Give Leicester City more respect: Neil Humphreys
Making top four ranks as a minor miracle for the unfancied Foxes
One nutmeg highlighted the lack of respect still being shown to Leicester City.
Last weekend, Harry Maguire was humiliated. His legs were wider than the gap between Leicester and Manchester United when a ball slipped through him.
Maguire's error cost United - his current side - a goal against Bournemouth. His blunder reminded his previous side of their pre-season gamble.
The Foxes sold the most promising English centre-back of his generation for £80 million (S$140.1m).
Maguire was supposedly on an upward trajectory, taking that well-worn path from small-town club to global behemoth. But the narrative has been turned upside down.
Leicester are above United in fourth position. Champions League qualification looks a distinct possibility, particularly after their 1-1 draw at Arsenal yesterday morning (Singapore time).
No one envisioned such a scenario a year ago. When Maguire left Leicester for United in August 2019, the Foxes were an afterthought.
It has been a theme of the season.
As he checks the current English Premier League standings, manager Brendan Rodgers would be well within his rights to do his best Joe Pesci in The Irishman and point out that English football "might be demonstrating a failure to show appreciation".
Leicester are not getting the respect that their achievements merit. Instead, their post-coronavirus coverage follows a tired narrative about dips in form and wheels falling off.
Certainly, the Foxes' campaign has been one of two halves.
As Christmas loomed, Rodgers' men were Liverpool's nearest rivals. Knowing that his 33rd birthday was approaching, Jamie Vardy scurried between centre-backs as if haunted by an internal, ticking countdown. He couldn't stop scoring.
The first 26 fixtures in all competitions secured 17 victories and earned Rodgers a new contract in those heady days of expectation. However, the Foxes won just five of their next 18 games.
Their early-season momentum was wiped out long before Covid-19 took hold.
Maguire's sale and Vardy's age and lack of attacking support were seen as indicators of Leicester's apparent place in the natural order.
Rodgers had grandiose ideas of shaping a young, quick squad, but this was as far as little Leicester were realistically going to go.
One era-defining miracle was enough for anyone. No one gets a second act.
Fortunately, the Foxes paid no attention to such simplistic thinking and went about their business of producing a minor miracle to accompany the major one involving Claudio Ranieri, title parties and Nessun Dorma.
Considering their respective budgets and squad sizes, Leicester really shouldn't be above United, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur in the table (and they are only a point behind third-placed Chelsea).
Rodgers was hired with a clear mandate. Rebuild the squad, retaining only a core of title winners, including goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, Vardy and Wes Morgan for dressing room morale.
Produce a youthful, dynamic set-up, emulating Juergen Klopp's pioneering work at Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool, but do all of the above after selling the club's best defender.
And, for the most part, Rodgers hasn't deviated from his principles. Demarai Gray, who set up Vardy's equaliser at Arsenal, Youri Tielemans, Harvey Barnes, Ben Chilwell and James Maddison are all under 25 and playing regularly.
Naturally, youthful exuberance and consistency can be uneasy bedfellows and Leicester's attacking form has fluctuated.
In defence, two of the Foxes' centre-backs are well into their 30s and Rodgers hasn't yet satisfactorily replaced Maguire. But he operates with a smaller squad and less money than his rivals.
When Wilfred Ndidi and Ricardo Pereira picked up injuries earlier in the season, adequate replacements were conspicuous by their absence.
And still, there is no tactical compromise. Playing for a city that is currently in lockdown, Leicester pressed against Arsenal and Crystal Palace with attacking formations that utilised their wing-backs.
It really is the very least they can do. The people of Leicester are suffering enough. Entertaining distractions are welcome, especially one that might lead to a club legend collecting the Golden Boot.
Vardy scored his 102nd EPL goal yesterday, stretching for a cross in the 84th minute at 33 years of age. He leads the Golden Boot chart by two goals.
It's another minor miracle at a club that specialises in them.
Global popularity dictates that the spotlight will usually fall upon United, Arsenal and Chelsea in the chase for the top four.
But Leicester's fine work must ensure that this month is remembered for more than a lockdown.
A place in the Champions League is no more than a weary city and a wonderful club deserves.