THE BLOG
17/02/2016 18:18 GMT | Updated 17/02/2017 05:12 GMT

Has the Clock Ticked Past Midnight for Leicester's Cinderella Story?

Time to jump once again, then, into this season's worst idea. Talking about Leicester City.

It's very easy to look like an idiot when talking about Leicester this season. I personally started quite well, nailing my flag to the Claudio Ranieri mast back in mid-August, but stumbled and fell face-first into a pile of my own feces in November when I insisted that the Foxes were about to slide down into mid-table. Easy come, easy go.

But enough about me - it's self-indulgent enough to assume you want to read 800 words of my opinions, never mind 800 words actually about me. Back to the matter in hand - Leicester City's title challenge.

It looked for all the world like the fairytale was going to keep spinning out of control at half-time in Sunday's crunch lunchtime clash against Arsenal. Jamie Vardy's penalty gave the Foxes the lead going into the break, and they looked narrow favourites to take an eight-point lead into the rest of the afternoon's games.

What happened in the second half was perhaps even more 'fairytale', in its own way. After all, what are the unwritten rules of fairytales? By the end, the bad guys lose and order is restored to the kingdom. By the end of Sunday afternoon, the bad guys were on the losing team and order was, generally, starting to return.

And yes, that said 'bad guys'. Leicester's low profile coming into the season didn't just mask their genuine quality and top class players - it meant that their scandals were also kept pretty quiet. No conspiracy or anything, just the media and public not paying much attention to a couple of stories featuring players who were, at the time, barely newsworthy.

Jamie Vardy's indiscretions have been fairly widely covered in comparison to those of his teammates, but mentions of his racial abuse just this past summer are met with near universal blank stares, even now.

At the time, the video of Vardy racially abusing an Asian man in a casino could have ripped an already shaken squad apart, coming less than two months after three Foxes players had been sacked following a racism row in Thailand. It's a credit to Claudio Ranieri's management that he's managed to keep the team pulling so universally in the same direction since joining the club, but it doesn't exactly conform to the whole 'lovable underdogs' tag thrust upon the team since their rise up the table.

Another sizable stain on the squad's reputation? Danny Simpson. Another name which draws faintly bemused stares when he's mentioned in venomous tones as a loathsome toad - convicted at the end of last season of assaulting the mother of his child, the police having found him straddling his ex-girlfriend with "his hands firmly placed around her neck" after a 999 call.

It was Simpson who was sent off for a pair of bookings in Sunday's game, showing that his ability to let down the hard-working, genuinely likeable majority of his teammates isn't just limited to his off-field persona.

From here, Leicester's path to the title is tricky. They've got a decent run of fixtures to get themselves back on track, but what could have been a massive lead in the league has been reduced to a single kick - with the pair of north London clubs playing hound and horse to Ranieri's Foxes.

There's little point throwing out statistics in favour of the leaders or the chasing pack at this point - the Premier League has shown that it cares little for form or expectations at the moment - and gut feel has been notoriously unreliable.

What comes next for the Foxes is anybody's guess. They could find themselves shellshocked by Danny Welbeck's 95th minute winner, drop points against Norwich this coming weekend and fall to third. From there, a loss of momentum, a fight with Manchester United for the final spot in the Champions League, failure, obscurity, a name in the books as an 'almost'.

Equally, they could take heart from their excellent performance with 10 men against the Gunners, and go on revitalised. They've now played all of their title rivals twice - not something any of the others can say - and have time to lick their wounds before they face their next real test against a resurgent Southampton in April.

For better or for worse, the clock has struck twelve and the Cinderella story is coming to a close. Turns out the narrative runs slightly differently when both of the nasty, ugly stepsisters are on the side of the 'hero'.

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