The Rebound: Leicester’s vet visit, Chelsea’s donkey cheeseburgers, and Man City’s lack of dignity

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All of the fallout from another frantic weekend of footballing action, including Leicester City, Chelsea, and Manchester City.

At a certain point, the kindest thing you can do for a hurt animal is to humanely and respectfully put it out of its misery. In the case of Brendan Rodgers, de facto leader to a skulk of lame foxes, the back legs had started to fail some time ago, and more often than not in recent weeks, he and his band of vulpine derelicts have been rendered vegetative - prone and helpless - in a pool of their own indifference.

On Sunday, Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha took the tearful decision to administer the dose that sent Brendan to the big den in the sky. Nobody was surprised. Since the resumption of the domestic campaign after the World Cup, Leicester have taken just eight points in the Premier League, the lowest tally in the division, and now find themselves languishing second from bottom. If things don’t improve, soon and drastically, they could very well become one of a grimly exclusive fraternity of clubs who have both won the Premier League and been relegated from it. The only other is Blackburn Rovers, and they still haven’t made it back to the top flight.

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In the long run, it will be interesting to see how fondly Rodgers and his legacy are remembered at the King Power. This is a man who delivered a first ever FA Cup for the Foxes, and who guided them to a continental semi-final just twelve months ago. But equally, if they do go down, he will have played an undeniable part. Of course, there have been extenuating circumstances. Funding in the transfer market, for instance, has been nowhere near the kind of level that Brendan or many supporters would have expected when he initially took the job. But this group of players, regardless of a lack of reinforcements, should not be in a relegation battle. It really is that simple.

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For now though, the Brodge will gather his belongings into a polka dot handkerchief, tie them with a neat bow to the end of a comically large stick, and wander off into the setting sun, perhaps whistling a tune as he does so. His departure has the potential to topple the first in a lengthy and convoluted domino train. You see, Leicester need a manager, and thanks to an unusually brutal Sunday of ritualistic bloodletting, Graham Potter is now available. Or at least, he is in an employment sense. Emotionally, he might take years to rediscover trust again.

Potter was sold a dream. There were no questions over his pedigree or his promise, only uncertainty as to which of the traditional big six would pull the trigger on him first. In the end, it was Chelsea. How was Graham to know that the same itchy finger that brought him to Stamford Bridge has a similarly lustful penchant for guillotines?

Todd Boehly, like the newly-appointed CEO of a disgraced fast food company that had been found to put donkey meat in their cheeseburgers, swore he was different. He crossed his heart, he looked Potter in the eye, and he vowed that he would give him time. This was a project, a slow burn. Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say. Then again, they also say that when in Rome, do as the Romans do, and at the first sign of regression, Hot Todd has acted with a decisively Abramovichian swiftness.

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Never mind the fact that Potter probably could have done with a preseason just to learn his new signings’ names, let alone coax them into any kind of tactical cohesion. And pay no heed to the fact that any manager dumb/desperate/masochistic (delete as applicable) enough to take up his mantle is now saddled with an assemblage of eclectic and seemingly disinterested dressing room presences, most of whom are on contracts that will keep them in West London beyond the turn of the fourth millennium. Perhaps they will respond better to a manager powered entirely by Artificial Intelligence. Or maybe they will throw their new robot overlord under the bus too.

Chelsea are currently 11th in the Premier League table, 12 points outside of the top four, and out of both domestic cups. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)Chelsea are currently 11th in the Premier League table, 12 points outside of the top four, and out of both domestic cups. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)
Chelsea are currently 11th in the Premier League table, 12 points outside of the top four, and out of both domestic cups. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

As for Potter himself, if the bookmakers are to be believed, Leicester beckons. Whether Graham would be willing to swap caviar at Cobham for the land of Kasabian and crisps remains to be seen, and he needs to think incredibly carefully about his next move. If he keeps the Foxes up, suddenly his Chelsea sojourn feels like an ill-advised sip from a poisoned chalice. There is, after all, a common denominator in the Blues’ repeated cycle of auto-cannibalism, and Potter could still come out of this looking like the snake’s tail, rather than its gnashing fangs.

But, heaven forbid, if he were to seal Leicester’s relegation, his reputation would be shredded forevermore. Even his fancy new West London tailor would struggle to sew those tatters back together. Assuming they bother to keep in touch. Potter would essentially become David Moyes 2.0; the butt to many an unfair joke, a lazy punchline to the spitefully uninspired. This could prove to be the ultimate sliding door moment in his career.

And it is also where things get a little complex. With Rodgers gone, Potter may go to Leicester. With Potter gone, Chelsea will need a new manager too, and suddenly the race for Julian ‘Abandoned Apres Ski’ Nagelsmann hots up. Tottenham have been touted as one potential destination for the German, but depending on which basket case he prefers, they too could be left stranded hoch und trocken. Lo and behold though, who have they been linked with on numerous occasions in the past? You guessed it, our old friend Brendan. The plot... it thickens!!!

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Away from the banging of the doldrums, Pep Guardiola was being his usual magnanimous self over the weekend. Manchester City, even without escaped lab experiement Erling Haaland leading the line, still disemboweled Liverpool to the tune of four goals, and Guardiola’s celebrations might just have strayed a little too far from the peppy into the peppery. Bouncing around the touchline like your half-cut dad at a wedding when the DJ drops She’s Electric, the City boss insisted on trying to make both Kostas Tsimikas and Arthur Melo shake his hand in the aftermath of the defending champions’ first strike. It is a wondrous testament to the limits of human tolerance and decorum that neither gave him a clip round the back of his big bald head.

Now, don’t get me wrong, we all get overly excited at times, and ordinarily, in instances such as this one I am firmly of the ACAB (All Celebration Police Are B*******) persuasion, but Pep, chief, you’re the greatest footballing mind of your generation. Have a little dignity, please.

It did get me thinking as to which footballers might not have taken too kindly to his mocking pageantry, however, and I believe that the definitive list of Premier League players who would have nutted him without a moment’s hesitation, in descending order, is as follows: 5. Joey Barton/Craig Bellamy (tied), 4. Tomas Repka, 3. Roy Keane, 2. Ben Thatcher, 1. Duncan Ferguson. Just imagine...

And finally, a quick word on my local team Gateshead, who booked their place in the final of the FA Trophy at Wembley over the weekend. I went all the way the through secondary school with their captain Greg Olley, and he was, to a ceaseless extent, so sickeningly good at football that it made me realise from an early age that if this was the standard being churned out in the academies, I didn’t have a hope of ever getting anywhere near becoming a professional.

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Since being released by Newcastle United eight years ago - and after a brief stint with Hull City - he has returned to the north east, and has established himself as a proper cult hero; a real life Captain Fantastic of the non-league game. Next month, after nearly a decade in the sport that he has always adored, this quiet, normal lad who I used to sit next to in Biology will lace his boots, don his armband, and lead his team out at the home of football in the hope of bringing a trophy back to Tyneside. I am absolutely buzzing for him.

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