Melton Times Sports Editor’s Blog: Pundits quake as Leicester City gatecrash the cosy club

editorial image
Have your say

The last tumultuous 12 months will have made many of us look at life in a different way, as every year should, whether it be for better or worse.

It’s only healthy to find a fresh perspective or a changed outlook. And for the last handful of months of 2015, even the Premier League played ball.

Sport is at its most entertaining and exhilarating, and provides its most compelling moments when unpredictability reigns.

But some sports pay more heed to this yardstick than others. Football less so, particularly the closer you get towards its cash-rich, power-hungry epicentre.

The stale predictability of the Premier League’s upper reaches has gifted the blandest and dullest of media faces a safe and secure career in the world of studio punditry.

For the past 20 years, the eventual outcome of England’s top table has been as unlikely to veer off script as a FIFA presidential election.

So simple that even the Savages and Townsends of this world have been able to nail the top five.

Trotting out the same names at the start of each season before kicking back with cocktails on the sun lounger as the lop-sided division of resources shuffles the Premier League pack into its usual default setting.

The media pack has been only too happy to cuddle up to this cosy cartel. The cash-rich Johnny-Come-Latelys like Chelsea and then Manchester City have irked them by forcing a few scribbled changes to the script, but it’s soon back to business as usual.

All but the most one-eyed among the English football community has rejoiced at this season’s batty results and barking end-of-year table.

Even fans of the self-serving big four, five or whatever number it is now, have welcomed the change of tone.

The commentators and pundits, however, while romanticising Leicester City’s unexpected scaling of nosebleed heights, have mixed in a healthy dose of mild condescension.

While giving Vardy and Co a hearty slap on the back, they have also been quick to pour the cold water of long-term reality over the daydreamers.

Eager to remind us that the law of averages, or rather the law of the financial jungle, will pop that particular bubble.

The inevitability of it all is, well, inevitable.

Maybe it’s born out of terror of the unknown from charlatans afraid of being found out for knowing no more about the current scene than the man or woman down the pub.

A sufficiently trained chimp, fed a diet of cliché and tabloid headlines, could adequately fill the role.

Now Leicester, Watford and Palace have threatened to sweep them off the rock they have been clinging complacently to throughout the lifespan of the Premier League.

For fans of a certain age this year’s campaign has perhaps revived memories of the pre-Premier League era when outcomes weren’t so set in stone.

The reality was that even back then it wasn’t all that unpredictable, however much rose-tinted glasses would try to convince otherwise.

In the 1980s, four teams won the Division One Championship, but Liverpool claimed it seven times in those 11 seasons and only once in those years finished outside the top two.

But while the champions came from a similarly small pool, at least pundits would struggle to predict the make-up of the top six before the season had begun, at least without first doing proper research.

Maybe the romance actually began to dry up after Brian Clough’s newly-promoted Nottingham Forest won the title and back-to-back European Cups.

But those lucky enough to see Jonny Owen’s brilliant documentary I Believe in Miracles will recall that even back then the media experts were queuing up to forecast plucky Forest’s topple from their lofty perch.

Week after week Clough employed his sharp wit and idiosyncratic charisma to flummox the prophets of doom eager to remind these provincial upstarts of their place.

Cinema screenings echoed to sighs of ‘that’ll never happen again’.

The influx of top international talent into the Premier League’s heavyweights means the odds are much more heavily stacked against a repeat as Clough and Co triumphed in a league confined to the best of British.

But wouldn’t it be ironic, and brilliant, if two-and-a-half decades on, another set of unheralded East Midlanders proved us all wrong.

After all, it’s healthy to look at things in a different way.