Opinion: Leicester’s way to glory

Neil Warnock, who is now the Rotherham United manager, took Scarborough to the football league.
Neil Warnock, who is now the Rotherham United manager, took Scarborough to the football league.

Is it important for a town to have a football team playing at the top level? Does it bring worthwhile reward?

Neil Warnock took Scarborough to the football league, a status we lost through greed and mismanagement just 17 years ago.

Since then a number of feeble attempts to bring home the sport at a decent level have foundered on council procrastination, lack of private funding and generally weak leadership.

Football fan or football phobic you would have been living in a cupboard under your stairs not to know that ‘also-rans’ Leicester City are on the point of winning the Premier League.

Without Manchester’s millions or Chelsea’s Russian billionaire and despite the fact that this time last year they were staving off relegation, the Foxes have taken the football world by storm.

How did this happen and what can be learned from it?

Much of the credit must go to Claudio Ranieri, their Italian no-nonsense manager.

He has not been a big spender but what he has done is develop a system that sits well with the players he has.

Danny Drinkwater (who sounds like a character from a Roald Dahl book), his midfield maestro, is an Old Trafford reject.

Striker Jamie Vardy, for whom he could get £30 million, was playing for Stocksbridge Steel and Halifax Town till five years ago.

His entire Leicester squad is a tenth of what the other top six clubs paid for theirs.

The lesson from this is that it’s not how much money you have it’s how well you spend it.

Watch Ranieri at interview. He doesn’t whinge about defeat, he learns from it. He smiles benignly when a referee’s decision goes against him where others would glare and grimace.

He tells his players that they are not favourites to win but they should enjoy themselves and play the agreed system. Keep smiling and the world smiles with you.

Basically, this ‘system’ is a simple 4-4-2 organisation and an acceptance that when the ball is lost every player immediately becomes part of the defence.

At possession and passing, the Foxes are in the bottom three teams; at shooting, pace upfront and long ball accuracy they are in the top three. The lesson here is that you should always play to your strengths.

The Foxes stadium is one of the Premier League’s most modest in size but such is the city’s pride in its team that 98% of seats are filled.

Not only that but an important feature is the increase in Asian and female support.

Helped by the medium of football, (seven different nationalities in the first team) Leicester is celebrating itself as a truly multi-cultural city.

Leicester has had its share of incredible happenings in the recent past.

Just two years ago the bones of a long dead English King were discovered beneath a city centre car park.

The players’ shirts are emblazoned with the legend ‘King Power’ although this is a reference to the Thai retail group headed by their owner!

Leicester is a modern footballing fairy story.

Dreams do happen.

If only our town could latch onto even a fraction of such investment and the accompanying positive attitudes.