Successories posters have adorned the walls of thousands of offices, meeting rooms, waiting areas and school classrooms over the years. You know the ones. They have the black backgrounds, the epic-looking and well-edited photographs, the inspirational words in capital letters and the short quotes underneath. Well, there’s almost certainly a Successories poster for “risk” on Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s office wall.
“RISK: A ship in the harbour is safe, but that’s not what ships are made for,” it might say. “RISK: Twenty years from now you’ll be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the things you did do,” could be another one. Whichever version overlooks Srivaddhanaprabha’s desk, he must have been paying attention to it, as Leicester City have adopted a bold policy of firing managers, even the well-liked ones, sooner rather than later. Their owners can never be accused of sitting on their hands.
Spooling back to 2010, the year the Thai billionaire purchased the East Midlands club, Paulo Sousa was booted out after just nine matches, with the still-exciting-at-the-time Sven-Göran Eriksson drafted in to replace him. The Foxes were bottom of the Championship when Sousa was shown the door, but the former England boss was able to steer them to a respectable 10th-place finish. That earned him another shot in the hotseat, but, just 12 months on from his own hiring, the owners pushed the red button under the desk to Montgomery -Burns-style open another trap door beneath the manager’s feet. With the club 13th in the table, Eriksson’s work was deemed not good enough.
It was then that former coach Nigel Pearson was brought back in and, although the progress was slow and steady, it was always there. First the Englishman guided the Foxes to ninth, then to sixth and to the wildest of play-off losses to Watford, and then to the Premier League, winning the Championship with 102 points, nine clear of Burnley. A famous great escape in their first season back in the top tier followed, with Pearson only then sacked due to off-the-field incidents the summer before the 2015/16 campaign. In all, Pearson was at the King Power Stadium for three and a half years, showing that the owners didn’t just fire on a whim. It was only when the circumstances called for it. “Do well and keep improving the team and you’ll be allowed to stay”, Leicester’s coaching contracts should state. “Start going backwards and you’ll be let go.
And so, in the summer of 2015 in came Claudio Ranieri. Of course, we all know how this story goes, and we know how it ends too. Having led Leicester to the most improbable of Premier League titles and to the Champions League knockout rounds, the Italian was then mercilessly sacked in February of 2017.
Again, though, this turned out to be for the best, at least in the short term. Craig Shakespeare took the reins, won his first five matches, mounted a comeback against Sevilla to book a ticket to the Champions League quarter-finals and secured a 13th-place finish. Survival. Exactly what the owners wanted.
Just one win from eight matches in the 2017/18 season and this time it was Ranieri’s replacement being given his P45 and leaving headline writers to Google Shakespeare puns. They turned to Claude Puel and once again the appointment looks like a stroke of genius. In just six matches the Frenchman has collected 11 points, five more than his predecessor managed in eight. Now up to ninth in the table, fans at the King Power Stadium can dream of European nights and of Andrea Bocelli appearances all over again. Had they failed to pull the trigger on Ranieri or on Shakespeare at the right time, who knows where they’d be.
The Leicester owners and directors do, then, deserve a lot of credit for their pro-active approach. The peaks in the graph of the team’s recent seasons are always the result of the new managerial appointments, while the troughs only come once a coach has skipped over his peak and passed his expiry date. Not one hire by the current owners has made the team worse in the short term. Not one.
What’s most impressive about that is the fact that Leicester don’t seem to have ‘a type’. From an experienced continental to an up-and-coming Brit to a sacked Greece manager to an assistant coach to a foreigner with just one Premier League season on his CV. What’s next? Who knows? All we know is that as soon as the results begin to turn against Claude Puel, he’ll be under incredible pressure. Leicester fans, though, should be confident that the next manager up will deliver the goods as well.