When Claudio Ranieri gave his lethargic Leicester City players a wake-up call during a soporific pre-season training session, he could never have dreamt it would prove the spur to glory.
Ranieri's unfashionable club wee crowned Premier League champions for the first time on Monday, yet the foundations for the fairytale success were laid months earlier amid the heat of the English summer.
Recalling a motivational ploy he first used during his spell as Cagliari coach in the late 1980s, Ranieri knew exactly how to refocus his tiring Leicester squad that day without adopting a draconian approach and so he began loudly making the noise of a ringing bell to get their attention.
Initially baffled by the unusual sound emanating from their manager, the players quickly got the message and, once they had suppressed their giggles, snapped out of their slumber with renewed focus.
"From the beginning, when something was wrong, I said 'Dilly-ding, dilly-dong, wake up!' during training sessions," Ranieri said.
"And on Christmas Day, I bought for each of the players a little bell, just as a joke.
"I like to try to make it so everybody can do our job, but with a smile."
In one typically eccentric flourish, Ranieri revealed the essence of a managerial style that had often been ridiculed, but which was now perfectly in tune with an underachieving club who yearned for success and respect.
Yet when Ranieri arrives at Leicester's Belvoir Drive training base on Tuesday, it will be to a far different reception than the one that greeted him just 10 months ago.
"Claudio Ranieri? Really?" tweeted former Leicester and England striker Gary Lineker before describing the appointment as an "uninspiring choice". A significant section of the club's fan-base was equally scathing.
Ranieri had been away from England for 11 years since being sacked by Chelsea, where his constant rotation of the team led him to be mockingly labelled 'The Tinkerman'.
The 64-year-old son of a Rome butcher had never before won a top-flight league title during an itinerant 30-year managerial career, which featured stops at 12 clubs including Juventus, Roma and Inter Milan, and arrived following a chastening failure with Greece.
But Ranieri's critics have long since changed their tune as his folksy wisdom and relaxed demeanour proved exactly what Leicester needed after the tempestuous regime of his predecessor, Nigel Pearson, who narrowly saved the team from relegation last season.
Crucially, Ranieri won the support of his players with his deft handling of a disastrous pre-season incident when Vardy abused a fellow gambler in a casino by repeatedly calling him "Jap".
Coming soon after Leicester's Thai owners had sacked three players for separate racist behaviour, it was suggested Vardy would have to be sold.
But Ranieri kept the peace and Vardy responded with a barrage of goals, including a Premier League record of 11 successive games on the scoresheet.
From that moment on, Ranieri was at his engaging best, one minute likening Leicester to "the Premier League's Forrest Gump" and the next taking his players for pizza and serving them cake as rewards for their success.
Beneath the quirky soundbites, Ranieri was showing his steely side and spearing his reputation as a choker by masterfully keeping his players composed when the pressure of the title race mounted.
Ranieri's unexpected renaissance has captivated fans across the world and Marcel Desailly knows better than most what it means for his old Chelsea boss to have finally reached the pinnacle.
"In life he is an amazing man," Desailly told the Daily Telegraph. "I am just pleased that at the end of his career success has come. He has proved that it will come to a hard worker.
"It's amazing that it is Leicester -- quite amazing."
Published Date: May 03, 2016 09:01 am | Updated Date: May 03, 2016 09:01 am