What is being described by many as one of the greatest sporting stories of all time reached its triumphant conclusion last night when Leicester City were deservedly confirmed as Premier League Champions. Their entire season has been fascinating watching as a neutral and it can only be imagined how it felt for their fans.
Probably the reason that their march to the title captured the imagination of football fans around the world was that it was so utterly unexpected. We had settled into the belief that money was king in the Premier League; the richest clubs bought the best players and the only way to break the stranglehold of these clubs on the top four, let alone to win the title, was to find someone with as much money to fund you.
Then a manager who had been jettisoned by one of the super-rich clubs, just over a decade previously, took over at Leicester City, who had just completed the ‘great escape’ and avoided relegation to the Championship. Backed by a wealthy owner but without the financial resources of other more familiar championship contenders, Leicester’s success has been built with a team of under-valued players who worked together brilliantly within a highly effective team structure.
When I visited the King Power stadium back in September, to watch my own team Arsenal play them, they scored two, now trademark goals, on the counter attack but looked very open at the back and conceded five. The latter part of the season saw them become more solid in defence and reduce the number of goals they conceded, while still maintaining their threat on the break.
A lot of the discussion seems to be centring on whether Leicester’s achievement is greater than that of Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest at the end of the seventies / beginning of the eighties; but for me, I am not sure it matters. What Leicester City did was to restore the magic of football again by showing us that organisation, tactics, team spirt, togetherness and sheer hard work were more than a match for the super-wealthy clubs of the Premier League. That the Premier League isn’t just a financial arms race and there is still a place for traditional football values and knowledge.
So huge congratulations to Leicester City and thank you for making me believe in football once again!