Leicester’s Rise and Fall

Even 5 years ago, if you had mentioned Leicester as a club in serious contention for the Premier League title, you would have been laughed out of the pub in disgrace. Yet, here we are. They won the title last year, thanks in no small part to Claudio Ranieri’s management, and some spectacular playing from Silva and the rest of the squad.

I’m a Manchester City fan, as anyone following this site well knows. But as an outside observer, I’ve been rooting for Leicester all season. Sometimes, I think it’s important for us to remember that half of watching football is just about having fun. They’ve been an underdog squad, who’s played well and with a fiery spirit, come out on top last season, and that’s all I really need to be on their side. Frankly, they’ve been more interesting to watch than City for most of the year.


So, I found it really disheartening that less than a year after he somehow turned Leicester into a winning squad, Ranieri got the sack after one key loss this year. It’s also frankly sad that the squad, the players, and even the club owners didn’t have the backbone to express any of it publicly or directly before the man was already out the door. That’s got more to do why a lot of fans are angry, more than the business of getting Ranieri out in the first place. There’s a great column in the Guardian talking about how the money gum has made everything so risky that clubs are making rash decisions like this more and more often.




There’s an interesting column in FiveThirtyEight which essentially proves that statistically, managers don’t have much of an effect on teams. It’s mainly about money, which I suppose anyone could tell you. But the point is that on average managers leave league teams after a year or less, which is an insanely short amount of time compared to coaches in other sports. One season is realistically not enough to make a significant difference in a team dynamic or in the club’s strategy. I think it’s why so many clubs are so static year to year–they don’t change anything structural, just the person at the top. The column argues that the results this season, with some missed opportunities and general bad luck were exactly that, and that the general trend of the up-and-coming squad, like focusing on recruitment, analytics, and new techniques on the field, were mostly there before Ranieri and will be there now that he’s gone.

It’s a hard one to argue because according to that logic, the team won’t be any worse off after Ranieri’s gone, but this logic that firing is the answer to every problem is really tedious and I find it’s just a cheap distraction from the real dynamics that matter in a club’s corporate strategy and long game.


My point is that football becomes a lot less fun to watch and get involved in when these sort of back-room corporate deals take precedence over the spirit and camaraderie that drew us all in in the first place. Thoughts?


Match Fit: from your living room, or why I watch matches on the treadmill now

Today’s Pitch Talk hot topic: home fitness gear!


Alright, mates? Glad you’ve joined for another Pitch Talk blog! Today, we’re looking at home fitness equipment. I know what you’re thinking–we watch football because we never had it in us to do it ourselves. We watch it now, and maybe play at the weekend on the amateur circuit round the village green, but we wouldn’t dream of being any good at it. Well, this blog is my collective plea to all of us to get up and do something productive with our football obsession instead of letting it become a proxy thing.


The American comedian Bill Maher had an editorial a few years ago where he talked about how middle-aged men who watch sport have outsourced their masculinity. It’s the same thing Dylan Moran talks about with Jason Statham movies. We want to have fit, fast action heroes doing all the things we can’t do ourselves. It’s sad, really, when you think about it.


You can see it in sport culture, even though fewer of us are actually good at sport. We all wear leisurewear, tracksuits, and soccer trainers everywhere, but all the Premier League teams are full of foreigners, because lads in the UK seem perfectly content to go have a kick-round at the weekend and then pack in in.


Watching football as you get older and fatter, it becomes less fulfilling, knowing you’re sat round with a beer while you steadily realize your best days are gone, Well, this is a plea to get out of that mentality and make a change.

Are you ever going to make the Premier League? No, of course not. But you may as well be good at the amateur leagues at the weekend and show up with somewhat less of a gut.


It’s an odd thing that the more we idolize our heroes in some parts of life, like style or the way they talk, the more we try to emulate them. If you’re from my generation, you probably have more than a few parkas and harrington’s from Pretty Green, and you try your best Liam Gallagher swagger with your mates down the pub. Funny that none of us try to take a page out of the books of our football heroes, though, innit?


So, what I’m saying is, it’s all well and good to watch football, and be loyal to your team, and have fun with your mates when you’re doing it, but shouldn’t we all pick up on what we’re seeing on the screen and stop letting ourselves go a bit? Our wives would thank us, surely.


Here’s my suggestion: what we have to do is recapture that feeling of our youth, where you would watch a movie on telly, then go out and try it down the green. Practice and ignore that you’re running out of breath. Stop giving into the the adult urge to just pack it in and give up.


You don’t even have to make any extra time, if you just repurpose the time you already spend watching matches. Sure, go down the pub at the weekend, but for the weekday matches where you’re home anyway, watch the match on a treadmill e.g. find top rated treadmills on homefitnessintel.com, or an exercise bike. You’re in one place anyway, probably having beer and crisps, but you may as well make it productive. Just in the time it takes for an average match, you can make up for years of lost time fitness-wise. Cardio machines are super inexpensive these days, and rowing, cycling and running are all easy to do while you watch. You might even fit into that Fred Perry polo without your gut poking out!

You stay more alert anyway, if you’re excuse for not doing cardio during matches is that you’ll get distracted. Please, tell me you don’t drift off at least once around the halfway mark. I found that it’s also perfect for Cup seasons where you know you’re going to be watching matches anyway. It’s the ideal way for those of us who hate gyms to have a fitness routine that actually works, and isn’t a load of bother.


Then you won’t feel like such rubbish when you watch Griezmann running about making amazing plays when you can barely get up off the settee without  huffing and puffing, three bags of crisps into the evening. You sad sod, get up and do something!


Again, Home Fitness Intel is the site to be, where you can find not just information on exercise bikes and treadmills — you’ll also find the best elliptical machine reviews!

How great footballers train

Another fitness inspiration post for you all today!


If you read this site regularly, you’ll probably have noticed I’ve been writing a lot about fitness and football recently. That’s because I’m on a bit of a workout bender myself, and I think it’s something that’s exciting to learn about even if you’re permanently consigned to being an amateur goalie like me.


Something that’s been really cool for me to read about is the kind of training younger players are doing these days, which is miles beyond what I was doing in 6th form. According to a Guardian piece I read the other day, one benchmark that’s set in Dutch football academies is that players should make contact with a ball at least 10,000 times a day. That’s insane! They work on endless repetitions of the same movement patterns, instead of just working out, which is what we used to do.

It definitely makes sense that these new training techniques make better players. I think a lot of us went through until college working as hard as anyone else but without the coordination or finesse that you actually needed to be good at the game. A lot of people who study things like different training techniques between England and Europe say that it’s probably conservative to get to 10,000 contacts a day, and that the way we plan our practices and training sessions around coaching isn’t really the point. It’s all about repetition, so it doesn’t really matter if a coach is there at all, since muscle memory is all internal. The great players are great because they have muscle memory that’s so fast that it’s the same thing to make a pass as it is to shift slightly to one side to avoid bumping shoulders on the tube. It’s all second nature to them.


Anyway, I know me and most of you are all past the days when we’re going to make 10,000 contacts in a day. But, I’m taking it as a point of inspiration this week, because I think it makes sense that if you do the same thing enough times, it becomes body memory. One writer who was talking about this was Malcolm Gladwell, who was saying that football as a skill requires a bare minimum of 10,000 practice hours to learn. It’s no wonder that less and less of us are making the League these days.


Point is, I’ve decided to be inspired by the 10K number, and try to get to 10,000 calories burned a week. I’ve got a long way to go, but I like ambitious goals. I encourage you all to join me on your treadmill or out on the streets running. You don’t have to go too crazy, though. The key to any fitness routine is consistency, according to researchers. They actually day that training multiple times a day can be unhelpful in certain cases. If you’re going to try and do more than one thing in a day, make sure they’re very different activities, like running and yoga, and things with different goals, like strength vs. flexibility.