Wednesday 17 January 2018

Highs and lows in a tale of two Cities

Weird wide World of Sport

Dave Devereux

leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri lifts the premier League trophy
leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri lifts the premier League trophy

In the space of 48 hours last week we got to witness the Jekyll and Hyde nature of the Premier League.

Let's begin with the good Dr Jekyll of the piece - none other than newly-crowned champions Leicester City.

To go from chumps to champs with a raggle-taggle assortment of journeymen and bargain basement buys is nothing short of miraculous and has to be the biggest sporting upset since the day Delaney's donkey won the half mile race.

There's no doubting now that they have a sprinkling of top class stars, namely Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy and N'Golo Kante, but only a soothsayer would have put them in that elevated bracket before a ball had been kicked at the start of the season.

This sensational success story was borne chiefly out of team ethic, a willingness to battle hard for the cause, a wonderful camaraderie and an almost child-like enjoyment of the game that they are lucky enough to get paid to play.

The most pleasing aspect of it all is that likeable manager Claudio Ranieri has achieved the unthinkable in a respectful manner, without the histrionics and mind games of last season's top dog Jose Mourinho.

We probably won't see the likes of it again for a long time, if ever, but it's good to know that sometimes the good guy does win.

Now we'll move on to the altogether less pleasant Mr Hyde, the grubby side of a deceptively shiny coin. Manchester City's display against Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final was about as uninspiring and devoid of passion as you can get. To perform in such a toothless fashion in a setting like the Bernabeu in the biggest game in the club's history is simply unforgiveable.

It was almost as if they were content with a 1-0 defeat to the most decorated club in European Cup history - Amir Khan could have put up more of a fight than England's flag bearers in Europe's elite competition.

In fairness the Spanish giants weren't a whole pile better, just doing what they had to do to swat away City's feeble effort, but that makes the Manchester outfit's lack of fight and drive even worse, when you consider Madrid could have been there for the taking.

The frustrating Yaya Toure is the epitome of all that's wrong at City and with modern football in general - a lazy prima donna that picks up a fat pay cheque and seems unwilling to do anything to earn it.

In case I'm accused of singling out Manchester City, it's no different at their local rivals United, or at Chelsea or Arsenal, where over-pampered players only seem to give their all when they feel like it and so-called stars like Memphis Depay, Eden Hazard and Theo Walcott blow as hot and cold as an Irish summer.

I've said it before, and I'm saying it again, announcing that Pep Guardiola would be replacing Manuel Pellegrini in the manner that they did and the timing of it was stupid beyond belief, and few will feel pity for the club now that it has spectacularly backfired.

Guardiola may have a top notch CV, but it will take a miracle of biblical proportions to get City to the top of the European tree - it would be easier to feed the Etihad Stadium faithful with loaves and fishes.

Even if Manchester City miss out on place in the Champions League the prospect of working with the Chosen One Pep will attract big name players to the club, but it will be a more onerous rebuilding job than Gomorrah.

One team that will definitely be pitting their wits against the big boys are Leicester City, and very little will be expected of the Premier League kingpins as they embark on their European odyssey.

I suspect they'll just enjoy the ride and see where it takes them, and as long as they continue to work hard and play with smiles on their faces, the supporters can't ask for more.

Wexford People

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