It’s a strange experience when an established Premier League club find themselves relegated.
Some players feel a sense of entitlement, ego comes out, people take their eyes off the ball, desire goes down, everything becomes a bit lax.
It’s subtle things, small percentages that build up and suddenly you realize you haven’t won in ten games and you’re in big trouble.
That’s my lived experience as Watford went under in 2020 – after five years in the top flight. The season before we had reached the FA Cup final and finished 11th, 16 points clear of the drop zone.
Every club and every campaign is different, but I see a lot of similarities to what happened there Leicester City this season.
At Watford there were players who wanted a raise, others were looking for a move, there were other disputes.
Add a few injuries to key players and suddenly a squad that should have too many good players to fight relegation is at the bottom of the league.
The Premier League is unforgiving. There are too many good teams.
As a player, you can never afford to lower your standards. As a club, you can never afford to stand still.
Three seasons ago Watford couldn’t win any of our first 11 games – and I was one of two or three senior pros to get injured in the first few games.
Leicester have taken a point from the top seven this season.
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And when you suffer such a start, you face an uphill battle.
Leicester meet Liverpool on Monday before traveling to Newcastle with both opponents battling for Champions League qualification.
Therefore, it is very likely that they will be relegated before their last home game against West Ham.
Like most football fans in this country, I will be disappointed if the Foxes go under.
What they achieved by winning the title in 2016 made everyone dream – they made the seemingly impossible possible.
And under Brendan Rodgers, they won the FA Cup and twice narrowly missed qualifying for the Champions League.
I’m happy to say, half-jokingly, that I started the whole Leicester fairy tale.
Yesterday marked the tenth anniversary of my winning goal in the play-off semifinals Watford against the foxes – when our goalkeeper Manuel Almunia saved the decisive penalty and we went straight up at the other end and scored.
The following season, Leicester were promoted to the Premier League.
The next season they managed the great escape from relegation under Nigel Pearson and then the crazy title win under Claudio Ranieri.
But they’ve strayed wildly in the last year or two. Last summer’s transfer window was a disaster for them.
The club’s Thai owners were unable to spend large sums of money and rather than convince themselves of Youri Tielemans and James Maddison and then reinvest some of the money, they opted to stay.
Neither Tielemans nor Maddison have been consistently at their best and now Leicester are set to release the Belgium midfielder and lose the Englishman for a fraction of what they might have gotten last summer.
When Kasper Schmeichel left last year, Leicester not only lost a top-flight goalkeeper but also a genuine leader, a great character and one of the few remaining links to their title season.
This, coupled with Jonny Evans’ injury, has meant they lack experience and leadership in defence.
Wesley Fofana who went to Chelsea for big money is a very good player but Evans always talked him through games and Leicester miss him a lot.
Wes Morgan had already left and Leicester simply couldn’t replace the experience and quality they had lost in recent years.
Jamie Vardy is progressing and the forwards they signed like Kelechi Iheanacho and Patson Daka haven’t scored enough goals.
I know Dean Smith, Craig Shakespeare and John Terry well and they are good people but they came very late to it.
No one knows if they will stick with the sweeping rebuild that will be necessary if Leicester fail.
There has been a lot of confusion at Leicester this season and a lot of players who haven’t done themselves justice.
I know that painful feeling and unfortunately I recognize it too when I look at Leicester.