Leicester City – Dreaming The Impossible Dream
By Kevin Cain
For those of our readers who follow their sport and in particular the English Premier League, the story of the 2015 / 2016 season is simply staggering and quite unbelievable. Even for those folks who are not particularly sporting in nature, the name Leicester City is now cemented as a recognised name destined to be the subject of a Hollywood hit movie in years to come.
Leicester City is a famous old English club that was founded back in 1884 but their record is pretty average when it comes to top flight football. Most of their history saw Leicester yo-yoing up and down the divisions and to be brutally honest their trophy cabinet was far from glittering.So their current situation has come as a monumental surprise to everybody, including Leicester City fans.
Just one season earlier Leicester City looked doomed for relegation from the Premier League almost from day one. Nigel Pearson's side won six out of their last eight matches to make one of the greatest Harry Houdini acts of all time.So at the beginning of the 2015 / 2016 season they were one of the Bookies front runners to go back down into the Championship. Especially since their pre-season tour of Thailand was an unmitigated disaster with a number of their younger players being sacked for gross misconduct.Even Nigel Pearson, the manager, lost his job as a consequence of the antics of his wayward and undisciplined players.
Their new owners, King Power a highly successful Thai business, were disgruntled by the club's activities in Bangkok and the new season was looming as the club were in turmoil looking for a new manager. The club's directors and owners chose a surprising new man to take the helm one Claudio Ranieri, and the appointment was generally looked at as a mistake by many supporters.
The Tinker Man's last and only experience of managing in the Premiership was with Chelsea in 2000-2004. He was perceived as a European style coach who had no experience with the dog fight of a relegation battle in the English Premiership.
Consequently, Leicester City were one of the favourites to be relegated at 3/1 and a fantastic 5000/1 to actually win the league title. How was it ever going to be possible for Ranieri to save them from a fate that looked almost certain?
The team comprised of journeymen sprinkled with unproven youth, led by an inexperienced European manager. Not quite the recipe for success that many Leicester supporters had hoped for after their previous years' close call. But one fan named Ashley Broadley had confidence in his team's future and placed a bet of fifty pence at 5000-1 for his team to win the league. Ashley did not know it at the time but he had just laid one of the wisest bets in football history. However, after the first game of the season Ashley was not particularly enamored with his team’s performance against Sunderland. So he then made possibly the worst decision in footballing betting history by cashing in his bet and taking his 95 pence !
He must surely have been gutted to see that after the Sunderland game the Foxes went on an unbeaten run of fifteen games, with only three draws, catapulting them to the top of the table.
New stars started to appear and the appointment of Claudio Ranieri looked like one of the most astute decisions in Premier League history. Names such as Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, Danny Drinkwater and Marc Allbrighton all came to the fore and old warhorses such as Robert Huth and Wes Morgan were now playing the best football of their careers.
Vardy who was signed from lowly Fleetwood in 2012 was on fire in front of goal. He scored a record breaking eleven consecutive goals in as many matches and was proving to be one of the unstoppable forwards in the Premiership. He was playing so well that England manager Roy Hodgson had no choice but to select him for his European Championships squad.
It became apparent even though some of Leicester players were receiving cult status that the success of the club was due to Ranieri instilling a Team ethos. All the players were playing for each other and knew exactly how much they could rely on each other’s game. They had become a complete team with no big headed egotists prancing around the park. Leicester City for the first time in the club’s history, were now actually being muted as possible Premiership title contenders. Chelsea the current champions were having a desperate season, and favourite contenders Manchester City and Manchester United were not faring much better.
Only Tottenham Hotspur now stood between Leicester and their hallowed first ever Premier League title and with three games left to play Leicester were seven points clear. Spurs themselves were having their best ever Premiership season under the guidance of their young manager Mauricio Pochettino, he had galvanized a young dynamic team that were playing with flair and ferocious pace, they had become the pride of London in this helter skelter of a season.
Match-day of week 36 came around and mathematics entailed that if Leicester won or Tottenham lost against their London rivals Chelsea, then the Foxes would be crowned champions with two games left to play. Leicester played first on the Sunday of the Bank Holiday weekend with a tough away game at Manchester United and drew 1-1, which gave them an eight point lead over Tottenham Hotspur. On the Monday Spurs visited their bitter London rivals Chelsea knowing a victory was the only result that would keep them in the Title Race. Spurs led the game by two goals and looked good to keep their challenge alive but as the pulsating game progressed Chelsea scored twice leveling the score. The match finished all square and sealed the Foxes destiny.
Lowly Leicester City, who had been one of the favourites for relegation before a ball was even kicked had proved all the bookies wrong. They were now Champions of the Premier League against all the odds. The Tinker Man, Claudio Ranieri had steered his group of youngsters and journeymen to win one of football’s coveted trophies amazingly with two games to spare.
Next weekend at the King Power stadium on Saturday the 7th of May, Leicester City hosts Everton in what will prove to be one big party as they will be crowned Champions in front of their long suffering home fans.
This amazing feat is one of world football's biggest ever achievements breaking as they have the dominance of the big 4 : Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea. And it is a tonic for the sport as it demonstrates with the right spirit and courage it is still possible to overcome adversity and “Dream the Impossible Dream.”