IIt’s likely that if most of the managers found themselves in charge at Vicarage Road at that point, they’d take a look at Watford’s fixture list – which in their next eight games includes appearances with the two Merseyside teams and the two Manchester teams as well as Chelsea, Arsenal and Leicester – look at the average lifespan of their recent head coaches, then book in a moving company and a return flight.
But at arrival at the moment, as Xisco Muñoz was sacked for collecting seven points in seven relatively mild opening games, some sort of injury crisis in central defense and the doors about to open on raging fires of the hell of football, takes an unusual level of optimism. The kind of optimism that we usually find either in young men, greedy, sure of themselves and yet learning the meaning of failure, or in those who are so often burned by it that they don’t no longer notice the scars.
“It’s football – sometimes you go up, sometimes you go down,” said Claudio Ranieri, who on Wednesday, seven days before his 70th birthday, three before Liverpool visit for his first match and a week after agreeing to join the club, was officially presented to the media.
“But I never give up, I continue on my way. I have a strong character, I am still young and I want to continue. Why are you laughing?”
It’s been five months since Ranieri announced he was stepping down as Sampdoria head coach, but it’s clear that retirement has never been on his mind. “I’m very boring if I don’t stay in football,” he said. “I love football, I love life, and then why not [take another job]? I’m maybe 70 or 50, or 80 maybe, the oldest manager in England, with a cane. Why not? The brain is important and my brain is very young.
That’s a typical Ranieri response: short and sweetly funny. He’s run through a selection of his biggest hits, from dilly-ding dilly-dong to team pizza nights (there won’t be if they manage to keep Liverpool at bay on Saturday: “No pizza! If we keep a blank sheet, pizza is too little! ”), and maybe invented one or two more. There was a moment that reminded me of Roy Hodgson’s announcement of his retirement from the season. last at the age of 73, when the then Crystal Palace manager spoke about the impact of work on his loved ones – “I’ve had so much support from my wife and family throughout of my career and now I think the time has come to consider them. The dynamics in the Ranieri house seem somewhat different. “My wife, she is happier than me! he said of his return to work. “I kept my house in London and because of Covid for two years we didn’t come and she was mad. Now she is happy. Happy woman, happy life! “
There will surely be fewer jokes on the training ground as the Italian looks to replicate, of all his previous achievements, those of Sampdoria two years ago, when here it came to seven games in the season .
The Blucerchiati had lost six of them, but Ranieri quickly formed a well-organized and extremely hard-working team. They’ve stayed this season with four games to go, and last season they pressed more than any other team, blocked more than any other team, had the most aggressive actions and finished ninth.
“Every manager has a different book, a different philosophy,” he said. “I want them to bring my spirit, take my spirit; Its very important. After that, winning or losing is important, but not very much. It is important that you fight to the end. If you believe and never give up, this is important. Everyone knows Liverpool and if you lose to Liverpool that’s okay, it’s okay. But if you work hard, if you fight to the end, maybe sometimes you can win. If you lose but use 100% of your strength, endurance, that’s OK.
This is Ranieri’s fourth position in English football, his three previous ones having brought unimaginable success to Leicester, total failure at Fulham and one of many experiences with trigger-easy presidents at Chelsea, where he was. in charge when Roman Abramovich took over in 2003. I came second behind the unbeaten Arsenal, reached the Champions League semi-finals and was sacked. This is my life, “he said.” Now you tell me Watford is changing coaches a lot? “
Ranieri has suggested Watford will take a defensive approach in his next wave of fierce encounters. “He’s like a boxer,” he said. “Some times you can strike and some times you need to stay covered.”
But whatever happens in Hertfordshire, no one will deal him a fatal blow. “I keep my mind. No one can kill me, ”he said.
“Nobody. I hold my spirit, my love, my life. Because sport is fantastic.