Patrick Collins, the President of the SJA, has acclaimed the Premier League title-winning feats of Leicester City under manager Claudio Ranieri as restoring people’s faith in the joy of sport, and of football. Ranieri, Collins wrote, “has reminded us that sport is about celebration rather than conflict”.
Back writing in the sports pages of the Mail on Sunday which his columns adorned for decades until his retirement last year, Collins described Leicester as “glorious interlopers” who had the nation sharing “those gleeful smiles and joyous tears”.
“In the space of a season, Leicester had restored our faith, deflated our cynicism and reminded us of why, long ago, we fell in love with this beguiling game.
“The whole operation seemed blissfully simple, a beautiful conspiracy of strength and guile and shrewdly applied pace. And the more they prospered, the more loveable they became, taking their tone from that gloriously eccentric manager.
“Claudio Ranieri played it impeccably. Through his tactics, his strategies and his handling of disparate talents, along with his unfailing humour and unforced humility, he conducted an extended managerial masterclass. He radiated decency.
“He never blustered, never boasted, never whined about the misdeeds of opponents, the deficiencies of his players or the shortcomings of referees. In truth, he was a world away from the stereotypical manager… Week after week, Ranieri insisted that the title was destined for the big battalions, that Leicester were simply a sideshow. And all the time, he knew that something unprecedented was taking shape in the East Midlands.”
And Collins used his column to evaluate Leicester’s achievements alongside the great deeds of sporting history. “Trawling through almost half a century of sport-watching, I uncovered just three valid competitors,” Collins wrote, drawing comparison with Botham’s Ashes of 1981, Boris Becker’s emergence from tennis anonymity when he seized the Wimbledon singles title in 1985 when just 17 years old, and he identified Pep Guardiola and his management of the Barcelona side which he described as posessing “craft and flair and breathtaking beauty”.
“Guardiola left a glittering legacy, and modern football is deeply in his debt,” Collins wrote, observing that, of course, Guardiola will be seeking to dethrone Ranieri and Leicester when in charge of Manchester City next season.
And that can hardly hold as many surprises and delights as Leicester’s 2015-1016 title-winning season.
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