He had to go, of course, with results as dire as those Leicester have been posting all season long. But there are professional, honourable, even kind ways of telling someone they’ve lost their job. In football these were employed as rarely as seeing hens’ teeth several decades ago -and this lack of courtesy and awareness has only worsened since the EPL was formed. The moral cowardice of club owners is now a commonplace which being Thai and distant doesn’t alter or excuse. It hasn’t helped that the word “contract” in the game has come to have no meaning at all since these are broken with legal impunity by either party pretty well every week of the season.
I’m a Blackburn supporter, and I look back to the train crash disaster that was Ewood Park during the season following our Premier League triumph. I can sympathise with both Ranieri and the players because I recall the turmoil in Dalgleish that led him to walk out pre-season, and the well-meaning but futile efforts of Ray Harford to plug the sinking ship. Like Ranieiri Kenny had got to the top – he then would have the job of keeping that momentum going in a small town club – and that’s amazingly hard. And Blackburn had a number of very expensive class-act players with the established confidence that comes with successively finishing 4th, 2nd and 1st. For Leicester, their mostly slightly above average players who’ve been living off disbelief, nerves and adrenalin for half a season can’t bring themselves to start from cold enduring the pain these things inflict, and so they ease off the season following. A manager who had his sights set solely on the domestic prize suddenly has the job of re-stoking the boilers from scratch AND the hugely different job of looking at and investigating and planning in Europe. Very very hard.
I don’t know whether the players ganged up on Ranieri – I hope not. But players always want success and to find themselves suddenly without the drug called adulation means many will react badly to withdrawal. The same’s true of fans who angrily and fearfully look first of all to have their drug-pusher restored to them but are instantly happy to be supplied by the new Mr Big, whoever he is.
Ranieri stood by his boys in public while they were playing like drains. But then he’s a one-off in managerial terms – an honourable man. Not too many in footie – Sir Matt, Bobby Robson and Shanks and Bob Paisley for me, and already my list is running on empty. I, like tens of thousands of football lovers – of the proper game, the beauty, the excitement, the fair play, the honesty – will always remember him fondly, not just for what he did with Leicester but for the way he did it – with an ever-present smile, jokes, fractured English, a kindness and warmth emanating from him which were and are completely at odds with this modern hard-nosed game.
Yes, I shall miss the Tinkerman, and not just because I won a ton thanks to his success. He deserved a better ending to the story, but then few things in life go according to fable. But he’s been a ray of light in the mean-spirited nasty little Premier League world. I wish him much happiness in his future life. Addio e buona fortuna.