Why the fear of relegation is worse than relegation itself for Leicester City and Claudio Ranieriby Andy Dillon / 30 December 2016, 12:01Tweet
The fear of relegation is worse than relegation itself as Leicester City boss Claudio Ranieri takes a battering for putting adventure top of his wish list, writes Andy Dillon (@andydillon70).
CLAUDIO RANIERI is finding out what it was like being George Best.
The late Manchester United great recalled how a waiter once asked him ‘where did it all go wrong? After seeing him frolicking with Miss World on a hotel bed covered in bank notes.
There are many in Leicester who would happily take winning the Premier League and reaching the last 16 of the Champions League over a steamy liaison with a beauty queen.
Yet not so many who look in from the outside, not those who have lost all sense of romance and those who are too frightened of the Premier League monolith to withhold any notion of bravery or adventure in football anymore.
Leicester manager Ranieri’s team sits three points and two positions above the relegation zone as we approach the halfway point of the season.
In any normal year that would be cause for concern. But these are extraordinary times in the East Midlands city, home of the English champions.
As we stand poised to embrace 2017, the fear of relegation, dropping out of the elite 20 clubs in the land has become the monster hiding in the dark.
Stunned the world and won the title? So what. Make sure you stay up the following season. Shocked everyone and provided drama and entertainment, winning your Champions League group? Who cares? Stay up, stay up, stay up.
The uber-hyped promised land of the Premier League is now so pumped up and overblown that relegation is portrayed as a the end of life for a club should it fall through the trapdoor.
Yet the fear of relegation is worse than relegation itself.
If Leicester go down, those supporters worthy of the name will still go along to matches.
Next season might be arduous, eight more league games and the punishing Saturday-Tuesday grind which can drag a squad down.
But take a realistic view City fans. Would you really give back the title and a shot at European glory just to remain in the top flight?
If anyone has answered yes then you really shouldn’t be watching football. Watch something more pragmatic and devoid of entertainment - F1 maybe?
Look at Newcastle United. There were fears of famine, plague and pestilence last season as one of this country’s biggest clubs fell away in a midst of despair and hand-wringing.
Now look at them. On course for an instant return if not as winners of the Championship then pretty close to it.
Even Aston Villa, a shambles last season, are on the fringes of the play offs even before the nerve-jangling run in to the season when the bigger clubs with better players hold a big advantage over the others.
City would be one of those bigger clubs and from personal experience having seen my team relegated in recent years, the journey through the Championship can be fun.
And the overriding optimism and buoyancy upon re-entering the Premier League instantly eradicates the disappointment of relegation.
Anyone who can keep football in its proper perspective gets down with the drop but is quickly back up again and the same should go for any club anywhere.
Leicester haven’t gone ‘wrong’ - what Ranieri has done is prioritise the Champions League and the thrills and glamour of competing in the biggest club competition in the world.
If the price of that ticket is relegation then you’d be a fool not to pay it.