Leicester’s brutal axe will be felt by all of football

Date published: Thursday 23rd February 2017 9:28

Leicester’s decision to sack Claudio Ranieri represents another piece of football’s heart carved up and discarded, writes Michael Graham.

unwavering
ʌnˈweɪv(ə)rɪŋ

adjective

not wavering; steady or resolute.

Well, someone kindly inform the makers and keepers of the Oxford English Dictionary that ‘unwavering’ now comes with a caveat. ‘Not wavering; steady or resolute – for up to 16 days.’

16 days. That’s how long it took Leicester City’s owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha to go from declaring his “unwavering support” for Claudio Ranieri to ditching him after a credible 2-1 away defeat to Sevilla in the Champions League.

That’s worth reiterating, if you’ll indulge me: Leicester City have sacked their manager after a credible Champions League defeat. The manager who got them there. Leicester City. Leicester City! Champions League! And not just as a final fourth-placed qualifier with a kind draw, either. They are there as champions of England.

Football’s beauty is in its penchant for the preposterous. The FA Cup just last week reminded us of that. Leicester spent all of last season reminding us too. A non-league side beating the might of a Premier League opponent in a one-off ninety minutes of football? Yeah, that’s brilliant, but it’s got a wealth of precedent. But an unremarkable club coming from absolutely nowhere, with no real investment, to boss an entire Premier League season and win the title? Now that’s something new.

And, make no mistake about it, football needed that something new.

For too long, the mega-rich have held the game hostage and strangled the romanticism right out of it. They’ve been good at it too.

But Leicester defied all that. They made us all believe in the dream once again, and it couldn’t have had a more fitting figure than Ranieri at its heart. He himself arrived a likeable loser who was too easily written off after his reputation had taken something of a nosedive; written off before he had even begun.

I accept that it is easy as a fan of a neutral team and criticise a club for their decisions. It’s the club who have to live with the consequences, not us, so perhaps we are too quick to condemn.

This decision, however, feels a little personal. It stings. It feels like a little piece of what makes football so special to us all has been carved out and tossed away like it meant nothing at all. It feels like football itself has been the loser.

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