Dilly ding, dilly gone: the five fateful failings that sent model club Leicester City to the Premier League scrapheap

They were the club revered around the world for overcoming the 5,000/1 odds to win the Premier League. The team of upstarts who lifted the FA Cup and the Community Shield. The underdogs who came within a whisker of the semi-finals of the Champions League. The footballing punks who shook up the established order, and threatened to establish themselves as an annual thorn in the side of the ‘big six’. And now Leicester City have gone from the giddy highs of European football to the crushing lows of relegation in a little more than a year.

Make no mistake, City deserved to be relegated this weekend. But how did it go so very wrong for the Foxes? DMU Journalism student Alice Wright picks out the unforced errors that sent the former champions of England spinning into the Championship.

The inspirational Kasper Schmeichel is allowed to leave

Kasper Schmeichel’s exit was strange and sudden: a true legend of the club never really got to say goodbye to the fans, and the supporters didn’t get a chance to say thanks for all the golden memories. Rumours of the Dane’s departure had been ongoing during the summer transfer window in 2022, but nothing came of it until August 3, when he announced his move to OGC Nice. Leicester City were left with four weeks to find a replacement. They decided to stick with long-term bench-warmer Danny Ward.

Kasper Schmeichel in action against Spartak Moscow in the Europa League https://www.soccer.ru/galery/1287367/photo/932250 Антон Зайцев

But Schmeichel was more than a shot-stopper: he was also a leader, someone you could count on to rip into the players if they weren’t putting in a shift. That leadership, passion and responsibility is something Leicester City have sorely missed this season.

Brendan Rodgers stubbornly refuses to change tack

Banking on a big summer rebuild, Brendan Rodgers made it publicly known there were players he didn’t see as part of Leicester’s future. When the club tightened the purse strings, he was left with players who knew their manager didn’t rate them.

His reluctance to play Caglar Soyuncu in defence and obstinate decision to stick with leaky Danny Ward in goal for too long compounded the issues at Leicester City. After shining in cup games, Daniel Iversen finally got his first-team chance against Brentford. He impressed in the games he played, despite his poor distribution, with fans questioning why Rodgers stuck with Ward for as long as he did.

Dean Smith obviously saw something in Soyuncu that the Northern Irishman didn’t or couldn’t. The Turkish defender started his first game under the former Norwich manager and reminded fans what they’d been missing. Rodgers’ unwillingness to play Soyuncu surely forced his move away from the East Midlands, which is a crying shame.

The board sleepwalk towards disaster

Ultimately most of the blame has to lie with the board. They took far too long to sack Brendan Rodgers. In mid-September, City suffered a heavy defeat at Tottenham, their sixth defeat in a row, having shipped 11 goals in two games and … nothing happened. Leicester City had an uplift in form before the World Cup and it felt like the team had turned over a new leaf, but a hammering at home to Newcastle on a cheerless Boxing Day brought everything back to reality. After been given far too much time in charge, Rodgers was sacked following a last-minute defeat at Crystal Palace in April.

But the board, it seemed, had no concrete plan for replacing him. Adam Sadler and Mike Stowell were temporarily put in charge for two vital games, and lost both of them. Initially it seemed Jesse Marsch would take over at the King Power, to the alarm of many fans, but eventually Dean Smith was appointed as manager. He brought with him John Terry and Craig Shakespeare. There were hopes that Terry could transform the fortunes of a defence unable to keep a clean sheet and Shakespeare was a familiar face who knew the club. Was it the right appointment? Well, it didn’t work. Was it the right appointment, but at the wrong time? We’ll never know.

Another poor decision from the board was agreeing to play Liverpool and Tottenham, in Singapore, a week before the start of the Championship season. This was most likely agreed months ago, which almost shows the club’s blindness to how quick Leicester were spiralling towards relegation.

❌ Players’ contracts are allowed to fizzle out

One massive mistake that the club will be kicking themselves over is allowing good players’ contracts to run out. Caglar Soyuncu and Youri Tielemans, two highly valued players, are able to walk away for nothing this summer. Jonny Evans, Daniel Amartey, Ayoze Perez, Nampalys Mendy and Ryan Bertrand are others out of contract in June. Soyuncu and Tielemans, along with Mendy, could’ve brought in a lot of money for the club to help them with their inevitable Championship squad rebuild. This seems like a massive failure to secure extra funds at a time when they’re needed most – not to mention the fact that City’s future was partly in the hands of players who knew they would be leaving.

Complacency sets in

Leicester City are the most expensive squad, with the highest wage bill, to get relegated from the Premier League, according to sport finance expert Kieran Maguire. To the pundits who didn’t watch them week in week out, they were a team packed with internationals who were too good to go down.

And maybe the players believed it too. ‘Play like that and we’ll be absolutely fine’ Leicester’s star midfielder James Maddison said back in March.

They did continue to play like that. No passion or desire, at times not looking interested. Everyone knows how it ended. They weren’t fine, and Rob Tanner deserves an apology.

Clearly the number 10’s infamous tweet isn’t a direct reason for Leicester’s downfall, but it feels like a telling insight into the team’s mindset. It appears the ‘too good to go down’ mentality infected them and they didn’t wake up to Leicester City’s true fate until it was too late.

So what now? The future looks very uncertain for the Foxes. A big summer reset lies ahead, and it won’t be easy. Valued players like Maddison and Barnes will move on. Soyuncu, once linked with a reported £38m move to Manchester City, is heading to Atletico Madrid, on a free transfer. The club will start the Championship with a new squad, and maybe a new manager, and a very old feeling of footballing exile. The bookies have already installed them as 6/1 favourites to win the league, considerably shorter odds than that 5,000/1. But it took City a decade to return to the Premier League last time round. An instant return is by no means guaranteed.

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