The big day is now just two days away. Tom Simmonds takes a sideways glance at what some people from the world of football want Santa to deliver to them on the morning of the 25th.
Claudio Ranieri: A CIPD-qualified HR workforce planner-cum-scout
Nobody inside or outside of Leicester City expected them to be top of the Premier League at Christmas. Since Football Manager got more realistic, lysergic scenarios like this one rarely happen in the land of make-believe, let alone in the real world. So psychotropic are the qualities of this season’s Premier League table that you could forgive Ranieri for not having a plan for this eventuality.
The thing about Leicester’s Icarus-like flight which might have Foxes fans checking for wings that are beginning to drip a little from their proximity to the sun is their over-reliance on Riyadh Mahrez and Jamie Vardy to decide games in their favour. While all aspects of a team need to be firing in order to do what Leicester are doing, a statistic which emerged in mid-November that they would have been bottom of the Premiership at that time without Vardy and Mahrez’s contributions. In the face of inevitable interest in the pair, both from suitors and over-zealous opponents, Ranieri will be aware that he will need to do some long-term succession planning in order to lessen the impact of losing one or both of the deadly duo.
Port Vale fans: The Power or Angels?
Vale Park has not been a fun place to be for the past decade. The Valiants’ inter-city rivals, Stoke City, have firmly established themselves in the Premier League and have played in an FA Cup final and Europe while Vale have yo-yo’d between the bottom two divisions while being in seemingly perpetual poverty. They remain in limbo, after chairman Norman Smurthwaite recently put the club up for sale amid accusations that he had been roughed up by some fans in an altercation. Could this be the time when one of football’s two most famous celebrity fans, 16-time world darts champion Phil Taylor and megastar singer Robbie Williams step forward to help their beloved club and give the citizen of Burslem something to smile about?
West Brom, Preston, Peterborough and Mansfield: Pacifiers
Just in case any US readers think that I’m talking about babies dummies here, I’m not; though those might help to eradicate any bookings for dissent that these four teams have accumulated so far this season. These four are the bad boys of their respective divisions, each sitting atop the table for the worst disciplinary records. PNE, with their 48 yellow cards and five reds and Mansfield with their 53 yellows and three reds, both from a mere 22 games, have both accumulated a whacking 605 disciplinary points each so far.
West Brom’s status as the Premier League’s angry men was cemented by the dismissals of James McClean for a Sunday league reducer on Adam Smith and Salomon Rondon for a Caracas kiss on Dan Gosling in their game against Bournemouth last Saturday. Those two red cards pushed them onto the top-flight’s naughty step, and this will undoubtedly be further grist to the mills of those who like to criticise Tony Pulis’ ‘muscular’ methods.
So what to put in the packages for Pulis, Simon Grayson, Graham Westley and Stags gaffer Adam Murray? A crate of isotonic drinks laced with Diazepam for the players might flout the laws of fair competition too far in the other direction, but the services of a yoga instructor, a job lot of copies of Zen Buddhism for Dummies to leave lying around the dressing room or some colouring books for adults, which apparently have a calming effect on the person doing the colouring, could all be options to calm choleric moods in the season of goodwill.
What would you give your football club for Christmas?
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