THE BLOG

The Tinkerman Is Dead, Long Live the Tinkerman

19/08/2015 10:13 BST | Updated 18/08/2016 10:59 BST

When Nigel Pearson left Leicester City after his off-field antics became too much for the club to tolerate, fans were a little wary of who would be brought in to replace him. Various names were thrown around including, hilariously, Jurgen Klopp before Claudio Ranieri was appointed.

The sound around the appointment was a hearty chuckle, followed by a long, collective sigh. It was the Tinkerman. Leicester, the pundits reckoned, were in trouble. More than one expressed the opinion that the best way for Leicester to stay up would be to collapse at the start of the season so that Ranieri could be sacked in time for somebody better to take over.

Fast forward just over a month and things are pretty rosy at the King Power Stadium, as the Foxes sit second in the table with a positive club atmosphere and six goals from two games. The same XI started both of their matches. Whatever happened to the Tinkerman?

Ranieri may have been absent from English football for a decade now, but he holds a special place in the hearts of a number of football fans for the Chelsea side that he used to manage.

He was in charge at Stamford Bridge from 2000 to 2004. Chelsea weren't a superpower, only qualifying once for the Champions League before he took over. Nevertheless, a link was forged between Ranieri and his team and boy, what a team they were.

They didn't win much, but just a glance back at the squad list is nostalgia heaven. The absurdly cool Mario Melchiot and Marcel Desailly at the back, Eidur Gudjohnsen up top with possibly the greatest player of all time (no? maybe not?) Gianfranco Zola holding things together. Then they went and signed Hernan Crespo in his last season at the club. That sort of thing builds up a lot of goodwill towards a manager. The lack of success made things better, in a way. It was okay to like them as a 'neutral' if they weren't challenging for top honours.

His final season saw him handed heaps of money and even more expectation by Roman Abramovich. He 'failed' by delivering second place in the league behind the greatest top flight team ever, Arsenal's Invincibles and a Champions League semi-final spot. By contrast, Manchester City's first season after a big-money takeover? Fifth place in the league.

Ranieri was never a failure at Chelsea - he was a victim of unreasonable expectations and a single night of bad decision making in that match against Monaco. The horde of sceptics in the English press were baffling and slightly unreasonable and it's been good to see Ranieri grinning as his team defy the doubters.

His constant chopping and changing of his starting XI was unusual at the time, but it's practically expected of managers these days. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't, but to cling to the 'Tinkerman' nickname for Ranieri as anything but a throwback reference is just misguided. He may be the original, but he's far from the biggest culprit.

Which brings us to this season and Leicester's lightning start. Now, anybody who expects the Foxes to stay even in the top half are being wildly, hopelessly optimistic, but there's a lot of promise in that squad and Ranieri might just be the man to unlock it.

Nigel Pearson started the run at the end of last season; Ranieri has harnessed that momentum and is building on it. Leicester have won nine of their last 11 games, losing only to Chelsea at the end of April.

The players like him. He's probably not going to grab a player by the throat on the touchline, or go on bizarre rants at journalists in press conferences. He's going to joke with broadcasters about Kasabian and take the best of what Pearson did while leaving behind some of the less savoury aspects.

In short, he's going to take the club forwards. Not in great, Leeds-sized jumps, not the way Southampton did when they made it back into the top flight, but slowly, surely, and solidly. He may have been the Tinkerman once upon a time, but now Ranieri is giving Leicester a stable base to launch off.

For more fan views or to join the conversation visit www.90min.com