Life as a Leicester fan is never boring. On Wednesday night I was in Sevilla singing Claudio Ranieri’s name, fast forward 24 hours and he had been sacked. The national media, who have been calling for Ranieri’s head for two months now, have branded the decision a disgrace and every man and his dog has had a say on the issue. It is fair to say that they don’t agree. However it is not their club. I do not claim to speak for every Leicester fan but I know I am not alone in thinking that while on a human level it was cold hearted and upsetting, on a football and business level it was the only option.
Last season was a fairy-tale. It caught the imagination of so many people who believed football had become solely about spending power. The crazy thing about it? It was my club. The club I fell in love with on a cold Boxing Day in 2002 watching the boys in blue lose 2-1 to Ipswich. My formative years as a Leicester fan were ones of poor management and even poorer players. I watched the City get relegated to League 1 for the first time in their history followed by seasons that gave us hope. We could feel the club building to something special but never in our wildest dreams could we have imagined what was to come.
Enter Claudio Ranieri. The mastermind of arguably the greatest achievement in footballing history. Transforming a team of unknowns into the greatest club side in the country, taking us Leicester fans on a ride we never even imagined possible. On the 2nd May 2016 we stood in shock as Leicester were crowned Champions of England and then celebrated like no club has done before. Everything was perfect, from the blue and gold ribbons adorning the famous Premier League trophy to Andrea Bocelli’s rendition of Nessun Dorma and a glorious day in Victoria Park. This season we stood watching our team line up while the Champions League music played. There is still a sense of disbelief. Not just that it happened, but it happened to our Leicester.
It happened to our Leicester.
This is the club that many of us have supported since before we can remember. We have seen the highs and the lows but we have loved the club no matter what. 132 years it took for us to win the top division and I suspect it will be another 132 years before we get close to repeating the feat. We keep being told that the rest of the world made us their second team last season but what they feel does not compare to what we feel. Every loss, every goal, and every misplaced pass is felt so acutely by those who class themselves as a blue. In 2017 we have not watched our team score a league goal. While it doesn’t lessen the love we have for City, no fan could honestly just sit by and accept relegation without a fight. I am not trying to claim that Ranieri has been solely to blame, far from it. However, at this stage in the season it is the only change that could be made. To claim he had no responsibility is also naïve. I have not met one Leicester fan who understands why Musa started over Gray on Wednesday night, or understands why we are persevering with a back four who are as water tight as a sieve. I have seen a lot of criticism of our owners from outside parties and would like to say this. They have given everything to this club, they have taken us from nowhere to everywhere. In an era blighted by poor foreign ownership the Srivaddhanaprabha family have always tried to do what is best for our club and they have the full support of the vast majority of Leicester fans in this and every decision they make.
I was gutted when I heard the news last night and refused to believe it until the club announced it. To see the man who made me so proud of my club sacked just 9 months after an unimaginable title win has not been easy for anyone. However, now it’s happened it feels right. I had no faith in Claudio’s ability to keep us up, I saw no reasons to have hope. It’s like having a pet put down, it is desperately sad but at least the pain is over and afterwards you know it was the right thing to do.
So thank you Claudio. Thank you for everything you did for my club. You brought us a season that was unimaginable. You showed that football still has its magic, that the good guys could still win and money isn’t everything. However it was time, this will be our club forever and we could not just stand by and watch it return to where it came from without some attempt at a fight. I am sorry it had to end like this but it will not tarnish the affection Leicester fans have for you. You will always be the greatest.
Now, let’s get building that statue.