It feels like electricity as Leicester close in on dream
Radiant confidence mood of the day at King Power Stadium as Swansea are swept aside
Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri celebrates after Leonardo Ulloa scores their third goal against Swansea. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters
Three points nearer to their dream of dreams, Claudio Ranieri strolled on to the pitch at the end of this joyous whirlwind of a 4-0 victory over Swansea to hear his name coursing down from a band of elated and appreciative fans. This Italian gentleman of football shook his fists into the Leicestershire air. A life in football boils down to this.
Close. Closer. So close now. Expectancy has become an impulse the crowd feel able to cherish. The mood was remarkable. Not a flicker of anxiety, only radiant confidence.
Ranieri is not an overtly sentimental man. Those misty eyes when his team took another vital step at Sunderland a couple of weeks ago and he thought about what it all means to the old ladies who follow the club were an exception. Then last week, amidst the mayhem against West Ham, he retained the coolest veneer of control.
When this is all over he might allow himself to wonder whether everything he has done before, all those experiences were somehow needed to take him to this point where the magic has been sprinkled all over an eclectic bunch of players initially hoping just to stay up this term with Leicester.
History makes us
It was symbolic of the masterful way that Ranieri has overseen this campaign that the choices he made to reset the team without the focal point of Jamie Vardy came off sweetly. Jeffrey Schlupp and Leonardo Ulloa were pivotal performers, and Riyad Mahrez regained responsibility in the style that has been all his own this term. Every substitute that came on looked desperate to make a difference.
Watching the body language of Leicester’s cast during a swashbuckling performance, certain repeated gestures gave a clue as to how they are sustaining this remarkable run. The irrepressible effort, the way they all – irrespective of position – want the ball, ask for the ball by flinging up an arm, underpins their way.
There is a scene in the film Billy Elliott, the story of somebody doing something utterly improbable, when the young boy from undistinguished roots attempting to get into an esteemed ballet school is asked how it makes him feel when he dances.
He struggles to find the right words before it all makes perfect sense: “It feels like electricity.”
That is one of Claudio Ranieri’s favourite words, too, and it seems to sum up so much about this Leicester City experience. Electricity. If ever one word were required to crystallise this team, and the season they are living, that’s as good as any.
Ranieri’s lightness of touch made this hurdle an easy one to skip over. Setting goals during the season has been his methodology, the bar rising over time.
Now, finally, on the home straight, Ranieri feels able at last to say the words he dared not speak ahead of time. The title. Close. Closer now. Looking ahead he is taking nothing for granted over the next three games.
“It is important,” he concluded, “to be stronger than today.” Guardian Service