Claudio Ranieri deserves sympathy but Leicester could not afford to be sentimental, argues Brian Glanville.
No more wailing and gnashing of teeth! Ranieri has gone; Leicester transformed. Their owners were right. Tears were shed in vain.
As the old saying goes, there’s no sentiment in business, though I do remember many years ago being told by Gianni Agnelli, then the owner of Juventus and boss of Fiat, “If it’s a business then it’s a losing business.”
That Leicester City’s generous and largely supportive Thai owners have pulled the plug on the hegemony of Claudio Ranieri has aroused a tornado of regret, condemnation and dismay; though a lone voice has been heard here and there. The pathos of the event cannot be denied.
Ranieri last season performed one of football’s miracles when he propelled Leicester, who had never in their long history come remotely close to winning the league title, to a superlative success. Historic. But alas, not remotely this season to be repeated. Quite the reverse in fact with an all too real probability of being relegated to the so-called Championship. Something that happened just before the Second World War to Manchester City of Peter Doherty’s day; champions in one fine season, relegated despite scoring a profusion of goals the next.
In his explosive biography Doherty, later of course destined to become an outstanding manager of Northern Ireland, recalled a letter from a disenchanted Manchester City fan addressed to Dear Blunderers. That Ranieri deserved great sympathy is beyond question. That the club owners deserve contumely is another and debatable matter.
The manager, who in his Chelsea days had been nicknamed the Tinkerman for his almost obsessional changes of personnel and tactics, seemed to have reverted to that type. True he had lost a key player in midfield in N’Golo Kante, but against that he had bought one of the most talented attackers of his generation in Birmingham City’s Demerai Gray; yet failed to use him until the second half against Sevilla in the European Cup, when he instantly galvanised what had been a flagging team.
Tinkering with his team had expensively cost him a semi-final European Cup game against Monaco, when he was in charge of Chelsea. While it has gone almost unmentioned that when he arrived at Leicester it was from Athens, where his Greek international team had sensationally lost at home to the miniscule Faroe Islands.
When Leicester subsequently appointed him, it seemed a daft decision, yet in the event it turned out to be inspired. I wonder who was responsible for what turned out to be such an inspired appointment. And if the buck stops with the Thai owners when it comes to Ranieri’s exoneration, surely they must be given credit for approving Ranieri’s appointment after the Greek debacle.
My own feeling is that both he and the Leicester players had lost their way. The decision to remove him had seemingly been taken before the game in Seville, whose result frankly flattered Leicester. The players had frequently become confused by Ranieri’s frequent change of tactics. Given the cost of relegation, patience could not have been indefinite. Nor has it been. Nor should it.
So much coverage of Sutton United yet not a mention of Charlie Vaughan. Indicating as if we didn’t know that unlike English cricket, English football has a sadly short memory.
It was in the 1940s that the Sutton United team was inspired and galvanised by Vaughan, a splendidly gifted centre forward. So much so that he was nicknamed Charlie Sutton of Vaughan United.
He turned professional with Charlton Athletic where he was just as influential and later still in the 1st Division flourished with Portsmouth. As well for a plodding Arsenal team that he was not on parade in the FA Cup ti