All roads currently lead to Leicester, a small city in the English Midlands which yesterday made history by winning the Barclay’s English Premier League crown. It is an astounding tale of teamwork, courage and transformation, which has culminated in what is undoubtedly the greatest moment in the careers of the players and backroom staff.
Everyone doubted, pundits second-guessed, rivals hoped otherwise, but the team of relatively unknown players defied all the odds – all 5000-1 of them – to show once again that football is still capable of a heart-warming fairy-tale to be remembered for years to come.
As the players savour the moment and prepare to be introduced this weekend as premier league champions, I for one do not buy the argument that this is a once in a lifetime event. It may well be that the shooting star on which Leicester has flown all season long never appears again for them, but it is sure to appear for another team in another league.
Let’s take a look at other teams in history that have gone against the grain and triumphed when the odds were firmly NOT in their favour.
In the 1999-2000 season, the team from the north west of Spain lifted the La Liga title for the first and only time in its history. With a similar narrative to Leicester, the Galician team piped the star-studded Barcelona team to the title. The Catalan club had the likes of Patrick Kluivert, Rivaldo and Josep Guardiola on their team, but could not overhaul ‘Depor’s’ five-point lead. Ironically, among the teams to be relegated from La Liga that year was Claudio Ranieri’s Atletico Madrid.
Felix Magath might be remembered by Fulham fans for his disastrous spell with them in 2014. However, back in 2009, the authoritarian German coach guided Wolfsburg to its maiden Bundesliga title. Breaking the traditional stronghold of Bayern Munich, the team from lower Saxony were able to rely on their prolific strikers Grafite and Edin Džeko, who between them scored 54 goals.
For those that watch the Dutch Eredivisie, the crowned champion each season is usually Ajax, PSV Eindhoven or Feyenoord. However, in the 2009-2010 season, FC Twente won the title by a nail-biting point from Ajax, under the leadership of Steve McClaren.
The Englishman was able to turn around his fortunes after being sacked as England coach. Who could forget his attempt at speaking with Dutch accent during his first spell with the club?
The legendary Brian Clough took the Midlands team to the top of the English league just one season after gaining promotion from division one. Not only did he achieve such a remarkable feat, he also added two European cup titles to the team’s cabinet and his own CV. The statue of Clough in the city’s town centre is a constant reminder of glories past.
When the Zambian national team lined up against the elephants of Ivory Coast in the final of the 2012 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations, many would have forgiven them if they had faltered at this final hurdle of their fairy-tale road to the trophy.
The team, led by inspirational captain Christopher Katongo had been the surprise package, displaying a togetherness that would see them exceed expectations right from the group stages, while defeating the Black Stars of Ghana in the semi-finals. Facing the prolific Didier Drogba and the Toure brothers in the final, the Chipolopolo survived a penalty miss by Drogba in normal time to record a victory that would honour their fallen stars who had died in a plane crash 19 years earlier.
Can Leicester city repeat the heroics next season? Will they be able to retain their star players who are all in demand from the traditional big boys? They will certainly be the team to beat and will need to step up to higher expectations, otherwise who knows, they could end up full circle.
Well that’s just my opinion anyways. Odds on being relegated next season?