TV View: Leicester City daring to dream on
Claudio Ranieri sharing love of Premier League and not feeling in any way entitled
Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri has done a miraculous job in getting his side to the top of the English Premier League table. Photograph: Reuters.
There’s lots to love about this English Premier League season, not least if you’re a bookie who hasn’t had to pay out on an accumulator in six months. It’s been bonkers, Saturday the latest case in point, those who abandoned Norwich v Liverpool on BT Sport at half-time left vowing never to leave home on a weekend morning again for fear they’d miss similarly delightful second-half insanity.
Watching your BBC football app nigh on run out of space to update the goals while you’re vacillating between cauliflower and broccoli in the veg aisle is no way to live. (And neither, frankly, is having Declan Rudd as your Fantasy goalkeeper).
It’s been entertaining, although in title-chasing terms those with “Gooner til I die” tattooed on their hearts might not be enthused by Arsenal’s efforts not to win it.
The highlights of the season, though, have been those post-match chats with Claudio Ranieri, his heroic – and thus far successful – attempts at resisting hollering “This is UNBELIEEEVABLE” already more than enough to seal him the manager of the year award.
He’s always come over as a rather charming man, right back to when he talked of his 84-year-old mother admonishing him – “She kills me!” – whenever he left Damien Duff out of his Chelsea team, even when he’d just undergone surgery, and that time he explained why he needed a big squad by asking: “Why did Christopher Columbus sail to India to discover America?”
The silence in the press room was, by all accounts, ear-splitting.
When he arrived at Leicester, having managed a bunch of footballing leviathans, you couldn’t but think, “ah bless, at 64 he’s winding down”. But here he is. Top of the world, Ma. Well, top of the Premier League, at least. And you get the sense he’s loving his managerial life a whole heap more than he ever did at Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Juventus, Roma, Inter Milan or any of the other large institutions he marshalled.
Match of the Day. Leicester 3, Stoke 0. The sheer exuberant energy and pace of them, they’ve just been a joy to watch. And, lest we forget, Riyad Mahrez cost £350,000. And N’Golo Kanté was an even bigger bargain at £5.6 million. Arsenal just pinched the scout who brought them to Leicester, Ben Wrigglesworth, he could prove to be their best signing since Dennis Bergkamp.
Gary Lineker was beaming so broadly no wide-screen could accommodate him.
Claudio time. The restraint, again. Trying to look nonplussed. But his nostrils were Riverdancing, which was an insight to his thrill.
“It was important to be top of the league at the end of January because now in February we arrive in bigga bigga tough match,” he said.
His MOTD interviewer asked him to stop right there and study the madness of his statement. This is Leicester. Was he pinching himself?
“Nooooooooo, I don’t pinch! Our fans are dreaming! I don’t want the dream to end!”
Damn, nobody should. Leicester winning the League would be a thing of such unparalleled loveliness it’d almost make up for Sepp and the lads. Well, no, it wouldn’t, but it’d help.
Coming to termsDele Alli
Tim Sherwood, a guest on Match of the Day, purred, but Gary and Ian Wright were still busy coming to terms with his observation on that moment in the Norwich v Liverpool encounter when James Milner bundled over Steven Naismith. Was it in or outside the box?
“I fink that’s a penalty,” declared Wrightie.
Tim? “Anywhere else on the pitch and that’s a penalty.”
Bigga bigga bonkers.