eicester’s captain Morgan. There is only one. The image of the centre-back of the 5,000-1 outsiders lifting the Premier League trophy in 2016 made Wes Morgan a household name.
Except there is another captain Morgan at Leicester. One who also wears the No 5 shirt. In 27-year-old Holly Morgan, Leicester City Women have a centre-back who has inadvertently influenced the progress of the club far beyond the pitch.
When Holly was 11 her family returned from holiday in Jamaica and the aspiring player could not sleep, consumed by excitement before her trial for the club’s centre of excellence. Her brother, Jonathan, describes their father pulling himself out of bed to get her on to the pitch as the “sliding door moment” that kickstarted a long-term relationship between the women’s team and his family. Through Holly’s involvement, her father Rohan, now chairman, got involved in running the club.
Now, the women’s side, who play Manchester City in an FA Cup quarter-final on Sunday, are Morgan-heavy. Jonathan, having started with the ambition of being able to “live my Football Manager dream from university days”, moved into coaching following a playing career that nestled alongside his studies and peaked in the Conference North. The year he stopped playing he became a reserve team manager with Leicester City Women and now he leads the first team, and his sister. If three Morgans wasn’t enough, another, Jonathan’s and Holly’s sister, Jade, has been the general manager since 2015.
It would be easy to accuse Rohan and the Morgan dynasty at Leicester of nepotism but their experience speaks for itself. Jade, who began the role as a volunteer while working full-time, has a degree in international business and globalisation and is doing an MBA in football industries; Jonathan has a Uefa A licence and is applying to to do his pro licence. They are thriving in their respective roles, a turning point being the club’s successful application to enter the Women’s Championship as a semi-professional entity.
“We just smashed the interview,” Jade says. “One of the judges said we were one of the best-kept secrets and I truly think we are. We just keep ourselves to ourselves. We just get on with growing the club and really just driving great positive change.”
Two years on from celebrating that promotion while stopped at a petrol station the team have been bought by Leicesters parent company, King Power, pulling them properly into the fold. They have switched to a fully professional set-up, with the club legend Emile Heskey an ambassador and are riding high after a win and a draw in their opening two league games.
When you work with family, you can be the most honest and that that helps us grow, because we don’t pussyfoot around
“I’ve probably learnt more from Emile in two weeks than I probably have done in the last six years of my coaching in terms of from an external source,” Jonathan says. “Stuff that you just don’t get from anyone apart from if you played at the highest level. He’s a Leicester lad so I grew up watching him, loving him as a kid. As a Leicester City fan you grow up in the park shouting: ‘I’m Emile Heskey.’”
Jade says: “I’ve always known that this time would come, that integration would happen. I’ve always worked really hard to get to the club so that this integration is so seamless and it has been.”
The players point to the family feel as key and the Morgans have found a way to make the family affair work. “We do have a good dynamic,” Jade says. “I think when you work with family, you can be the most honest and I think that that helps us grow as well, because we don’t pussyfoot around.”
Ultimately, working with family is “a blessing” for the general manager. “Not many people can say it. We fight but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love it, I really do.”
Holly, as a player working below her father, brother and sister, probably bears the brunt. “The positive is the fact that obviously I trust her implicitly, she’s my sister; obviously we have that natural love element to it as well,” Jonathan says. But he has to be careful to not go “too harsh on her, because you’re trying to prove a point”.
“What I’ve had to do for Holly, more so for her than me, is to make sure I always provide people with her stats because you can’t hide from stats.”
Holly keeps football and family as mentally separate as possible. “For us as a family, first and foremost, it’s the club. We want to take this club to the highest level possible. There will be a time where there probably won’t be a Morgan in the club. We just hope this club can continue to get to where it should be. And however that happens is how it happens.”