“Claudio Ranieri,” asked Gary Lineker last summer. “Really?” ‘Arry Redknapp was quick to join in the cynicism, predicting a season of dour struggle for Leicester City. We all did, didn’t we, given that Ranieri’s last job had been a disastrous stint as manager of Greece, somehow contriving a defeat to the mighty Faroe Islands. Down before Christmas, I thought.
Every week I thought this would be the one when they finally blew up. “They’ll do well to finish in the top four.” But they never did blow up. Stand up and cheer the Premier League champions, Leicester City.
Ranieri, for a pensioner, as been the proverbial breath of fresh air. No mind games, no post match whinging, no angry outbursts at officials and no tinkering from the Tinker Man. He inherited a good team from Nigel Pearson and moulded it into something very special. Not as skilful as Brian Clough’s criminally underrated Nottingham Forest teams, but a collective of talents that sort of clicked.
Things do sort of click in football, just like in anything else in life. In football, it’s that weird chemistry that just happens. Players who are not necessarily the best in their position become part of a team that is great than the sum of its own parts. There are aspects of brilliance in the Leicester side, like Mahrez, and the hungriest striker in the land, Jamie Vardy.
And the Leicester team had hunger and desire. You could see it in their eyes, watch it in their legs as they chased every ball. They played counter attack, often conceding territory and possession, but they then broke with pace, precision and no little skill. This was never a big boot to Vardy. They used his pace, yes, but sometimes the passing was like that of the Dutch masters.
It has been such a welcome break from the tiresome egos of the overrated Premier League who this season have been shown for what they are. We have heard less from motormouth Mourinho and Wenger’s constant moaning sounds like it’s from a different century. Not so much of Pardew’s anger and almost nothing from ‘Arry.
I hope you have enjoyed Leicester because next season it will revert to normal. Mourinho will take up the Old Trafford post he covets, so it’s goodbye to young English players and hello to sulks, mind games, fake conspiracies and tantrums.
For now, let’s enjoy the one season when the good guys come first, where the virtues of honesty and teamwork have shone through, where a manager has not bought the league title and where most of us are overjoyed at where the title has ended up.