The meteoric rise of Leicester club
On the eve of what might be called as one of the best moments in sporting history, here I am trying to pen down the first write up about my greatest passion – Football. And what better way to start out, than to write about Leicester City F.C. who has enthralled us with their style of play, and who have kept the football fraternity buzzing throughout the 2015-16 season. Leicester City F.C. have a chance of winning the premier league tomorrow when they square off against the 20 times premier league champions, Manchester United F.C.. It has been a fairy tale story watching the club triumphing over highly decorated teams with relative ease.
The legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson once quoted – “ Football, Bloody Hell”. Bloody hell, it is. Football will always surprise you. Twenty times champions Manchester United can seem like an average premier league team, scurrying for a European place in the table. Last season champions Chelsea can seem like a mediocre club playing for a mid-table finish. A team who were expected to finish in the lower half of the table at the most, can seem like Champions. Football, Bloody hell it is.
Let’s admit it. We all have a soft spot for the underdogs. Leicester City F.C. are anything but that. They may have started out as the underdogs, having fought successfully against relegation the previous season. But the team started out playing with a real purpose, winning every weekend with flair, and the one thing we love most about the team, is their passion for the sport. Over the course of the year, the team has developed and matured into real contenders; not just an underdog team with a stroke of luck.
Quest for Championship
When the foxes were promoted to the premier league two years ago, experts predicted that they would fight to stay in the league for 2 or 3 seasons, or get relegated to championship again. In the first year they were proved right. Leicester City fought bravely to stay in the league, but only managed to get 19 points from 29 games, and was at the bottom of the table. With 9 games to go, a return to championship was the only plausible result. But Leicester city were not a team to take a beating lying down. They won 7 of their last 9 games to finish strongly in the 14th place in the Premier League.
Forward to this season, experts again anticipated that they would finish in the lower half of the table. But that was never on the cards. Leicester city F.C. had appointed the former Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri to replace Nigel Pearson. Ranieri continued the momentum of their previous season’s finish to get an exceptional start to the season. It was not just the goalscoring antics of Jamie Vardy, or the flair of Riyad Mahrez, or the hard work of Danny Drinkwater, or the reflexes of Kasper Schmeichel, that led them to play exceptionally well. It was the effort of all the players in the team, the sturdiness of Wes Morgan, the work rate of N’golo Kante, the pace of Jeff Schlupp, and the passion of every player in the team that has resulted in the team to have a chance of becoming Champions of the English Premier League.
Whenever you look at the team sheet of Leicester city, you don’t see any big name players, rather you see, name of the players that make Leicester city a big team. But there are 2 or 3 standout players in the team, and I feel obligated to talk about their contributions to the team. By now, you would’ve known to whom I’m referring at. N’golo Kante, Riyad Mahrez, and Jamie Vardy were the key figures behind the impressive display of the foxes. They pulled the team together, encouraged them, and provided moments of inspiration whenever the team needed it.
N’golo Kante joined Leicester City on 3rd August 2015 for an undisclosed price. It was an inspired signing. Right from his debut, he was playing with zeal and provided the team with a reliable midfielder capable of covering the defence. He dominated the midfield area, making several tackles and interceptions, and providing numerous passes. He made a season-record 149 tackles and was named in the professional footballers’ association team of the year.
Riyad Mahrez probably needs no introduction. When Mahrez was contacted by Leicester City in January 2014, he had never heard of the team. He signed for Leicester city on 11th January 2014. He slowly made his way into the first team, and helped them to win the championship and got promoted to the premier league. In the 2014 – 2015 season, Mahrez was getting used to playing in the premier league along with the rest of their team. When he hit his stride in the latter stages of the season, he was one of the best dribblers in the league. This season, he made huge strides as a player, growing into a household name for the Leicester City fans. He scored 17 goals, and provided 11 assists in his 34 games for the foxes. His flair for doing the unexpected made him a hard opponent to track. His style of play won him many fans this season. He was also named in the PFA Team of the year, and also won the PFA players’ player of the year.
As always, the best is reserved for the last, Jamie Vardy. Vardy joined Leicester City in May 2012 from Fleetwood town, a conference premier team. His first season was a disaster as he suffered a loss of form, and was criticized by many Leicester City fans. His second season was better, scoring goals regularly which enabled the team to win the championship. Personally, I noticed him on 21st september, when Leicester city played against Manchester United. Leicester city came back from 1 – 3 down with 30 minutes remaining to winning the match 5 – 3. Vardy scored one goal, and provided assists for the other four goals. This season, he has been in prolific form scoring 22 goals and providing 6 assists in 34 appearances. He was also named in the PFA team of the year.
It is almost tragic that Jamie Vardy would not be on the pitch, when they could possibly win the Premier League, still serving his suspension for being sent off against West Ham United. While I want to see Leicester City win the league as soon as possible, there is a small part of me that wants them to win it on the next weekend. Perhaps it is the Manchester United fan in me that does not want my team to lose, or the fact that, when Leicester City do win the league, I would like to see Jamie Vardy on the pitch along with his teammates with smiles on their faces, lifting the Premier League trophy with pride in their eyes.
Let them, live the dream!
Let me put all my cards on the table here. I am a Manchester United fan. I have friends who are fans of other teams – Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool. I have a brother who is a fan of Swansea City. All of us feel bad when our team loses, and we are a bit bitchy, when other teams win the league. But, this time we are all excited thinking about Leicester winning the league. I’ve pondered the reasons for that over many days. I’ve come to realise, that this is the stuff of dreams. This is what Football is all about. A team which was promoted to premier league just two years back, who were struggling against relegation this time last year, has a chance of winning the Premier League. This gives us the hope that, with the combination of confidence and hard work, anything is possible. If a man like Jamie Vardy, who was virtually unknown two years ago can go on to become an inspiration, then we can go on to become more than what we are. If Leicester city can win the league, then anything can be possible with sheer will and passion. This is what excites us. A team which plays for the name on the front rather than the name on the back. A team which shows us that playing with real passion can earn dividends. A team which showed us what Football really is. Big salute, Leicester City Football Club.
Author: Mahesh Raj