Peter Corrigan: Roman, Sven and the grand martyr of Chelski

Sympathy for Claudio Ranieri is becoming difficult to sustain. The "dead man walking" manager of Chelsea is ascending to such a peak of national adoration that you have to start envying him the power he has gained from his masterly refusal to be humiliated by the feudal lord of his manor.

Sympathy for Claudio Ranieri is becoming difficult to sustain. The "dead man walking" manager of Chelsea is ascending to such a peak of national adoration that you have to start envying him the power he has gained from his masterly refusal to be humiliated by the feudal lord of his manor.

If yesterday's reports that his departure from Stamford Bridge is imminent and that Sven Goran Eriksson is to be his usurper are true, his martyrdom will be complete and his stock will rise even higher. Judging by the delighted uproar in my pub on Wednesday night when Eidur Gudjohnsen scored the splendid opening goal in Chelsea's Champions' League quarter-final against Arsenal, Ranieri's grip on the affections of a wide range of the football public is astounding.

This, by the way, is a large Welsh pub where outward support for Chelsea would normally be regarded as an eccentricity. Football fans are not renowned for their patience and forbearance when it comes to their own teams; any malfunctioning by other clubs is usually a matter for great rejoicing. But such is the feeling of popular support roused by Ranieri's situation he could be the man we've been waiting for to lead a peasants' revolt. How other managers must long to be in the position he now occupies. Not because of the size of the club or of his wages but because he can do no wrong or, more importantly, have any more wrong done to him.

It may be a fleeting walk through a managerial dreamland but it is one few can ever take. Anything his team achieve is a credit to him, any failing can be blamed on the intolerable betrayal to which he has been subjected. Suddenly, any weaknesses he has as a manager - his tinkering, his defensive nature - are much less of a consideration than the awful way he has been treated while he attempts to juggle with a squad of highly expensive and disparate talents that arrived by the train-load at someone else's summons.

He is in a uniquely privileged position at a time in the season when nearly every manager at every level of the game is hounded by the pressures of the chase for the top or the scramble to avoid the bottom. He claims still to be under pressure but the body language tells a different tale. Interviews with leading managers at this stage are usually not worth the effort. So fettered by the need not to sound too confident or too pessimistic, they are hardly worth the hearing.

Ranieri, on the other hand, offers a riveting contrast to his tight-lipped rivals. He dips into a glossary of fractured phrases that is a joy to hear. So fresh, so honest and so innocently arch... he bares his soul and we love him for the courage with which he faces his doom. The fact that awaiting him on the scaffold is not a noose but a compensatory pay-off of several million pounds and a string of offers from clubs, who are bursting to give him the chance to get his own back, has not yet sunk in to his army of well-wishers.

While Ranieri has been making this grand advance in the esteem of so many, Roman Abramovich, his patron turned persecutor, has suffered a move in the opposite direction. British football has never seen his like before and you can't measure the value of the intrigue he has brought to our game since he took over Chelsea with his unlimited finances.

Yet his image is not of a creator but that of a rich boy blundering around the sweet shop, stuffing his pockets with lollipops and bon-bons and throwing a tantrum because he can't suck them all at the same time. Had his advisers had any nous, Abramovich would have given Ranieri his support until the end of the season. To feed the Press so blatantly with the news that the Italian was living on borrowed time so close to their Champions' League game against Arsenal was a PR disaster.

Abramovich seems to have the patience of a puppy, which is an unfortunate image particularly when other financial adventurers are laying siege to various clubs - including the former Chelsea owner Ken Bates who is at loose with some of the Russian's money and intent on buying Sheffield Wednesday. There's not much activity in football at the moment that gives cause for comfort. Supermarket firms might be getting excited but the rest of us won't be.

All in all, the Football Association are presiding over a football scene that is so far out of control it is frightening.

Sticky wicket

Watching our fast bowlers tearing the West Indian batting to shreds over the past couple of weeks would have led to many a frenzied dance of triumph on the hearth-rugs back home. It's odd that not only have we softened our attitude to over-exuberant celebrations of goals, tries or wickets on the pitch but many of us have become prone to a bit of sky-punching ourselves, even in the privacy of our own houses. But our tolerance was stretched beyond the new limits when Welsh firebrand Simon Jones performed his ugly triumphalist jigs around Ramnaresh Sarwan, his third victim of five in the Second Test in Trinidad. No one who has followed Jones's long road back from devastating injury would begrudge his passionate reaction to his success but this was way over the top.

The cricket world doesn't seem too bothered. He was fined half his match fee, about £2,750, for bringing the game into disrepute, but that is at the lower end of the punishment scale. Jones himself says that "in your face" hostility is part and parcel of a fast bowler's armoury. This we can accept. The mano-a-mano confrontation between bowler and batsman is one of sport's most compelling sights and the intimidatory waves flowing up and down the pitch are part of the fascination. But once the batsman is out, any further display of hatred is not a ploy; it is an insult to a victim no longer able to hit back and brings the game and the perpetrator into disrepute.

Even in Wales, it did not impress. My theory is that he was merely showing the traditional Welsh reaction to an opponent wearing a white shirt. Since we don't play England at cricket - we play for them when they see fit - this outlet is denied our cricketers. But the excuse won't wash.

The big sleep

Romania protested to the International Rugby Board after their players were apparently drugged before their 33-24 defeat by Russia in a European Nations' Championship match in Krasnodar last weekend.

Players and officials were nodding off before the game, which they were expected to win, and were struggling to stay awake during play. Samples taken from 12 Romanians revealed traces of phenothiazine, which is a soporific. They suspect the substance was added to the breakfast, but the IRB are unlikely to be able to help. There's no proof that the drug was deliberately administered or that the Russians did it.

Now we know why so many teams take their own food, and cooks, away with them. There's a long history of unscrupulous hosts making life, and sleep, difficult for visiting opponents in international matches but this is a new development - at least we think so.

The one consolation is that if the kick-off times get any later, there won't be any need for illicit sleeping pills.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam