As is often my want in the morning, I like to trawl through the latest news either from the radio or on the Internet, where one of the sites I usually go to is that of the BBC. To my surprise (or maybe it shouldn’t be) its main headline today is “Claudio Ranieri: Leicester boss may not watch crucial Chelsea-Tottenham game”. The reason for his not watching is Claudio has gone back to Italy so he can have lunch with his 96 year old mother (rightly so imho) rather than watch a game that may decide his team’s fate.
It got me thinking about the current state of play in the fight for the Premiership (football) crown. The position as of right now is – Spurs have to win all three of their remaining matches and Leicester, the club Claudio manages, has to lose its remaining two – a highly unlikely scenario, but as they say it is not all over until the fat lady sings! There are sideshows of course as there generally are for, as my Arsenal supporting friend recently reminded me, Arsenal are only just behind second place Spurs in the table and it was his hope that they will end up ahead of their North London rivals in the table, just as they have done for the past so many years.
A few weeks ago I was sharing in the exuberation of Leicester born football pundit, Gary Linekar, that Leicester will soon achieve what seemed to be highly unlikely at the start of the season – to win the Premiership crown. I must admit this appealed to my romantic streak and the mindset many share of wanting the underdog to come out on top and fairy tale finishes. It also challenges the notion that it is the God given right of rich, big-spending, popular and powerful clubs, like Manchester United and Chelsea, to be champions.
I was, however, brought down to earth a couple of weeks ago reading a report of the latest Leicester game, the one in which its star striker was sent off. I recall seeing a pretty poignant picture of him aggressively and defiantly eyeballing the hapless referee and thinking if it were me he would get a long ban and a serious fine. But then a week later I read about further football shenanigans, this time by a Spurs player, which reminded me that unsporting, disrespectful behavior is rife in our beautiful game and while I would like to be a big fan of top flight football I am not. While I like the idea of following the best playing the best to the best of their abilities and having a team to support, in the light of over commercialism and bad player attitudes that some say have got worse in recent years, I still much prefer grass roots football if played in the right spirit.
The idea of Spurs versus Leicester got my mind casting back to when I was a boy. Like most of my peers, I enjoyed playing football and following games at all levels. While never that good I played the game for hours in my local park with my friends. The team I supported in the 1960-61 season was Spurs and they were arguably the best in the land. I can still name most of that side, compared with these days when I can name very few. As football buffs know it was the season when Spurs won the double and the team they played in the FA cup final was Leicester. I also recall being punished for the fight I had in the school playground with my friend, who was a Leicester supporter, concerning the outcome. Later when I studied at London University I occasionally watched Spurs play at home and despite my ambivalence to premiership football, I still follow their fortunes, along with other London favourite, West Ham United.
Having reflected on all this, something within me still is rooting for Spurs to do the impossible and win the premiership. We will know by the end of the day if that dream is still alive or if Leicester can finish their fantastic season by being crowned champions. I find myself these days mixing with a motley mixture of community activists, goody-goody Christians and street homeless and it is often the case that the happenings in the football league are talking points among us, for example can West Ham finish above Man U and thus qualify for Europe? As for my own favourite from when I was a boy, my local team Southend United, despite tantalizingly coming close to vying for promotion they look now set to finish mid table.
With so much going on around about us that is of a serious and often stressful nature, it is good to have outlets like following the fortunes of our favoured football clubs (although some will argue this is just as serious and stressful). I for one will be looking out for the result of tonight’s Spurs game despite my reservations. But if there is to be a choice of a distraction for later today, it has to be the World Snooker final, which is shaping up to be a cracker!
Postscript: sooner rather than later … Spurs could only draw against Chelsea in last nights match (sadly with footballing shenanigans taboot) meaning Leicester are now the Premiership champions. Helped by the Jester from Leicester (Mark Selby) who managed to overcome a brilliant Ding Junhui in last night’s exciting world championship snooker final, it is a Leicester double – it must be a good feeling for Leicester folk waking up this morning!