Dilly-ding, dilly-bloody-dong! Leicester City is currently riding high on victory after snatching the Premier League title from the bigger clubs. Jen Offord tips her hat to manager Claudio Ranieri, bridesmaid no more.
It’s hard to imagine anyone having missed it, but in case you’ve been hiding under a rock and didn’t notice, the SPORTING EVENT OF ALL TIME occurred when the Premier League title was won by Leicester City, thanks to second in the league Tottenham not beating Chelsea on Monday night.
It’s a big deal this, not just because it wasn’t won by one of the Manchesters, Chelsea or Arsenal (not that the latter should really be a surprise by now, having not actually won a league since approximately 500 years before Christ and all that).
It’s a big deal because the odds of Leicester winning were 5,000-1 at the beginning of the season and the value of their starting XI was a measly £23m compared to ninth-placed Chelsea’s price tag in excess of £100m.
It’s also a big deal because this time last year, Leicester were battling relegation, sacking their manager and appointing an unlikely replacement candidate, 64-year-old ‘always the bridesmaid’ Claudio Ranieri. With 28 years of managerial experience under his belt, Ranieri had never won a major league title before.
It was an appointment that many were sceptical of, given his recent form as the Greece national team’s manager but I’d like to point out that I’m no Johnny-come-lately on this – I was writing about my love of Claudio Ranieri back in August last year when he said he told his players to use a Kasabian song as inspiration. It made me sad that the people of Leicester were supposed to view Kasabian as a source of inspiration, but I liked the local reference and the inexplicable strength of feeling with which it was applied.
“I suppressed tears as Ranieri humbly stifled that growing hyperbole, repeatedly telling the assembled media to chill their boots and not get carried away – they were only Leicester, after all.”
I became more interested in Ranieri after it was reported he had promised to buy his team pizza if they won a match, having got off to an unfathomably good start to the season. After all, who wouldn’t want a boss who bought them pizza? Shortly after that, I heard him say “Tottenham” for the first time and I was fully sold – who could have predicted how many more times we would ultimately hear Ranieri utter the name.
As the season went on, things were looking unimaginably good for Leicester and on we went waiting for the post-Christmas slump so familiar to Charlton Athletic supporters such as myself. Famous Leicester supporter Gary Lineker even said he’d present the first Match of the Day of the next season in his pants if Leicester won the league. And the Ranieri train chugged on.
There became more and more to love about Ranieri – and not just because he was the leader of the ultimate underdogs. As his press conferences went on over the course of the season, he won my unwavering affection by revealing that he had an imaginary bell that he made use of in training sessions “Dilly ding dilly dong – wake up!” he shouted to the press. At this point I considered writing to him to ask if he would adopt me.
In fact his press conferences started to have the same effect on me as Whiskas kitten food adverts and time again I suppressed tears as he humbly stifled that growing hyperbole, repeatedly telling the assembled media to chill their boots and not get carried away – they were only Leicester, after all.
Regardless of the ultimate outcome of the season, Ranieri and Leicester were always going to be the winners, with the whole world watching their incredible spirit and team unity as they broke goal-scoring records and won awards.
And again, we don’t just love Ranieri because he’s taught us all to dream again and believe the impossible, but because he’s done it in such a classy, stylish and pleasant way. In a league that increasingly seems to have none of those attributes, he might actually have taught us to believe in football again.
Honestly I might start crying again right now, thinking about the humility with which Ranieri spoke in the aftermath of his incredible victory (would they match this success next year? Not on your life, he reckoned), so I will distract myself with the only thing not to love about Claudio Ranieri – we might now have to see Gary Lineker in his pants next season.3437 Views
Jen is a writer from Essex, which isn’t relevant because she lives in London, but she likes people to know it. As well as daft challenges, she likes cats, cheese and Beyonce. @inspireajen