Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri has given an insight into the imaginary bell routine he has been using to keep his players alert and smiling.
Foxes midfielder Danny Drinkwater revealed in an interview this week that Ranieri has a habit of making a noise like a ringing bell at anyone in the squad he feels is not paying attention.
And when that was put to Ranieri on Friday at his press conference to preview Saturday’s trip to Watford, he said: “If Drinky says something, it is true!
“I tell them ‘dilly-ding, dilly-dong’ when they are sleeping.
“From the beginning, when something was wrong, I said ‘dilly-ding, dilly-dong, wake up’ during training sessions.
“And on Christmas day, I bought for each of the players a little bell, just as a joke. It was a funny thing.
“Every manager is different and has their philosophy, their way. I like to (try to make it so) my players and myself, everybody can do our job, but with a smile – that is my philosophy.
“I don’t want to see sad people around me. It is important to stay together, smiling.”
Ranieri has rarely looked anything other than relaxed during Leicester’s remarkable season, and he most certainly appeared at ease on Friday – with his team sitting three points clear at the top, 10 games away from the end of the campaign.
Before the Foxes’ trip to Watford, second-placed Tottenham host third-placed Arsenal – who are six points off the summit – in a crunch Saturday lunchtime north London derby.
But Ranieri has stressed the importance of Leicester not worrying about what their title rivals are doing, only concentrating on their own task – another key element of his philosophy.
“My philosophy is not to look at the others – that is not important,” said the 64-year-old Italian, who could have midfielder N’Golo Kante – missing from the 2-2 draw with West Brom on Tuesday due to a hamstring injury – back available on Saturday.
“What we are doing is important. We must think what we can do. At the end, if someone is above us, we’ll say well done.”
Asked what result he would like from the derby, Ranieri joked: “I don’t know – can they both lose?”
He then added: “We have to see what we can do against Watford – that is our concentration.
“It is not important what happens with Tottenham, Arsenal, (fourth-placed) Manchester City, (fifth-placed) Manchester United. What is important is Leicester.”
Ranieri does admit there is a “big battle” ahead for all teams involved, but left no doubt he is keeping cool about the situation.
Asked how he keeps so calm, he said: “Because I have a job.
“I’m very nervous when I don’t have one – I get crazy. But now I have one, and that is good!”
Ranieri was also asked about another job, with reports having suggested he is being considered as a candidate to take over from Antonio Conte as Italy boss this summer.
Asked about that and if he would be interested, Ranieri did not dismiss the possibility but emphasised his focus is on Leicester for the time being.
“I could be glad,” he said.
“But for now, it is only speculation. I am focused on Leicester.
“The last time I managed a national team (Greece) it was not so good! I’d have to be careful! But it is speculation.”