Friday 23 March 2018

John Giles: Louis van Gaal would have ruined Leicester fairy tale had he been in charge

Read John Giles every Wednesday in The Herald.

THERE’S a great little joke I heard many moons ago which beautifully captures where Leicester City are right now.

The story goes that the chairman of No Hopers United is handing out bonus cheques to the players after a remarkable season which saw them win the league against all the odds.

“Well done lads,” he says. “Now that we’ve won, we can afford to buy much better players.”

It’s the nature of things that Claudio Ranieri’s players will now be coveted by all the clubs who trailed behind Leicester this season and others from further afield.

There will be chairmen who like the look of what Ranieri did and maybe even try to grab him from Leicester. This is football and it will never change no matter how romantic and how fantastic this title win is.

It is flattery of a sort but will be very unwelcome for Leicester fans who are currently walking on air and will believe that anything is possible for the future.

I don’t like to be a wet blanket because this is a truly magical event in our lives. It hasn’t happened in over 100 years and I suspect it won’t happen again for another century or more.


But money always talks and I know that if I was a manager with resources at my command this summer, I would be looking hard at almost every one of the Leicester players who performed so brilliantly and so consistently all season.

Leicester fans will feel optimism in this area for one good reason. Jamie Vardy signed a new deal before Christmas just after he set the new consecutive goal scoring record against Manchester United.

Vardy had it within his power to destroy everything Nigel Pearson and then Ranieri had developed.

Had he behaved like Raheem Sterling did at Anfield last season, I very much doubt we would be celebrating Leicester’s glorious win today.

But Vardy was fully invested in the Leicester project and quickly ended all chat by signing a new deal. That would have had a big and very positive impact in the dressing room.

We know that there was already a group of players working very well together but the sight of the biggest name in the team committing himself to the long haul was very important. It was a lift for the whole club.

So too, of course, was Claudio Ranieri’s crafty management. He had the wisdom to recognise what he had when he arrived and the intelligence to handle the players he found with kid gloves.

I don’t subscribe to the view that Ranieri is some sort of kindly grandfather figure who has somehow bumbled his way through the season and won a title by doing very little. There is much more to him than that

Put it this way, if Louis van Gaal had been hired by Leicester, do you think they would have won the title? I don’t.

Van Gaal would have tried to impose his way and ruined the whole thing.

Pearson created a very firm foundation and my sympathy goes to him on this great day for Leicester. What people forget is that Leicester were doing what they did all season this time last year and that Pearson was sacked for reasons which had nothing to do with football.

It is very sad indeed that no other club appears to be willing to take Pearson on. He is clearly talented even if he may lack some refinement in the area of media management.

Ranieri’s biggest job in the season was a psychological one and he handled it beautifully.

He constantly tried to take pressure off his players. He never gave in to his ego and made rash claims.

I read a piece this week about how wonderful it was to have a season stripped of most of the vulgar and bullying language we’ve heard in the past which comes under the headline “mind games”.

Just one of the many things Ranieri has proved this season is that you don’t have to shout to win a title. You don’t have to intimidate match officials or turn our game into a Punch and Judy show.

I was disappointed in the way Spurs imploded at Stamford Bridge. They lost their discipline completely and the responsibility for that must sit on Maurico Pochettino’s shoulders.

It will be a big lesson for him.

Like Leicester, Spurs will come under ferocious pressure to sell some of their best players and I will watch Daniel Levy with great interest this summer.


If he has really learned his lesson, he will sit down with his manager and ask him which players he wants and if he does that, Spurs will have a great chance next season.

I know that several clubs, including perhaps Manchester United, have been looking at Pochettino and how he has transformed into a title-challenging team.

There will be huge offers for Harry Kane and probably for Dele Alli but the biggest threat to Spurs new found confidence and self-belief would be if someone wants to poach Pochettino and won’t take no for an answer.

After all, Leicester have done it so even Spurs supporters must feel that their long days in the wilderness are nearly over.

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