Column: Leicester's fall doesn't tarnish an improbable title

These are ugly times at Leicester.

The team heads into the weekend with a new, temporary manager and barely above the relegation zone in the English Premier League, seemingly doing everything it can to eradicate whatever good vibes are left from its inspiring run to the championship just nine months ago.

But despite all the outrage over the ridiculous firing of Claudio Ranieri , Leicester's place in sporting history is secure.

In the years and decades and centuries to come, we'll barely remember how it all fell apart so quickly for Ranieri and this team.

Or even care.

"I don't think it taints his story at all," Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe said. "He is still the manager that led them to the league and he will always be remembered for that historic achievement and rightly so."

None of this should be surprising. The Premier League has always been dominated by a small of group of big-spending teams, and they've predictably risen back to the top of the table.

If Leicester had somehow remained a title contender this season, it might've taken some of the gloss off its glorious romp to the top as a 5,000-to-1 longshot .

Now, with the team in disarray and ownership deciding to dump the manager who made it all possible, we can truly appreciate what the Foxes accomplished: one of the most improbable triumphs in the history of sports.

"The adventure was amazing and will live with me forever," Ranieri said in a statement Friday, singling out the club's supporters. "No one can ever take away what we together have achieved, and I hope you think about it and smile every day, the way I always will. It was a time of wonderfulness and happiness that I will never forget."

What we're seeing at the moment is just another example of the instant-gratification, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately? world that we live in.

That's not meant to let Leicester's ownership off the hook for its buffoonish decision to fire Ranieri, who certainly had earned the right to keep running the team at least through the end of the season, no matter how bad things got.

For that matter, Ranieri deserved a shot at leading Leicester back to the Premier League even if the team got relegated to the second division as one of the three lowest-finishing teams. They are currently 17th in the 20-team league, just one point ahead of the relegation zone.

On Friday, Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho paid tribute to his fallen colleague by turning up for his news conference in a shirt with the letters "CR."

"They did the most beautiful thing in the Premier League and one of the most (beautiful things) in football history," Mourinho said. "It is my little homage to somebody that wrote the most beautiful history of the Premier League. Somebody that deserves the Leicester stadium to be named Claudio Ranieri Stadium, and he is sacked."

Those feelings were pretty much universal throughout English soccer and the world, which is understandable.

But let's face it: this is really nothing new, in soccer or any other sport.

Coaches are always the convenient fall guys when things go wrong. Terry Crisp was fired a year after leading the NHL's Calgary Flames to their first Stanley Cup title in 1989. Tony Dungy was let go in 2002 because he couldn't get the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the hump in the NFL playoffs. Mourinho himself was dumped by London club Chelsea in 2015 " just seven months after winning the Premier League title.

Yes, Ranieri's firing comes across as particularly cold-hearted, but that's just the way it is when athletes earn tens of millions of dollars and wield wide influence over everything from personnel decisions to who runs the team . As the losses piled up, Ranieri faced increasing resistance from his players. The owners, mindful of how many millions they will lose if the Foxes are relegated next season, hit the panic button.

"Am I surprised that things like this can happen? No," Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said. "Not just in football. There have been a few strange decisions in 16-17. Brexit, Trump and Ranieri."

No matter what happens the rest of this season, it won't diminish what Ranieri did a year ago.

That's what we'll remember.

Not this.

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Paul Newberry is a sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry@ap.org or at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/paul-newberry .

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AP Sports Writer Steve Douglas in Manchester, England contributed to this report.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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