Friday 24 January 2020

Ranieri hails Captain Morgan

Wes Morgan celebrates after heading home the winner for Leicester City against Southampton at the King Power Stadium. Photo: Getty
Wes Morgan celebrates after heading home the winner for Leicester City against Southampton at the King Power Stadium. Photo: Getty

Mark Ogden

Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri revealed captain Wes Morgan overcame a virus in order to lead the Foxes to within 12 points of the Premier League title with the winning goal against Southampton yesterday.

Leicester moved seven points clear of second-placed Tottenham with Morgan securing their fifth 1-0 victory in six games with a first-half header.

The goal was the Jamaica defender’s first of the season and it came after the 32-year-old returned from international duty with a bug, prompting him to claim following the game that he was “quite ill” on Saturday.

Ranieri believes that Morgan’s strength enabled him to overcome his ailments in time for him to carry his team to another crucial victory.

“He had a little cold,” Ranieri said. “He’s strong. The cold passed through him so many times.

“Wes is fantastic. He didn’t have a holiday this season. He had the national team in July and he came back here, so I gave him some days off during the season because he needed them.

“But he came back on Friday. He had a cold, was tired, but he is a strong man and a good example for everybody.

“When he speaks, everyone listens to him. But everybody is a leader in my dressing room. Everybody knows what I want.”

Despite the tension of the title run-in, Ranieri and his Leicester players continue to appear unfazed by the pressure which accompanies the final stage of the campaign.

And the Italian insists that his team can cope with the expectancy because of the “magical” nature of their season.

“I’m very calm,” Ranieri said. “We believe in what we are doing. We believe it’s a magical season.

“We believe next season it will not be the same and so we try to do our best.

“I repeat: if another team is better than us, winning 3-0 or 4-0, we have to fight to win 1-0.

“Today, we have a clean sheet and I’m so happy. The chairman is happy. Tomorrow it will be his birthday and we sang ‘happy birthday’ to him before the match. I asked the players to give him a good present, three points.”

Ranieri continued: “Look, we are very close to achieving the Champions League. That’s it. That’s it.

“Another two or three weeks, we’ll be in the Champions League. Sure.”

Leicester have just about convinced everyone that they can win the Premier League, including those most familiar with these title run-ins.

Sir Alex Ferguson, the former Manchester United manager who devoured 13 league titles in 27 years at Old Trafford, is head lecturer in that department. The Scot reaffirmed his belief this week that Leicester can cap off a season of fantasy football with the most improbable of realities; Morgan hoisting the Premier League trophy aloft.

Southampton, marshalled by the astute Ronald Koeman, were always likely to represent the steepest of hurdles to their grand designs and that ultimately proved to be the case.

It took every ounce of the tireless endeavour which has got Leicester here, to the cusp of football immortality, to see the hosts over the line.

Jamie Vardy stalked José Fonte and Virgil van Dijk until the final blow of Michael Oliver’s whistle. The former Fleetwood striker is merely the poster-boy, however, for the most workmanlike team in the top-flight.

Instead of playing past the visitors, something they are indeed capable of, Leicester made it a battle of wills. They bullied their way to three points, forging a seven-point lead atop of the table based on old-fashioned blood and sweat.

While the six remaining matches of an irrepressible campaign present the real opportunity for tears, it’s Leicester’s to lose now. Ranieri couldn’t ask for more than that.

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