I hope that you will spare a thought for Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger because, between them, they have spent many years and hundreds of millions of euros in fiddling with the DNA of the world’s greatest sport. Football.
They have worked, tirelessly, to take the game that kids used to play, in parks and on housing estates; the game which working class men used to stand and watch, with eagerness and passion, every Saturday at 3pm, as their one true escape from an otherwise dismal life, and they have turned it into something new; something clinical; something with sterile cleanliness.
Between them they have spent thousands, maybe millions, of hours, brainwashing footballers, coaches, journalists, fans and obscenely rich club owners into believing that the way the game of association football had been played, for the past 150 years or so, was wrong.
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They took that game which was based on childishly simple philosophies such as running fast, tackling hard, moving from one end of the pitch to the other end quickly, using simple, direct, forward passes and then, crossing, shooting and heading whenever you are anywhere near the goal and they modified it, slightly.
Actually, they modified it a lot.
No; more than that, they changed it beyond all recognition.
And now, here come Leicester City, trying to undo all that; trying to un-modernise all that fine, progressive work that our footballing messiahs have slaved over, for what seems like an eternity.
Well, it's time someone asked: “Just who the hell do Leicester City think they are?”
Wenger and Guardiola have laboured long and hard to educate their players that they must never play one pass if they can play ten.
They have educated their teams, with a religious fervour, that when you are anywhere in or around the penalty area, you must not shoot.
Instead, you must try to pass the ball in front of, behind and around as many defenders as possible, as often as you possibly can. Only as a last, desperate resort, should you actually shoot.
They have worked their socks off to convert the world into believing that the true purpose of football isn’t to score goals and win; the true purpose of football is to pass, pass and pass again.
They patiently and lovingly taught us that the deeper beauty of football lies in its foreplay; not its penetration.
And what of Jose? A total and absolute commitment to unrelenting, endless, unbreakable defence. His sole aim to win, at all costs and let entertainment be damned.
The same 'Special One' who carefully assembles tactical combat squads, masquerading as football teams, whose main qualities and attributes are cynicism and petulance.
Do Leicester City and Claudio Ranieri not realise that what they are doing amounts to heresy? Can they not see that they are breaking the basic rules and foundations on which modern football is built, namely:
- Do not play simple, direct passes that take your players to the edge of the opposition penalty area, with pace and purpose. The ball is supposed to be played sideways and backwards, 20, 30 even 40 times before you attempt any sort of attacking manoeuvre.
- Do not attack, with pace, down the sides of the football pitch (once known as ‘wings’) with the intention of sending dangerous crosses into the box for Jamie Vardy to score from. You are supposed to attack in a narrow way, down the centre of the pitch and use as many intricate passing movements as possible, before tippy-tapping the ball around the penalty area for as long as possible.
- Do not use footballers who cost ridiculously small sums of money, such as the aforementioned Vardy (£1 million), Riyad Mahrez (£750,000) and Marc Albrighton (free). The Premier League are being paid an idiotic amount of money by people wanting to broadcast your matches and the idea is that you should spend as much money as possible on players.
- Don’t Leicester understand just how embarrassing it is when they humiliate people, who have stacks and stacks of money, and who have a single player that cost more than the entire Leicester team, by beating them 3-1 on their own patch, with a team that cost virtually nothing? There is a very large and hungry shoal of predatory agents out there who need to indulge in regular feeding frenzies, brought on by players being transferred for vast sums of money. To use the services of footballers who are as cheap as chips, will cause financial hardship and suffering to these great white and basking agents.
Managers are not supposed to conduct themselves in a humble, quiet, polite and decent way. Claudio, for goodness sake, stop it!
Stop telling the media that you have allowed your fans and players to enjoy themselves and carry on believing. Yes, we know that you once went close with Chelsea and we know that they shouldn’t have let you go and then replace you with Jose. That must have hurt and we all felt for you, but really; do you have to take revenge by winning the title so easily, with a squad that cost less than one of Mr Abramovich’s watches?
And do you have to do it by being the nicest, most decent and honest man since Sir Bobby Robson?
I am afraid that Leicester City seem hell bent on defying the odds and recklessly abandoning all that we have come to hate about football.
It would appear that they are determined, no matter how often people say: “No, they can’t possibly win it” to prove everyone wrong.
Apparently, they are content to play good, honest, simple, proper, old-fashioned football, week in and week out and beat anyone and everyone who gets in their way.
And may they be eternally blessed for it.
Not since a man named Brian Clough won the title with a newly promoted Nottingham Forest side, in 1978, assembled, rather like Leicester, from scraps, cast offs and bits & bobs, has the football world been taken by storm so emphatically and unexpectedly as this.
Should Leicester, as everyone hopes, expects and wants, go on to win the title, they might look back at what that 1978 Forest aside achieved next, because the following season, they only went and won the European Cup!
Dream on, Claudio and we will all dream on with you.
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