Golden rules that made Foxes best
STABILITY MORE VITAL THAN CASH
LEICESTER may not have won the Championship yet. With promotion secured, they might not win it at all. This week’s 4-1 defeat at home to Brighton had ‘on the beach’ stamped all over it.
But whether they lay their hands on the trophy or not, the Foxes have been the best side in the division by a mile.
It’s tempting to say they left their rivals for dead but, in truth, they didn’t have any rivals. It’s been a procession, an object lesson in dominance.
So what can next season’s aspiring title-chasers learn from Leicester? Here are five lessons anyone with their eyes on the Premier League should heed:
1. STABILITY BEATS MEGABUCKS
OK, so Leicester aren’t exactly paupers. Nor were Cardiff when they went up last year, nor QPR the season before that.
Yet nor were any of them blessed with £60-odd million in parachute payments like, say, Reading, Bolton or Blackburn.
That’s not to say parachute money won’t skew the competition long-term, nor cut smaller teams adrift. But it does suggest that, for now at least, the cash bestowed on sides who come down is no substitute for a settled Championship side who’ve been together for years.
2. DON’T RUSH TO JUDGEMENT
– “For me, he runs about a lot but lacks the strength, confidence and ability to lead the line for a top-half Championship side. I sincerely hope the rumours are true and we get rid.”
– “He’s not a terrible player, but he’s short of the quality we need to be a top side. He looks to be playing a level too high.”
– “He’s that far out of his depth he’s just bought a diving bell. At £1m he was ridiculously overpriced.”
This is just a selection of comments plucked from Leicester’s message board in response to Jamie Vardy’s tricky first season following a £1m move from Fleetwood.
A year on, he has scored 15 goals, assisted in five and won more penalties than any other player in the division. Which just goes to show that a lack of confidence should never be confused with a lack of talent.
3. A MANAGER SHOULD SIT IN THE STAND
Radical eh? Well, no, actually. Back in the day, everyone realised the view from the dugout was poor.
Which is exactly what dawned on Pearson when he was given a one-game ban in August and subsequently spent the rest of the season in the stand.
Ask anyone who sits in Row A on a Saturday afternoon and they’ll tell you that the match day experience is akin to watching traffic from the hard shoulder.You can’t see anything in the way of shape or tactics.
It’s why the likes of Matt Busby, Bertie Mee, Ron Atkinson and Walter Smith all spent match days up a height, and won silverware to boot.
But for some reason, it has become the accepted norm that players ‘need’ a manager on the touchline. Someone to wave their arms and play to the cameras or, if you’d prefer a cliché, provide ‘inspiration’ and ‘encouragement’.
“I think the reason that more managers don’t sit in the stand in this country is that there seems to be this obsession, with fans and media alike, that if you’re English you need to show passion on the touchline,” said Pearson.
The Leicester boss realised all of that macho posturing is just a distraction from a manager’s real job – to strategise and react to patterns of play. Twenty-odd games unbeaten suggest more should follow his example.
4.TIGHT IS RIGHT
At least when it comes to your squad. Only three teams have used fewer players than Leicester’s 28 this year – and one of those are Burnley, who are also likely to go up.
Partly this is a matter of preference. Pearson has said on many occasions that he hates working with a squad of 20-plus. He’d much rather risk injury and player shortage than dressing room disharmony.
Of course, it helps when your squad is strong; not many Championship sides can afford to sit a £2m striker on the bench, as the Foxes so often have with Chris Wood.
And for those who scratch a living in the Championship’s foothills, it’s a financial stretch to rustle up 18 players of any variety.
But for managers with the cash to launch a promotion bid, the moral of the story is as old as the hills: go for quality, not quantity.
5. PACE IS EVERYTHING
Pick a Leicester player. No, not Wes Morgan. Anyone else. Guess what? They are lightning quick.
Jamie Vardy, David Nugent, Anthony Knockaert, Lloyd Dyer, Danny Drinkwater, Ritchie De Laet – at times this season the Foxes have looked more like sprinting club than a football team.
In the Premier League, pace alone is not enough. In the Championship, it will overwhelm anybody. It is why the Foxes are going up while QPR and their old codgers are resigned to the play-offs.
PACE: Jamie Vardy and David Nugent RONNIE Moore
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