By Rod de Lisle
Yesterday’s hero, today’s villain. Nothing is predictable in the mad world of English football. Winning the Premiership wasn’t enough to secure Claudio Raneiri a stay of execution after a run of terrible results this season. So he’s on his bike, only a week or two after getting the dreaded expression of confidence from the owners.
What a difference 12 months make. This time last year Leicester were riding high and even looking at a top four place, unbelievable as even that seemed. It got even better over March. In a piece the Herald ran last April I told Bruce Holloway I was revelling in the Leicester success but also predicted how this year might play out:
“…there’s also the traditional Leicester gallows-type warning. “I fully expect we will have a shit season next year. Absolutely.””
And in a Daily Mail piece later the same month I repeated the same:
“…de Lisle can’t quite shake a fatalism borne from decades of disappointment. “As a long-term fan, you tend to think well next season it’s bound to go back to business as usual and we’ll struggle to avoid relegation,” he said.”
As any self respecting Leicester follower will tell you a run of bad results following a decent spell is par for the course. It’s virtually in the club DNA. Blaming Claudio for them is simply ignoring the ignoble tradition at the East Midlands club. The siege mentality and tradition of bitterly disappointing their fans when a new dawn beckons is always expected.
But last season the new dawn was more of a whole new flipping day when the holiest of domestic football’s grails hove into sight and then was actually achieved to everyone’s astonishment.
It should have been enough for the City fans, a lovely warm feeling that might last a decade or two, but it seems our fanbase has developed a winning expectation. You know, the sort that Man United or All Black fans have. Fools.
The various Leicester forums over the last few months have been a bickering cauldron of anxiety and animosity as loss after loss mounted. Many calling for the sacking of the coach.
I suspect it’s because Leicester faithful have been a tad embarrassed at the current state of affairs. When we won the league it was all aboard the glory train, me included. How we strutted and paraded as if it all was our individual doing. But heads well above the parapet we’ve all copped the snide remarks and jokes as City have plummeted. Everyone knows who the Leicester fans are now. Embarrassing.
If the result for Leicester had been mid table finish last season and then followed by this year’s collapse a Don’t-Come-Monday for Claudio will have been merely business as usual. No shock, who’s next? But that title, the shiny trophy, should have given Claudio a get out of jail card for at least a season surely?
However several league losses in a row with no goals scored and losing to 10 man Millwall in the cup was obviously the last straw for the management not withstanding that perhaps the players, rather than Claudio, were equally if not more to blame.
The team isn’t vastly different to last year’s. N’golo Kante was a huge loss when Chelsea paid over £30m to secure his brilliant services. But City invested much more than that to pick up new players who should have strengthened the squad markedly. But Slomani, Musa, N’didi and Mendy at a combined cost of £80m have added virtually nothing apart from the need for a new payroll clerk to dole out their weekly wages. £80m? What we could do that in NZ Football!
But the players have been pretty rubbish all year, goals have dried up and the defence leaking like a sieve. Morgan the captain, and Huth, his centre back partner have looked particularly poor. Their brick wall of last season has turned to crepe paper.
And those new players who should have strengthened the team, just haven’t. End of story. The title was bagged after the team fortuitously acquired a few European bargains. Players like Mahrez and Kante. But lightening rarely strikes twice. To prop up the team with the increased workload of European football I always thought a few experienced Premiership players rather than the imports would have been a safer move. Redmond from Norwich rather than Musa, for instance. Easy to say now.
But Ranieri’s legacy will remain and this season’s failure will merely add colour to the legend. In years to come it will only be an unkind person who denigrates the achievements of Don Claudio. Even at my exalted age, in my eyes, he’s been a kindly father figure rather than a cold Morinho or Wenger type, and I suspect that feeling would be echoed of the majority of Leicester fans too. So it’s been a bit like seeing your dad being turfed out of his job. B@stards!
I hope he goes on to a dignified retirement rather than another gig in management.
And moving on, well surprisingly Leicester are still in the Big Euro cup. A 1-0 win at home to Servilla would get us into the last 8. It couldn’t happen again, could it?
Categories: English/UK Football
A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: http://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/