By the end of last season, Leicester were one of the form teams in the Premier League. Up there with Manchester City who went on a fabulous run, but by then the title race was already over Leicester, on the other hand, did it when it mattered.
Then something strange happened. They sacked their manager. Now Nigel Pearson courted controversy all season, personally speaking I don’t think he seemed like the nicest of guys. But then I don’t know him personally – all I have to go on is the fact he called a journalist an ostrich and caught James McArthur in a choke hold. You can see why i’d jump to that conclusion.
Even so, his sacking was strange. There’s nothing wrong with changing your manager if you don’t like him. There may be some sort of legal or trade union problem with sacking people simply because you don’t like them, but in football managers are changed so often that any reason seems to go. How I wish Liverpool had simply sacked Luis Suarez – although that probably means I won’t ever be on the board of a successful club as sacking him would’ve cost the club somewhere in the region of £65-75m, depending on who you believe.
But the Leicester board sacked Pearson for reasons passing understanding. If they hated him before, they had plenty of opportunity so sack the man, so then sacking him because his son is an idiot – or a racist, or a sleaze, or whatever you want to call him – is simply mind-boggling. Many say the sins of the father should not be transferred to the son. I don’t even begin to understand how the sins of the son could transfer to the father.
Now Claudio Ranieri is Leicester manager. And a fine job he’s done in his opening game. Let’s not get carried away. It was one game against a Sunderland side who really weren’t up to much. Although Leicester still managed to concede two goals.
Two seasons ago, Hull started their first season back in the top flight brightly, and were basically safe by January. It was then that Steve Bruce decided to prioritise the FA Cup more than the league. That’s the kind of thing fans want to see, and it worked. Hull made their first FA Cup final, and made it into Europe too.
But then it backfired. Because end of season form is important too. It sets you up for the next season. If you’re on a bad run at the end of the season, it’s hard to get back on track. Bruce tried to add new faces to the side and kick on from their previous season. So a mix of players who couldn’t gel and off-form players already at the club meant a bad start to the season, and Hull could never get going.
Leicester have the opposite. They haven’t added too much to the side. After breaking their record transfer twice last season, they’ve been a little more quiet, but added some steel and flair to their side. And Ranieri hasn’t changed too much in terms of the setup. He knows that the team is on form and, ironically, he’s not going to tinker too much.
But let’s see what happens if things get tough. And they will get tough, this is football. You’ll always get a slump – you just have to hope that it’s not a long one.
It looks like Leicester have continuity, which was the worry after sacking Pearson. The worry was that Ranieri would come into the fold and change everything, and that it wouldn’t work. But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And Leicester are – admittedly after only one game – finding that the saying holds true. But it remains to be seen if Claudio Ranieri will stick to his – or Pearson’s – guns if things go downhill.