Shearer Says: “Liverpool fans were right to protest. Without fans, there is no football.”
Newcastle and England legend Alan Shearer has his say on the week’s main talking points including Leicester’s stunning win over Man City, Spurs’ title challenge and the continuing rise in ticket prices
Incredible Leicester story could embarrass Premier League big spenders
The Leicester story is just incredible. That said I didn’t think Leicester would get beaten by Manchester City on Saturday. Whilst I didn’t expect them to win in the manner they did, I did think they’d get something out of the game. If you look at their away record, the way they play is perfect for away football, as they sit deep and defend, and then have pace and energy and power on the break. They constantly do that to every team, and I have to say they did it unbelievably well against City.
Although Manchester City were poor on Saturday, it was Leicester that made them look poor. They were certainly awful defensively, showing once again what a miss Kompany is. Leicester completely exploited that weakness. From the start they had more energy, more hunger, more desire. Everything about Leicester on Saturday was better than Manchester City. And that’s what makes it so staggering when you consider Leicester’s starting line-up cost just £22m and Manchester City’s team cost £223m!
Before Saturday I was still saying it can’t happen, but can it? It’s too good to be true. It’s too good a story. But the way they dismantled City and took them apart in every position, they weren’t just a little bit better, they were miles better and that has made everyone sit up and say they can actually do this. However, there is still a small part of me that has doubts still because I’ve been through what they now face when I was at Blackburn and I know what lies ahead.
I’m not comparing it directly because Blackburn, like the big boys, had money to spend. What I am comparing is the size of the football clubs, the nature of the club and fans and yes we had Jack Walker’s money, but for a small club to come in and take on the big boys, there are real similarities. For Blackburn to emerge and beat Liverpool and beat Manchester United, that’s a staggering story in itself, but we had the financial backing. But then when you look at Leicester, they’re the same size club as Blackburn but they haven’t even got the finances we had.
That’s why it will be so embarrassing for the big clubs who have spent £200 million upwards to try and win the Premier League if Leicester win the title. It’s simply staggering what Leicester are doing and if they win the Premier League it will be the greatest achievement in English football.
It’s even more incredible to think that this time last year they were favourites for relegation. In fact if you look at the league now, Aston Villa are only one point worse off than Leicester were at the same time last season. That’s the enormity of the story. If I had sat on Match Of The Day on the first day of this season and said “I fancy Leicester to win the Premier League”, I’d have been laughed off the programme and would never have been allowed back. That’s how incredible this situation is. They have a five point league with thirteen games to go, but they deserve it, the table doesn’t lie.
Mahrez not Sterling looks like the £50 million man
Everything has now changed for Leicester. I can only take you back to my Blackburn days where we came second the year before we won the title. And I can promise you it is one thing being in second or third position and chasing, and quite another thing being out in front and leading the title race. For the first time they are now favourites to win the title and that brings a new pressure. There will now be an expectation for them to win their games against the teams further down the table and they are now considered genuine title contenders. Everything now changes. Every game from now until the last match of the season will get more difficult, because the pressure will become more intense.
The players will now be thinking they could actually do this. When I was at Blackburn we were on a ten game unbeaten run as we approached the final six games. We only won two of the last six, and lost three of our last five matches, and we fell over the line. So I still think that there may be a blip for Leicester. Having said all that, I think every neutral wants Leicester to win the title and I’m no different. It would be the story of the century, and not just for Leicester, but for the Premier League and football generally. I really hope it happens.
I was speaking to Peter Schmeichel about Leicester’s amazing form, and he was telling me what his son Kasper had said. Apparently when they first came up into the Premier League they thought they had to change, and play more possession football and they struggled to adapt. Then the penny suddenly dropped with nine or ten games to go and Nigel Pearson decided that they would go back to basics, they were unbeaten in their nine games, and they performed a miracle.
Ranieri then added a couple of players into that team. Kante has been a sensational find for £5m. I don’t think he’d have got the opportunity if he’d gone to a bigger club, but he’s had the chance to play regularly at Leicester and has been nothing short of sensational. They have without doubt the player of the year by an absolute mile in Mahrez. £400,000 is all he cost which is not far short of a week’s wages for some players. Robert Huth went from Stoke to Leicester for three million pounds last January and their form since then has been brilliant.
So they’ve gone back to what they’re good at, getting numbers behind the ball and then hitting teams on the break, as they have so much energy and so much pace up front. And it must also be down to their coaching on the training ground, because they are so well organised. They are now so solid at the back compared to last season. It doesn’t just happen by chance. They have a very good spine in Schemeichel, Morgan and Huth, Kante, Drinkwater, then Mahrez and Vardy up front. Ranieri really has carried on the good work that Nigel Pearson started last season, and their recruitment has been nothing short of sensational. It just shows that if you look hard enough, there are good players out there who are bargains.
If you’d landed from outer space and been told that on Saturday one player had cost £50m and one player £400,000 you’d have thought Mahrez not Sterling was the £50m player.
Spurs still under the radar
It’s a great set of fixtures on Sunday, and who would have predicted the top four would be taking each other on? It won’t decide who wins the title but it would be incredible if Leicester go to Arsenal and do to them what they did to City.
The other big match is Man City v Spurs. In a strange way it might be beneficial for Spurs that Leicester are taking all the headlines and keeping the spotlight away from their success. They are going along nicely without too much pressure. Pochettino is doing a magnificent job there. So it might just help them if they can keep within half a length of Leicester and come with a late charge.
Watching Manchester City on Saturday you do have to ask yourself the question whether they really have the hunger and the desire, and really want to do it at the moment. When you compare the two attitudes and the work-rate between Manchester City and Leicester, there was a vast difference. The Leicester players were sprinting for the ball, demanding the ball, wanting the ball. The hunger and desire only came from one side. That is the question mark I have over Manchester City.
Liverpool fans right to protest at shameful ticket price hike
I thought what the Liverpool fans did in protest at rising ticket prices was absolutely spot on. Every fan in the country should do the same if their clubs are going to put prices up. I know Liverpool’s argument is that only certain tickets are going up, and others are staying the same, and some are being reduced, but there is no way in the world that any football ticket should go up in price next season. No way should any fan be asked to spend more to watch their team, after the loyalty they’ve shown year after year after year. The income from tickets sales in regards to overall revenues must be minute now compared to the media rights income these clubs get, and even more so next year when the new TV deal kicks in. So why don’t clubs make tickets cheaper, fill the stadiums, get a magnificent atmosphere and give up on ticket price increases? It’s about time these clubs gave a bit back to the fans. The fans have been so loyal and so patient over the years.
They are always dipping into their pockets to pay more. So it was absolutely right what the Liverpool fans did, and more fans faced with the same situation should do that. If you are a parent with one or two kids, and you want to take them to a football match, the cost would be horrendous for a normal working person. The clubs are virtually pricing the average family with children out of coming to football. And that raises the question, “where are the next generation of fans coming from?” If you’re not careful you’ll just get a ground full of corporate people. Without proper fans there is no football.
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