Power came alive. This marked the beginning of two weeks of celebrating culminating in an open top bus tour on May 16th ending in the park behind the University. Who would have thought 250,000 people hailing our heroes. The Leicester faithful were in a daze, who would have thought, I can’t believe, the best day of my life, in all my years supporting I never thought I would see this day – the common refrain. Standing in the midst of 250,000 people chanting champions, celebrating success and the fearless was uplifting, uniting and put Leicester on the map.”
The story doesn’t end there! Rod “sent an email to Joanne, briefly outlining my experience of the amazing journey I’d been part of, in no small part due to her influence. Her response exuded pride and joy, I almost felt I was back in Leicester myself and part of the enormous wave of celebrations. I wore the shirt whenever I could over the following weeks and so did Archie. I had people tell me that I was the only Leicester supporter they’d ever seen, and followed up again with a ‘Well done mate’.
Now, Archie and I are Foxes for life. I have the newspaper cuttings on my pinboard at work, Archie has them on his wardrobe and the shirts still get worn regularly. The smile on my face comes racing back when I recall one of the greatest stories in world sport, and the fact I felt a small part of it thanks to a connection made at Talis User Group 2014. Cheers Talis, and to Joanne ‘Well done mate’!
Rod’s story began when he attended the Talis Aspire User Group – we now have 2-day conferences in both the UK and Australia to highlight what Talis are doing, sharing our customers’ successes, bringing together the Higher Education community and to discuss the key themes in Higher Education such as student experience and technology. Why not join us in 2017? Find out more about Talis Insight Europe 2017 or Talis Insight Asia-Pacific 2017
What a great story of how connections made at conferences can have a widening effect and not always in the way we think! Do you have any good conference stories that you would like to share?