Sir Alex Ferguson's players wouldn't have poured champagne on him... so why do it to Leicester champion Claudio Ranieri?
- Leicester City celebrated lifting the Premier League trophy on Saturday
- During the jubilation, players poured champagne over Claudio Ranieri
- More respect should have been shown to the 64-year-old Italian
- Would players have done same to Sir Alex Ferguson and Fabio Capello?
Eyes fixed on the approaching half-time scores, a lone figure not wearing the obligatory blue sat at a quiet table in a corner of Leicester’s King Power Stadium on Saturday.
Ade Cooper scouts the opposition for Sunderland. He used to do the same at Brighton, hit it off with former manager Gus Poyet and when Poyet moved north, so did he.
Everton, Leicester’s opponents, visit the Stadium of Light on Wednesday. ‘I’m probably the only scout who’s managed to get a ticket today,’ said Cooper. It must have felt strange to be on such a sober mission, amid what amounted to a 40,000 strong street party.
Wes Morgan (right) and Claudio Ranieri lift the trophy after Leicester clinched the Premier League title
Leicester defender Christian Fuchs soaks manager Ranieri in champagne during his press conference
Fuchs empties a bottle of champagne over the Italian on the day Leicester received the title trophy
Leicester talk is unavoidable with anyone in football these days. How? Why? What does it all mean? Where do we go from here? Everyone has their theories and Cooper was no different.
‘This will change the way we look at games,’ he said. ‘Everything we’ve been told is important - passing statistics, possession statistics, squad rotation, they’re proving it all wrong.’ He said he was talking to one of Leicester’s scouts earlier in the season. ‘And he said: “Everyone underestimates our manager. He’s a lot smarter than people think he is”.’
Around five hours later, Leicester having swept Everton from the pitch, Claudio Ranieri was about to begin his address to the media when a few of his players burst in and dumped a bottle of champagne on his head. Maybe they underestimate him, too,
Put it like this. They wouldn’t have done it to Sir Alex Ferguson or Fabio Capello, two of the names Ranieri drops in conversation when he talks about the greats of modern management.
These are the men he has strived all his professional career to emulate and now he will at last be mentioned in the same sentence. So respect is due. A little more respect than he was shown on Saturday, perhaps.
Some will look at the bubbly high jinks as another example of Leicester’s indomitable team spirit. This is what makes them special. This is why they are champions. It isn’t.
Ranieri tries to escape the attention of Fuchs who was keen for his manager to celebrate with him
Sir Alex Ferguson won thirteen titles at Manchester United during his trophy-laden spell with the club
However, during all of the celebrations, players would never have poured champagne over the Scot
Ryan Giggs and Ferguson pose with bottles of champagne after United were crowned champions in 2003
Ranieri is why they are champions. Ranieri and his players, the performances he has wrung out of them, the superb way he has marshalled their strengths and compensated for their weaknesses. And yes, they also have a fantastic attitude.
Yet while managers indulge the often lunatic antics that bond a dressing room; they don’t have to get personally involved.
Dave Bassett was very much part of Wimbledon’s Crazy Gang, Capello was distant and aloof. For most, even a brilliant motivator like Jurgen Klopp, there is a middle ground.
Ranieri is 64, his players are less than half his age. So he has to play along. Dilly ding, dilly dong. Little bells as Christmas gifts. Small jokes, a playful persona. He has somehow found a way to mould a dressing room, in another country, while bringing together players from four continents.
Former Wimbledon manager Dave Bassett was one of the lads and very much part of the Crazy Gang
So he is a master man-manager, too. And, as such, in public, he laughed his drenching off. In that moment, what else could he do?
It was Christian Fuchs who administered the soaking, Kasper Schmeichel playing the decoy by delivering the Premier League trophy moments earlier. Kasper’s father, Peter, captured it all on his mobile telephone, although one wonders what his old manager would have made of it.
Fuchs is an intelligent man and comes from a part of Europe where sporting celebrations often swim in beer. Maybe he simply misjudged the protocol, the way Lewis Hamilton did when he let off the contents of a champagne bottle in the face of a podium hostess at the Chinese Grand Prix last year.
And had it happened behind closed doors, then it is Leicester’s little joke, for Ranieri to find amusing or not as he wishes. The presence of cameras and the nation’s media, however, brought it into the public domain and the way Ranieri grabbed Fuchs’ hand when he went back in for a second go, suggested a firmer message. Enough. I’m better than this; Leicester are better than this, too.
Kasper Schmeichel places the Premier League trophy in front of Ranieri after helping his team to a 3-1 win
Ranieri had started the day accompanying the Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli to a public recital. He looked impossibly proud. The day after the title was won, he was smart but off-duty and dressed down a little. Corduroy trousers, sports jacket, suede shoes. On Saturday, Ranieri donned his very best. It was clearly a huge occasion for him; and unless he keeps a spare suit at work, he was going to spend the evening sticky and uncomfortable.
Ranieri looked flustered, swore briefly but, being a very nice man, did not make a scene, beyond a little joke about extra training. A look had flashed across his face, though. A look that suggested he thought his players were smarter than to treat him this way.
Dilly ding, dilly dong. Don’t they get it? This is an act. This is what he puts out there to relax the team, to break the ice and the tension, to feed the media monster and ensure not every story is about whether Leicester will crack up. This is how he behaves to lull his rivals into believing that they are not up against one of the sharpest minds in European football.
This season has been a triumph of tactical planning and evaluation. Ranieri’s managing of his resources from beginning to end has been little short of brilliant. And brilliant men don’t end up coughing and spluttering, hopping around on stage to wipe down a ruined suit and rinsing champagne out of their ears in the moment of greatest triumph; or at least brilliant men shouldn’t.
This being a press conference, Ranieri’s desk was lousy with microphones, recording devices and smart phones, too. The surface awash with Moet & Chandon, several reporters got up to check their equipment.
‘Sit down,’ shouted a cameraman at the back. And Ranieri sat down, because that’s what a lovely bloke he is. He thought some idiot was talking to him. And instead of advising that he had just completed the greatest (expletive deleted) achievement in English football history so a little (expletive deleted) respect was due, he did as he was told.
Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli was accompanied by compatriot Ranieri as he sang ahead of the Everton clash
Football managers are serious professionals. They hold executive positions at businesses worth hundreds of millions that exist in the public eye.
The majority, however, are also from ordinary backgrounds. So they may drop their aitches, or have quirks in speech, or a winning way with a tale or a one-liner. They have to find a way to communicate with and motivate far younger men, too, so most will also work hard to nurture that relationship with the dressing-room. That doesn’t make them rubes, though.
Harry Redknapp didn’t find it funny when one of his young players hit him with a ball, while he was conducting a pitch-side interview; and he didn’t find it funny when David Bentley, among others, dumped a large container of water over him on live TV, after Tottenham had qualified for the Champions League.
The way Redknapp saw it, his team had just won away at Manchester City, in what amounted to a fourth place play-off. It was a huge night for the club and for him and Bentley made them all look small.
‘I was talking, proudly, about the quality of my backroom staff, Joe Jordan, Kevin Bond and the rest, when Bentley invaded,’ he wrote in his autobiography, Always Managing.
‘On camera, I had to laugh it off, but privately I was furious. I thought it was disrespectful, frankly, and totally out of keeping with our relationship. However I may sound, I am not one of those bosses who wants to be one of the boys. I didn’t mix socially with the team, I would never think of myself as a mate.
‘I thought Bentley and the other players — all the ones who couldn’t get in the team, incidentally — took a liberty. Would he have dumped a bucket of water on Sir Alex, had he been a player at United? He wouldn’t have lasted long if he did. It didn’t just make me look bad, it made the club look bad, too — undermined us when we had just taken a giant step to join the elite.’
Ranieri’s relationship with his players appears similar. He referred to them as his ‘sons’ in the aftermath of the title win, but the strongest father-son relationships are also respectful. Ranieri wasn’t at Jamie Vardy’s house for the party last Monday. There are boundaries. Leicester’s players have been magnificent, but Ranieri’s role is consummate. He is nobody’s stooge and he isn’t one of the lads. This season, he is The Man: and everyone should know it.
Former Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp was disappointed by David Bentley's actions in 2010
ROTTEN TRAIN SERVICE KEEPS DERAILING FANS
Standing room only on a Virgin train back to London the day after Liverpool’s win over Villarreal. The train manager apologised several times, blaming it on the late match as if it was somehow football’s fault.
Of course, the real reason for the overcrowding is that train companies never consider fans at evening kick-offs, and do not lay on late trains, or extra trains, to accommodate them. So everyone has to drive home in the small hours, or stay overnight and pile on commuter shuttles the following morning.
Virgin know that many Liverpool fans come up from the south for big games; they will know a lot of Spanish visitors will have travelled that way, too.
They could get everyone back to London in relative comfort over a staggered period of time if they wished. They can’t be bothered. It is their rotten service; not football’s.
Gianni Infantino is back-pedalling furiously on his election pledge to give every FIFA territory $5million over four years. Now he’s looked at the books, he wants the richer European nations to waive their bonus to help finance the rest.
Still, you know what they say. Every great journey begins with a single huge manifesto lie.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino (left) pledged $5million to every FIFA territory over five years but is now back-pedalling and wants richer nations to waive their bonus
AND WHILE WE'RE AT IT...
In a week when it emerged that UEFA have considered switching some Champions League fixtures to the weekend to better serve the Asian market, credit is due to Barry Hearn for tying the World Snooker Championship to The Crucible until 2027 - when the Sheffield venue will mark 50 years of staging the event.
Hearn knew the decision risked angering Chinese interests, who want the competition moved east, but he was adamant. ‘The World Championship is synonymous with The Crucible. It is where we’ve come from. There’s the history,’ he said.
Meanwhile, football continues to serve its monsters, whose hunger it can never sate. That’s why you can’t get home by train from the FA Cup final, why the World Cup is going to Qatar and why UEFA will not rest until it has corrupted the greatest competition in club football beyond all recognition or reason.
DON'T LET OWNERS ON THE PITCH FOR TROPHY PARADES
It was a strange weekend for trophy presentations. Leicester’s owners got hold of the Premier League silverware and wouldn’t give it back, while Burnley won the Championship and didn’t get a trophy at all. Remember when the captain picked it up and ran it around the pitch with his team-mates, just them? It made one rather nostalgic for simpler times.
Leicester’s owners have been wonderful and nobody begrudges their moment — yet it was poor form that once vice-chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, also known as Top, claimed the trophy on Saturday, he marched it around with his entourage and the players did not see it again. The team, and manager Claudio Ranieri, were instead submerged in a throng of friends and family, invisible to the crowd.
In American sport, the owners are placed centre stage, but not here. The Srivaddhanaprabha family will get enough praise and recognition. It really wasn’t about them.
As for Burnley, the Football League put out a lengthy statement explaining why they will receive their reward at Monday night’s civic parade, rather than at Charlton, where it was won. More fans will see it, they claimed. Yet the fans would see it, just the same, aboard an open-top bus.
Instead, Burnley’s players celebrated in front of those that had made their way to London holding an inflatable replica. The League no doubt also feared that protesting Charlton fans could have spoiled Burnley’s big day. What nonsense. They could done that anyway; with a pin.
Burnley were crowned champions of the Championship but had to celebrate with inflated replica trophies
Mousa Dembele has most certainly not been harshly treated by the FA, having received a six-match ban for attempted eye gouging.
He may be the first to be disciplined for this particular offence, so it was important a stand was made, early.
Anything that is not stopped is encouraged. This is why Marouane Fellaini thinks he can get away with swinging his elbow, and why defenders feel it is perfectly acceptable to wrestle men to the ground in the build up to a corner.
Anyone who considers making contact with an opponent’s eyes will now know the consequence. So they will not do it. Problem solved.