Leicester City's slump spells trouble for Claudio Ranieri, but will club's owner prove they are a cut above the rest?

Ranieri knows all too well that winning the title last season will not save him from the sack if Leicester do not start winning matches in the Premier League

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Claudio Ranieri has been around the block enough times as a manager to know that past performance is more comfort blanket than bullet-proof vest when it comes to job security.

The Leicester City manager is currently in his sixteenth managerial position since starting out with the Italian amateurs, Vigor Lamezia, in 1986 and the majority of his jobs have ended with the sack.

Chelsea, Valencia, Parma, Roma, Juventus, Inter Milan and Greece all dispensed with Ranieri following a run of poor results and he only saved himself from the sack at Atletico Madrid in 2000 by resigning before notorious owner Jesus Gil pulled the rug from beneath him.

Fortunately for the Italian, who celebrates his 65th birthday on Thursday, Leicester’s Thai owners felt so indebted to him for guiding the club to the Premier League title last season that they signed off a new four-year contract in August, tying Ranieri to the King Power Stadium until 2020.

Will Ranieri still be in charge at Leicester in June 2020? Probably not, judging by the impatience of modern-day football club owners.

But for Leicester’s impressive start to life in the Champions League – victory at home to FC Copenhagen on Tuesday will leave them just one point from securing a place in the knock-out stages – Ranieri would probably already be bracing himself for a knock on the door due to a series of heavy defeats in the Premier League which have left the reigning champions languishing in 13th position, a point ahead of promoted Burnley.

The good news for Ranieri is that Leicester’s owners have been a breath of fresh air in English football since buying out Milan Mandaric to take control of the club in August 2010.

Since appointing Sven-Goran Eriksson as manager in October 2010, owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha has been a model of restraint, standing by Eriksson’s successor, Nigel Pearson, for three-and-a-half years before turning to Ranieri in the summer of 2015.

Yet success can affect owners just as much as failure and Ranieri made himself vulnerable the moment his Leicester team crossed the line in the title race last season, even he insisted on Saturday that he is “not worried” about his job and that “work, work, work” is the solution.

 


Once an owner has tasted champagne, they tend to want more, but it has been back to flat beer with heavy defeats at Liverpool (4-1), Manchester United (4-1) and the 3-0 defeat at Chelsea at the weekend.

It gets to them all in the end. Jack Walker sacked manager after manager at Blackburn as a result of their failure to replicate Kenny Dalglish’s success at Ewood Park, while Roman Abramovich has taken it to another level at Chelsea – Carlo Ancelotti was sacked less than a year after winning the double while Roberto di Matteo went six months after winning the Champions League.

So will Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha be any different? Will last season’s remarkable success insulate Ranieri from the fate so many have suffered elsewhere?

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Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha (centre) will have to prove if he is different to the rest of the Premier League's managers (Getty)

That is a question yet to be answered, but having won the hearts of the Leicester public during his six years in charge, Srivaddhanaprabha now has the opportunity to prove he is different from the rest by allowing Ranieri and his team the time to rediscover last season’s magic formula.

The problem, however, is that Srivaddhanaprabha has done little to dispel the perception that he quite enjoys the reflected glow of success on the pitch.

Would a wise owner really have allowed his image to be the centre-piece of the front page of the match programme for last month’s Champions League fixture at home to FC Porto, as Srivaddhanaprabha was?

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Ranieri has shown a preference for the Champions League this season (Getty)

Having seemingly claimed the Premier League trophy as his own, with Srivaddhanaprabha and his son, Leicester vice-chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, hogging the silverware on the pitch following the presentation last season, will the recent run of Premier League horror shows have been received with an acceptance that it was always going to be so much harder this season?

Ranieri’s lukewarm reaction to Srivaddhanaprabha giving each of the title-winning squad a blue £100,000 BMW sports car at the start of the season, as a reward for the Premier League triumph, hinted at the Italian’s realisation that he and his team would have to keep delivering this term to enable the owner to continue to enjoy the spotlight.

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Srivaddhanaprabha rewarded the Leicester squad with a fleet of BMW i8s (Getty)

But having invested close to £80m in his squad since the end of last season, including the club record £29.7m spent on Sporting Lisbon forward Islam Slimani, Ranieri has struggled to offer an indication that last year’s miracle could be repeated.

Leicester can no longer defend properly, Riyad Mahrez only performs under the bright lights of the Champions League, Jamie Vardy’s hot-streak has cooled and the owner’s helicopter is no longer flying on cloud nine.

Ranieri knows the road ahead, though. That is why he will now be looking over his shoulder.

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Ranieri cannot afford to rest on last season's success (Getty)

Webb reveals referees aren’t robots after all

The serialisation of Howard Webb’s autobiography, The Man in the Middle, will doubtless have many bemoaning the World Cup final referee’s lack of discretion in lifting the lid on the behaviour of players, managers and fellow officials, but the truth is that he has probably done every referee in the country a huge favour by proving they are human, just like the rest of us.

Webb’s revelation of a north-south divide, with many southern-based referees forming Graham Poll’s ‘Red Wine Club’ and the northern element siding with Jeff Winter, tells us that, thankfully, referees are not the robots many perceive them to be.

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Howard Webb has revealed the hidden side of being a Premier League referee (Getty)

It’s just a pity that none of them feel bold enough to show off their personality by speaking during their careers, with explanations offered for decisions on the pitch.

But then maybe they have a personality cloakroom in referee world and can only collect theirs when the final whistle has blown.

McNamara lands on his feet after York sacking

It is good to see Jackie McNamara back in football again, so soon after the Scot resigned from his position as manager at York City in the wake of a 6-1 humiliation against Guiseley.

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Jackie McNamara resigned as York City manager to become chief executive at the club (Getty)

Having suffered relegation from the Football League last season, McNamara was always on a hiding to nothing at Bootham Crescent, so to be out of work for less than a week is some achievement.

His new job? Oh, he is now chief executive. Of York City.

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