Thursday 26 April 2018

We can run to the title like Forrest Gump - Ranieri

Leicester's Jeffrey Schlupp
Leicester's Jeffrey Schlupp

Simon Hart

Leicester City have the Premier League's two fastest players this season but it was not Jamie Vardy and Jeffrey Schlupp that their manager Claudio Ranieri mentioned when asked whether the surprise leaders could last the distance in the title race.

Instead the Italian, with a twinkle in his eye, invoked Forrest Gump. Tom Hanks' everyman hero in the 1994 Oscar-winning film famously ran across the United States and Ranieri suggested that his Leicester side would "run, run, run" all season long as he cited, as evidence of their staying power, their strong finish last spring when they won seven of nine fixtures to avoid relegation.

When that sequence is added to their results this term, Leicester's record over the last 26 games reads W18 D6 L2, which supports Ranieri's suggestion that his leaders should not run out of steam.

"Look, I am very confident because if Leicester last season saved themselves in the last two months, that means the stamina is fantastic, and why can't we continue to run, run, run?" he asked. "We are like Forrest Gump. Leicester is Forrest Gump. I give you the headline there!"

The description of Gump by director Robert Zemeckis as "a completely decent character (who) makes people laugh" could serve for Ranieri himself, who precedes his press conferences by shaking the hand of every journalist. Yet behind the genial demeanour, the Roman is no wide-eyed innocent.

He has been in a title race right to the last day in Italy, when his Roma side lost out to Internazionale in 2010. "In the last 30 minutes Inter Milan scored a goal and won the scudetto," he remembered.

Leicester's prospects, they are on a run of eight wins in 10 matches before their last two fixtures of 2015 - at Liverpool tomorrow and at home to Manchester City on Tuesday. Five of the last six sides to head the table on Christmas Day won the title, yet in the Premier League era teams sprinkling a bit of romance at this time have felt reality bite in the new year.

In 1992-93, Norwich City led by four points yet finished third. In 1995, Kevin Keegan's Newcastle had a 10-point lead but ended up as runners-up. In 1998, John Gregory's Aston Villa sat top but fell to sixth. On all three occasions Manchester United were champions.

Steve Watson played in both those Newcastle and Villa teams

As for Leicester's prospects of succeeding where his teams failed, Watson, currently coaching at Macclesfield Town, believes they have a fighting chance because there is no team in the league "that scares you the way that United used to when we were at Newcastle".

"There is nobody of that calibre chasing them down and they don't look like stopping. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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