Did they dedicate their 3-1 home win against Liverpool to the manager they ensured was sacked? I’m speaking of the shameless Leicester City players who, predictably, reverted to their former selves when sweeping aside a mentally weak Liverpool side on Monday night.
I turned over from the football match to watch a morbid tale of rape. The ITV drama ‘Broadchurch’ was morose and depressing. But had I heard Leicester players say they had “won for Claudio” I would have smashed the television to smithereens. Claudio Ranieri was the victim of treachery, the wounds inflicted by the many knives in his back will take years to heal. The respected Italian will manage again. He rejected job lucrative offers to leave Leicester last summer.
Claudio Ranieri opted to remain loyal to the squad who shocked the footballing world by winning the Premier League. Et tu, Vardy, Mahrez, Drinkwater?
Some, and I stress some, modern day Premier League footballers make me feel sick to the stomach. Their greed, hypocrisy, the manner in which they can cheat fans and bosses alike. The sheer gall they display when verbally denying the evidence of our eyes.
Here’s a post match question I would have asked Leicester players on Monday night: We saw you play against Swansea. We saw you play against Liverpool. Would you care to offer an explanation for how lacking in effort you were in the first game, and yet so energised tonight?
It did not surprise me. I had predicted on Twitter that we’d see a different Leicester side from the one that had not scored a goal in the Premier League since Santa Claus went home.
I was so confident that the Leicester of last season would rise like a phoenix from the ashes, I backed them to beat Liverpool at odds of 9/2.
Judging from the comments on Twitter, I was far from alone. There hasn’t been a lot of love for Leicester in the world of social media. Pre-match, so many neutral supporters were hoping the Foxes were given a good chasing by Liverpool. But that was never going to be. After Ranieri was sacked (yes, sacked) in a hotel near East Midlands airport, many of those neutral football fans were wishing Leicester be relegated. I allowed that thought to cross my mind for a moment or two. But then I realised a drop into the Championship would not inconvenience the guilty.
The only people hurt by relegation would have been the lifelong Leicester fans. Those who saw Frank Worthington, Alan Birchenall or Gary Lineker play. It wouldn’t bother the johnny-come-lately supporters who needed directions to the ground when the glory hunting took off at the King Power Stadium last season. They would revert to watching football on TV, or going Saturday shopping.
The better Leicester players they would simply sign on the dotted line for other Premier League clubs. Or their agents would tout them abroad. They’d express sorrow at relegation and about leaving the club, naturally. Insincerity is alive and thriving in the Premier League.
When a club is relegated it’s not the players who suffer. It would be the office workers who would lose their jobs. The very people who worked so hard last season. The staff who sold tickets to the plastic fans carrying their clackers.
On Monday evening there were apologists for the footballers. Some newspaper and broadcast journalists whose opinions I usually respect bent over backwards to exempt Leicester City players from blame. Those journalists are, of course, planning ahead. They want to stay ‘in’ with the multi millionaires. They’ve been reporting on overpaid, overrated Premier League footballers for so long, their objectivity has evaporated. It’s easy for broadcasters to get too close to the very people they are reporting on. During 25 years in TV, the majority of it producing sports programming, I saw it happen often.
For all the sins of social media, and there are many, it’s actually reassuring to see that it’s not just middle aged men like me who have been so turned off many top flight footballers by the type of action, and inaction, that we saw from the majority of the Leicester players. Much younger football fans, many of them supporters of teams outside of the top flight, vented their anger on Monday evening. And they asked questions like this one…
Do these Leicester players have no shame? In a word, no. Footballers no longer live in the same world as you and I. They don’t catch public transport to the ground, as they did fifty years ago.
That was the era in which Alex Young played football. On the very day that his death was announced, Leicester players miraculously rediscovered their shooting boots and their will to try. For the first match after their manager had been sacked. Funny that!
Alex Young tried every match, regardless of who managed Hearts and Everton. His goalscoring record at both clubs was superb. He didn’t score when he felt like it. Alex Young would not have dreamt of waiting for his manager to be sacked before giving 100%.
You can question the tinkering and tactics of the Ranieri if you wish. By all means. Go ahead. But what about players who do not try? What of footballers who don’t put a shift in? Ranieri didn’t order them to do feck all for the past few months, did he?
Downing tools to get the manager sacked is nothing new. It’s happened for decades. But never more so since the rich got richer, since the income from television rights ensured players could dictate their wages and bonuses. Even the size of their motor.
I’m far from alone in saying the following. But I can say it because I am no longer close to the game. I’m just a fan these days. Many a reporter thinks the same, but they cannot queer their patch by saying it in print or to camera. They don’t want to kill the goose that guarantees them employment. I understand that. But here is what I think.
In the Premier League, the lunatics are in charge of the asylum. Avaricious agents and their spoilt brat clients run the show. Greed is not good and it’s sure as hell poisoned the once beautiful game.
Some Leicester City players have fallen out with each other, over bonuses. That much I do know. Imagine the scenario, if you can stomach it. ‘My car is better than your car’… ‘My win bonus is bigger than yours’… ‘My new contract is worth ££££££££, that’s why I turned down Arsenal. How much did you get? Ha!’
That’s why they make me want to puke. They really don’t know how lucky they are. They kiss the badge. They applaud the fans. But, when it suits, they throw their toys from the pram and do not try. They go through the motions. That’s what Leicester players have been doing since winning the Premier League went to their heads. Since the club owners spoilt them with big cars and, in some cases, salaries so large they could afford to remain big fish in a small pool. Why go to a big club and risk being found out?
Last season it was the Chelsea team who downed tools in order to get a manager sacked. He wasn’t being nice to them, so they stopped playing for him. The consequence of which is always the same. The owners sack the manager. I once asked a Premier League club owner why he had not sacked two high profile footballers who had misbehaved in public. “Don’t be silly, Vernon. They are assets. They are worth fortunes. I can’t just sack them.”
I’m not saying the Leicester players got together and had a meeting to plan the demise of Ranieri. But if you refuse to believe that some of them will have gathered at one of their palatial mansions, behind high walls, to collectively moan about Ranieri, then you are being naive.
Chelsea players got together to plan their mutiny last season. Years before, Real Madrid players did the same when they’d had enough of Fabio Capello. They went one better. They alerted the Spanish media. They told them the name of the restaurant at which they would be holding their team meeting. A gathering at which they would plan their campaign to have David Beckham returned to the team, so undermining Capello. He’d gone public in saying Beckham would never again play for Real Madrid while he was manager. That provided the galacticos with the ammunition they needed. The cameras were outside the restaurant to see the players arrive.
Real Madrid players told the club owners that they refused to play the way Capello wanted. They would down tools until David Beckham was restored to the side and they wanted to attack, not defend at all costs. The owners gave some of the best players in the world permission to play as they wish and, yes, Beckham was restored to the team.
The Leicester City owners have been present at the training ground. They regularly spoke to the players. What’s that all about? They should not be doing any such thing. Yes, they have invested fortunes in the club, but that does not give them the right to undermine the manager.
It’s happened elsewhere. Milan Mandaric often showed up at the training grounds of clubs he owned. The last straw for the one time manager of Sheffield Wednesday, Gary Megson, was when Mandaric told him to drop the then effective striker, Chris O’Grady. The air at the training ground turned blue and Megson was sacked soon after.
What are the Leicester City owners doing asking players what had gone wrong this season? Of course some players will have pointed the finger at the tactics employed by Ranieri. Inevitably they will have whined to the men who pay their salaries.
One fact is clear. The same Leicester City players who tried so hard on Monday night, did not try in the previous weeks and months. They didn’t lift a finger for Claudio Ranieri. They did down tools. You can choose to ignore that fact if you wish. After all, politically speaking, England is currently a country awash with people burying their heads in the sand.