Leicestshire was never my favourite part of the world. I spent 9 months at graduate school in Loughborough and didn't like the beer glasses without handles that I had enjoyed up north. However, one of my room mates from Preston was an amateur opera singer, and when we toured the countryside with the only mate who owned a car, we would go to the local village pub, and after Tom had stood up and belted out Nessun Dorma (none shall sleep) by Giacomo Puccini, the whole pub errupted and free drinks were supplied... until we went looking for another pub.
A popular Roman, Claudio Raneiri, is managing his 16th team after gigs all over Italy, plus Spain, Monaco, England and a disasterous four months in charge of Greece. He landed in this medium sized East Midlands city i August. Famous sons include footballers Gary Lineker and Peter Shilton, naturalist David Attenborough, but my favourite has to be Thomas Cook, who on 5th July 1841 pioneered the first ever Cook's rail tour at one shilling a head from Leicester to Loughborough and back. 12 miles away . 500 people stood in open carriages of The Midland Railway to a temperance meeting....and THE REST IS HISTORY.
Almost relegated last season and 5,000 to 1 to win the Barclays Premier League this season, the Foxes find themselves 5 points clear at the very top, with 13 matches left in the season. Their Thai owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha requested 24 points by Christmas and instead got 38. Nobody at the King Power stadium is chanting the owner's name (for obvious reasons) but Ranieri and his players are crowd favourites in banners, songs and chants.
At the back Kasper Schmeichel modells himself on his Danish dad, Old Trafford legend Peter, closing down attacks with his wide spread legs and arms. German defender import Robert Huth, a Berliner, played for Stoke City for a few seasons and had a serious injury before joining the Foxes. N'Golo Kante is a Parisien who spent time with Boulogne and Caen and has been very impressive in midfield, Up front Riyad Mahrez, another Parisien with Moroccan and Algerian parents, played for Quimper and Le Havre, Frances oldest club, and has linked up with English sensation Jamie Vardy.plucked from the lower leagues at Halifax and Fleetwood. Terrific team spirit and very few changes by the Tinkerman has given the squad stability.
Most neutrals are hoping they can stay the course and after the impressive win over Manchester City at The Etihad therir next task is to beat another title contender Arsenal.
Very interesting to see the mass walk out of 10,000 Liverpool fans at Anfield in the 77th minute, at a time they were winning comfortably 2-0. It finished 2-2 with manager Jurgen Klopp in a hospital bed for an emergency appendix operation. LESSONS HAVE SURELY BEEN LEARNED..MAYBE ! From next season The Premier League will receive £ 8 BILLION income from television and don't need to up prices. £77 is going to be the top price in the Reds new main stand when complete in time for the start of next season.
Liverpool is a working class city, not London. I am often asked by foreign fans to try and obtain a few match tickets for their flying visits and I am not successful. Capacity is limited although foreigners would be happy to pay £77 or even £100 for a seat anywhere. I call the box office and the only available seats are about £250.00 a head with a pre match meal and an official programme in the various suites, such as The Boot Room. Today Manchester United nervously announced no change in prices for next season. The Boston based LFC owners even called the fans customers instead of fans. An emergency meeting of management and owners is planned this week to have a rethink.
The problem for Old Trafford fans, who travel from far and wide, is that they are charged for domestic cup ties and Europa League mid week matches which are difficult to make if they work in Scandinavia, Spain or Ireland. More walk outs this weekend are planned around the league. This is the last season it will be branded The Barclays Premier League. No title sponsor, but six major 'partners' and a new Lion logo has been introduced.
WITHOUT FANS THERE IS NO FOOTBALL !!