LARRY RYAN: Only Hollywood can do this Leicester story justice

Maybe we’ll have to wait for the movie.

More often than not it’s the other way around, but even with the greatest stories ever told, sometimes the movie reaches parts the book can’t manage.

This time, the movie might just do a better job than the sports pages.

While we wait for Hollywood to deliver the Vardy biopic, we must consider how and why journalism has failed to give us a gripping narrative, having been gift-wrapped the most outlandish circumstances in sporting history. And having sent bodies from all over the world to cover it.

Arguably, the Leicester story is the greatest casualty yet of what sports journalism has become.

Since the reporter was turfed out of the training ground and the dressing-room and corralled into the baiting chamber of a presser or the antiseptic falseness of a sponsor’s ‘opportunity’, it was inevitable that the sports pages would one day miss the big one, when it came along.

Having spent a lifetime grousing that there are no Nottingham Forests any more, I’ve wondered — worried — why this story hasn’t quite engaged and grabbed and squeezed.

Has one ‘Unbelievable, Jeff’ too many made nothing unbelievable? Has cynicism killed all trace of romance?

Or is it simply that we don’t know them at all?

Do we have any idea who they are or how they are coping since their frames of reference were completely redrawn?

Does sleep come easy for Drinkwater?

Must Albrighton convince himself daily it’s happening? From where does Kante draw his energy?

How big a deal for Kasper Schmeichel, to no longer be his father’s son? Does Mahrez’s mind drift to capitalising on all of this? Did Vardy even dare to dream this big?

We can guess. You can kind of see it in Morgan’s eyes after those big goals, the enormity of it. But we’ve had nobody in there with them, hitching us a lift on the journey. No Mailer in camp with Ali.

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We don’t even know if they have fought over bonuses. The very least you expect.

There are things we do know. Ever since journalism has largely been boxed into safe spaces, it had to fill the gaps somehow. And it turned, as we know well, to our old friend ‘controvassy’.

So we know certain things about the Leicester lads and not all of them are palatable. Some of the traces of humanity that have leaked out have not stirred the feelgood factor.

The people on the ground have tried hard to draw us Ranieri, at least. But he has largely sold them dummies. Given us a caricature whose greatest assets are bell imitation, pizza delivery, and the sense to not shake up the great empire Nigel Pearson was building.

So even his extraordinary redemption story leaves us a little empty. As if sensing our hunger for more, he kindly delivered a little humanity on Sunday, with word of a visit yesterday to his old mother back home while fate decided. We gorged on the morsel.

Denied that human element, until now we have simply tried to explain. The stats, the recruitment, the sports science, the luck.

But none of it comes close to explaining the scale of this one, so in the end it all begins to ring hollow.

Reporters nibble the edges of the miracle. Some of those who flocked from all over to the world to the King Power have regaled us with the new pressures on club administrators.

The secretary running out of headed paper because everyone wants a souvenir.

Others have painted grander brush strokes. In an ambitious move, even for a writer so accomplished, Simon Kuper attempted to draw parallels between Leicester’s rise and the city’s commitment to multiculturalism.

A good read, but a couple of weeks later Jason Rodrigues in The Guardian wondered why, if Leicester’s population is 30% Asian, the stadium is almost exclusively white.

Detours away from the story. Into cul de sacs.

Last weekend, The Guardian’s Ed Smyth tried to sell us a metaphor for the rebellion against late capitalism and entrenched elites. We’d rather have known what Albrighton texted Fuchs when Dawson equalised at White Hart Lane.

When Liverpool were closing in on the league title in 2014, I watched a documentary Sky One had made with Steven Gerrard a few years earlier.

A puff job, but at least, in Castle Gerrard, we got to see the white piano, the steam room that seats eight, the games room with the Champions League insignia etched in the glass. And when we stepped outside, with Stevie, you could almost touch the fog of claustrophobia. Everywhere he turned, somebody wanted a piece.

Having got that close, when Stevie slipped up catastrophically a few days later, you could feel the weight of a city’s hopes collapse on top of him. Maybe the books about Leicester will get us that close, in time. But there is no Glory Game any more.

We are not going to hear from a Hunter Davies who sat on the Tottenham bench and put out the cones on the training ground.

We won’t get a Martin Chivers admitting his fear of the dark.

Maybe Hollywood will deliver. With Emilia Clarke as Vardy’s girlfriend, and Vinnie Jones as Nigel Pearson. Maybe only Hollywood can do this one justice.


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