Here’s to dreams, football, and Leicester City Football Club
“It couldn't be done, somebody said that it couldn't be done…”
There is no way they could have done it. When the sun sat on Saturday, February the 7th, 2015, Leicester City Football Club stay rooted to the bottom of the English Premier League.
Earlier that day, they had lost a close game 1-0 to Crystal Palace at home – their 14th loss of the season. After 24 games, they had just 17 points - no one had ever survived with such a low tally, so late into the season. It simply couldn’t be done.
Or so we thought.
It started in April, with a win against West Ham United at home (their first since early January) – a run of results where they won six, drew one, and lost only to Champions elect Chelsea. By the time they kicked off their last game of the season against Queens Park Rangers, there was no doubt that they would still be in the Top Division come the 2015-16 season. They beat Rangers 5-1 in that last game.
A month later they fired their manager. Hard-headed, temperamental and vastly knowledgeable about the game, Nigel Pearson had led Leicester from League One to the Championship in his first spell, and then guided them to promotion to the Big-Boy League in his second; where he had engineered that most unprecedented of relegation escapes.
For, despite the miracle-working, Pearson’s outburst of madness had laid constant stress with the management, and a sordid affair involving his son and a few reserve players in the owner’s home nation sealed his fate.
Bad PR, decided the men in charge (Thai Duty-Free Mogul Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in this case), was worse than any possible footballing benefits Pearson brought to the side. So, they fired the man who “did” what everyone said “couldn’t be done”.
Hah. Those foolish foreigners! With their greatest asset gone, they said that Leicester were primed to go down, or at the very least get into another relegation dogfight. Then they hired Claudio Ranieri, last seen at the helm of the sinking Greek national team.
Leicester City legend, life-long fan and respected ‘TV pundit’ reflected the footballing world’s general emotions in three succinct words – “Claudio Ranieri? Really?” Even before the season began, the Foxes had been relegated.
Through all this, Ranieri smiled that benign, kindly-old-man smile of his and got down to work. For a long while though, it didn’t seem like he was doing much.
For a man nicknamed “Tinkerman” during his last stint in England (with Chelsea) this seemed particularly curious. Why wasn’t he doing anything different to Pearson? Why hasn’t he doing something “out of the box”, or coming up with “innovative ideas”? This was just further proof that the Foxes had gotten the wrong.
In a world which hankers for “new ideas” like a puppy does attention, this was just further proof that the old man was well and truly out of place.
But he had been doing something. While the ‘experts’ hammered on, what Ranieri - using the might of 43 years of footballing experience at the top level across Europe - had done was appreciate a fundamental truth of life: there is no force on Earth as potent as Momentum.