Monsieur Salut writes: it goes from bad to worse to boorish. Not content with his share of the blame for leading Sunderland’s downward charge to the Championship, our boss is caught – thinking he is off-air – snapping at a BBC reporter, Vicki Sparks, and threatening to give her ‘a slap even though you’re a woman’. Her crime? Asking an entirely legitimate question after the Burnley goalless draw about any extra pressure Moyes may have felt with the owner Ellis Short present for the game. Reports suggest there was no obvious humour in the remark’s delivery. The manager should add to his apology, already given and accepted, a substantial personal donation to a charity of the reporter’s choosing.
Now on to Leicester. Our ‘Who are You?’ interviewee Brian Archie’s* hope for the game, a 2-1 home win, is unlikely to improve Moyes’s mood. The Watford defeat means we can survive only if we do on Tuesday what Leicester did exactly two years ago and begin a sequence of something like seven wins from nine remaining games …
Salut! Sunderland: when Claudio Ranieri was sacked, I was among those who found it frankly obscene. Have subsequent events vindicated Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s decision or are they pure hazard?
Brian Archie: I don’t think it was obscene, just very sad all round. As our season was going, I think there was an inevitability of relegation if he had stayed. We may still go down [this was before another Foxes win at the weekend – Ed], but the change in performance level has been marked. The application and will of the players has seemed to come back over night. Whatever the reasons, what has happened since seems to have vindicated Sri. However, I think the players need to have a hard look at themselves.
Last season, winning at the Stadium of Light – Chris Hardy’s Facebook clip shows City fans celebrating – put you within three more victories of the title. You must be confident of making a similar step towards comfortable survival with this one.
Being a Leicester fan requires a lack of confidence at all times! Being at home gives us the edge. When the fans are at it, we have a crowd that can really inspire the team. I think it will be the old cliché: the first goal will be vital. If we get in front, we should go on to win. Unlike the last season and a half, this season we have been very vulnerable when we go behind.
We look down barring a Leicester or even Sunderland-style miracle. Good riddance or will we be missed?
For me, a miss. You want the big, traditional clubs in the top division, particularly clubs like yours who have that very loyal hard-core support. The fans deserve more.
Back to you travails. Great achievement last season, splendid CL run this time. But until recently, hopeless in the league. Was the popular criticism of the players – that they essentially should hang their heads in shame – justified? And what has changed?
The change, unfortunately, has been Ranieri’s sacking. The man is, and always will be, a true Leicester legend and no one can take that away from him. He should have a statue and freedom of the city. I do share the criticism of the players; they were all at 100 per cent last season, and they have not been near that until recently this season. Some of them seemed to have forgotten that is was hard work that made them the team they were last season.
Kante was obviously an enormous miss, and Vardy has only just started playing again, but where else have been the glaring weaknesses? Conversely, who has done well?
Without Kante, it did leave our older back three (Fuchs, Morgan, Huth) looking creaky and Simpson exposed. The growth of Ndidi seems to have helped recently, and I hope he keeps improving at the same rate. Danny Drinkwater has looked particularly grumpy this year, Mahrez has always drifted in and out of games but has definitely been more out than in this season, and Slimani doesn’t fill his £30m price tag.
The players who have stood out are Kasper and Albrighton – not necessarily because he’s the most talented player, but he has been determined ever since he arrived here and has kept it up this season whilst others haven’t. Gray shows real promise.
Be honest; what were your expectations for this season? And what are they for next, assuming as seems likely that you’ll be the Premier League?
My expectations were for a comfortable top 10 finish – which it isn’t going to be – and to hope to get out of the group stage of the CL, which we’ve exceeded. Next year, I really hope we are in the PL and aiming for a top eight finish, and a proper FA cup run, which I’ve never seen in my lifetime.
Describe your emotions as your club went from rock bottom to top. Almost worth going down just to experience, as someone supporting an unfashionable club, once in your life?
Genuinely, it still hasn’t really sunk in. For most of my life, I’ve watched us play teams like Grimsby, Blackburn, Ipswich etc … I went to a lot of games when were in League One. I guess it will become more valuable and more memorable the further we get away from it.
That must have been your best moment as a supporter. What other highlights and low points?
Highlights: the league cups under Martin O’Neill, in fact pretty much all of MoN’s time here, the vital instant return promotion from League One, the record Championship points total – we were so on it that season, staying in the PL after being rock bottom at Christmas, the playoff final win against Derby, and any victory over Derby, Forest and Coventry!
Low points- the playoff defeats to Blackburn, Watford, and Swindon in particular. Relegation from the Championship. Arriving five minutes late, already two-nil down, to an away game in Hull, stood on the open terrace with a howling storm in the face and going on to lose 5-2. Any game against Barnsley home or away. Just because.
And the best players you’ve seen – or wish you were old enough to have seen – in Foxes’ blue?
Of the ones I’ve seen live, Kante, Cambiasso, Steve Walsh, Matty Elliott, Neil Lennon A few faves from ages ago: Ali Mauchlen, Paul Ramsey, Kevin Russell, Gary Mills. And a young Alan Smith who played in the first game I went to, a 2-0 win over Newcastle. Incidentally, that was through a scheme where the club sent out free tickets to primary schools around Leicestershire, something I believe you have been doing recently. It’s a great idea, it really does help set the club up as a part of the community. Back to players, I have to say the best I’ve seen, in terms of consistent quality, Muzzy Izzet.
The ones I wish I’d seen – Lineker in the shirt, and the core of probably our best team ever Franky Wortho, Keith Weller and Steve Whitworth.
Who should never have been allowed near your ground(s)?
Peter Taylor, Ade Akinbiyi, David Pleat and his chairman at the time Terry Shipman, who was to our club what his namesake Harold was to healthcare. Neil Warnock just on principle. Roy Hodgson, for future reference.
What about us? Did you see it coming? Any other thoughts on Sunderland – club, fans, city, region, Moyes?
As I said previously, great club, big tradition, loyal fans. I had to Google for the facts about a memorable trip to Roker. 10th March 1990, finished 2-2, your scorers were Gordon Armstrong and Gabbiadini. I think our left back, Tony Spearing, was sent off. I have sent you a picture of him because he was like Stuart Pearce. If Pearce couldn’t time a tackle, head the ball or take a free kick. I remember the famous roar, which was impressive as the entire attendance was only 13,104, a strange scoreboard thing that looked like a bingo card, and the alfresco toilets, which were a brick wall with an open drain at the bottom. Those were the days!
Would you take any member/s of our squad at Leicester?
Obviously Defoe, 100 per cent. Pickford looks good. Not Lee Cattermole, unless he was going to form a partnership with Tony Spearing.
This season’s top four, please, and bottom three. Assuming you are safe, where will you finish?
In order- Chelsea, Man City, Spurs, Man Utd. From bottom up: Hull, Boro, Palace – I hope [again, written before the weekend – Ed]. For us, anywhere outside the bottom three, optimistically 12th.
Diving: Vardy gets his share of criticism but with the whole game at it, is it time to stop whingeing and just write it into coaching manuals? Or is it still worth trying to stamp out?
No, stamp it out. The Barcelona/PSG game, besides the drama, was a joke. I think the world’s finest players, and the rest, should really be held more accountable for what is without doubt cheating. Retrospective punishment would help.
Best ref, worst ref?
Best- Collina, unfortunately retired. Possibly Clattenburg, unfortunately prefers tax-free earnings. Michael Oliver.
Worst- Craig Pawson, Jon Moss and Lee Mason.
One step the authorities should take to improve the lot of the ordinary fan?
Make clubs reduce prices for tickets, particularly when they exploit away fans. It is ridiculous for PL clubs to charge so much with the amount of money that comes from TV. The sport needs to know that it wouldn’t be much of a TV show without the fans there.
Chinese takeaway (ie the buy-up of top European talent): a cause for serious concern or just another manifestation of the crazy finances of football?
Not a serious concern until players believe that they will be taken seriously if they go there.
Will you be at our game? What will be the score?
I don’t know if I’ll be there. It’s much harder to get a ticket these days! I hope we win, possibly 2-1, but it will be interesting to see which of the two most recent England international goal scorers is more effective.
*Brian Archie on himself: I am an aging teacher, went to my first City game 31 years ago and have seen quite a lot of mediocre football since. However, I love City and the fans; I think most of us have a kind of ‘we’re doomed’ black humour about our club, punctuated with a slight euphoric relief when anything goes our way. I have never seen the point of ‘supporting’ a club hundreds of miles away just because they win more often. I have been to so many places I never would have been through following City (like Colchester). This may or may not be a good thing.
Interview: Colin Randall
What else have we written about Leicester? Here’s a selection from our archives