The story of Leicester City is one that has captivated the masses; the plucky midlands team, led by the mild-mannered Claudio Raneiri have been the poster-boys for this season’s Premiership campaign, and show exactly what can be done through hard-work, correct preparation, and the right attitude.
It has indeed been a massive shock, one of the greatest of all time, that a team who this time last season looked destined to relegation have shown themselves to be the best team in one of the world’s most asymmetrical leagues over an entire campaign.
However, watching Raneiri’s charges scratch out a 2-0 win against Sunderland, their fifth in a row, it was difficult not to see their attitude against one of the Premiership’s bottom sides, and feel a sense of betrayal at Cork City’s display over the last fortnight.
It’s now City’s third season of challenging for the Airtricity League Premier Division, and at this stage City fans are getting a bit sick of seeing their side settle for second best. While an early away win against Dundalk showed City’s capability, their own poor attitude has now seen the Leesiders drop seven points already against sides they really ought to do better.
On paper, City have all the talent of their Manchester namesakes; a strong off-season has seen some excellent players come into the club, and a deep bench means this season Caulfield has no excuse not to produce the goods, but once again a shocking attitude and some bizarre tactical decisions have left City already under serious pressure.
The latest hiccough, a 1-1 draw at home to Wexford Youths, saw Caulfield’s men coast through the opening hour, before realising their sticky predicament and battering the away defence until finally getting a deserved breakthrough five minutes from time when substitute Mark O’Sullivan once again bailed out Caulfield, like he’s done so often in the past.
The City boss pointed to the amount of chances City had in the game in his post-match interview, along with the outstanding performance of Youths goalkeeper Graham Doyle who pulled off four or five top-class saves over the course of the game to almost single-handedly earn his side the point in the second-half.
While the above points were true, the first doesn’t tell the story that City barely had a chance in the opening period, and the vast majority of them came in the final-quarter with Wexford retreating, desperately trying to hold on for at least a point, which to their immense credit they did.
Previous to that we saw more negative 4-5-1 tactics, an absolute refusal to put two up front, despite Wexford’s obvious defensive frailties, Karl Sheppard continuing to prove how little he actually contributes to the City effort, and a midfield trio of Buckley, Bolger, and Morrissey who should have dominated, shunning responsibility whilst being outplayed by the Youths’ midfield duo.
City’s final rally only served to prove how poor their attitude was in the first hour; their dominance over the Youths should really have yielded the full three points, with Browne missing a sitter, Maguire hitting the bar, and Doyle denying the former Dundalk striker from his header only a few yards out. How City couldn’t have hit that gear earlier, especially having conceded such a sloppy goal so early on, not dealing with either Youths’ corner or the subsequent ball back in before Eric Molloy finished from the edge of the box, really begs some serious questions about those on Leeside.
I said in my last column that I looked forward to City’s response following a substandard display against Sligo the week previous but instead I saw a Leeside outfit that lacked heart and endeavour more than anything else. This Friday sees a tough trip to face Tommy Dunne’s Galway United who have had a fantastic start to the season, and already five points off the top they can’t afford to drop any more if they harbour serious ambitions to go a step further this season.
With a weary Leicester picking off lowly Sunderland in the final half-hour, taking another giant leap to the most unlikely of league titles, John Caulfield’s men can take a key lesson from their counterparts across the water; disrespect your opponents at your peril.