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  • Writer's pictureJames Gamlin - Escapismo

The Legacy of Leicester City’s Title Triumph

We look back at one of the most incredible stories in football history, one that continues to inspire and amaze us to this day.

It's half past seven in the evening of 23rd February 2019. The King Power Stadium feels quiet as the last of the home supporters leave, with the only sound a distant echo of "can we play you every week?'" from the raucous away end. Leicester City have just lost 4-1 at home to Crystal Palace, and the following day with the side sitting in 12th place, Claude Puel their manager, is sacked.

It is perhaps only when news of his departure breaks that we are able to fully appreciate the magnitude of Leicester's recent achievements. Their title triumph has ingrained itself into sporting history as one of the greatest shocks of all time, and the legacy of a team of underdogs led by a manager who had always been a runner up will continue to inspire us all forever.

Leicester City winning the Premier League represents something beautiful; a fairytale-like story that gave hope to football fans and clubs across the globe. With seemingly the support of the entire World behind them, one of the most staggering elements of their title win was the way that they never faltered. The closer they were getting, the more significant the games were becoming and the coverage of their story was increasing all of the time, but the team and their manager remained composed, with their feet firmly on the ground.

When talk of the impossible started to emerge as early as November, instead of fading away as many predicted, Leicester actually seemed to grow in confidence and improve with each game. This momentum and belief would prove to be unbreakable, as consistently brilliant performances shaped one of the most inspiring tales that the beautiful game has ever seen.

Fans across the globe will be able to recall the starting line up when telling their children and grandchildren of their memories of that season. Everyone has their own favourite moments and it seems that it has taken a few years for us all to fully take in just how unbelievable it was. For the entirety of the 2015-16 season Leicester City embodied the romance of the game. Their team spirit, belief and fearlessness, combined with their organised, positive and attacking approach captured the imagination of the watching World.

Their legacy will always be so much more than the Premier League Trophy however. Leicester were a team in its purest sense and were truly greater than the sum of their parts. In an age where football seems to be constantly criticised for losing its soul, they certainly reminded us why we fell in love with the game in the first place.

Perhaps the most romantic element of their story is the way that we could identify and relate to them. Fans of sides who haven’t traditionally been known for winning things, or who have witnessed the true highs and lows of football appreciate that their club could well have been Leicester.

As a side that were competing in the third tier of English football just six years prior, their dramatic loss to Watford in the Championship play offs was followed by a brilliant title win to gain promotion, where they pulled off one of the greatest escapes ever seen in the top flight in the following campaign. Claudio Ranieri's appointment certainly divided opinion, but a blistering start to the season, continuing the momentum from the end of the previous campaign, quickly cleared any initial doubts.

It seems that within the story of the Champions, there are so many incredible narratives of the personal achievements of the players. Marc Alrbrighton, released by his hometown club Aston Villa, was outstanding on the wing, whilst the relatively unproven Riyad Mahrez left us absolutely speechless with his breathtaking trickery, dancing through defences and scoring 17 goals, which were often as sublime as they were important. The rise of N'Golo Kanté through his control, work rate and defensive excellence in midfield complemented Danny Drinkwater's pinpoint passing, and their consistency earned both previously low profile names their first international caps.

Robert Huth, who arrived from Stoke after failing to break back into the Potter’s team after an extensive period out with a knee injury, formed a vigorous partnership with Leicester captain Wes Morgan, who had never played in the top flight until gaining promotion with the Foxes. The pair were completely unfazed when up against some of the most talented attackers in the world, forming a solid base in the heart of defence, whilst they also provided goals in some of Leicester’s biggest games.

Each player had reached where they had got to through hard work and dedication, but the story of one in particular will always remind us why we should never give up. Jamie Vardy was dealt an incredibly difficult blow at the age of 16, when he was released by Sheffield Wednesday, the club he had grown up supporting.

He never gave up the dream of making it however, rising through the football pyramid with Stocksbridge Park Steels and then Halifax Town, where he built a reputation for being hardworking and clinical in front of goal, which earned him a move to Conference Side Fleetwood Town. After continuing to impress here, it was Leicester who took a gamble and brought him to the King Power stadium, where he played a major role in helping the side to gain promotion to the top flight in his second season, scoring 16 goals. An astonishing man of the match performance in 5-3 win against Manchester United, where Vardy scored his first Premier League goal and set up the other four was the highlight of his personal season, whilst he also played a role in the Foxes' incredible survival, where they won 9 of their final 11 games to finish comfortably in 14th place.

His form at the start of the following season helped his team make a flying start, and after scoring for the seventh game in a row to give his side all three points against Crystal Palace, talk of breaking Ruud van Nistelrooy's record of scoring in 10 consecutive Premier League games began to emerge. A trademark Vardy strike helped Leicester to a 3-2 win at the Hawthorns, then a penalty in a home win against Watford meant that the record could be equalled when Leicester travelled to Newcastle.

On the stroke of half time, Vardy pulled out wide to receive the ball and then played it into the feet of Ulloa, before advancing into the box and onto the return pass. After taking a touch to control, he then brilliantly slid the ball through the legs of Sissoko before lashing it into the bottom corner. Nothing seemed to faze him and his side as they soared to the top of the table with an emphatic 3-0 win at St. James’ Park.

"I don’t see how people can tell someone that is sixteen years old they are not good enough or they are good enough when they still have another five years of growing time, who know if that’s the age their best ability is going to come out."– Jamie Vardy

In the following game they would face Manchester United, and as in each of their home games in this incredible season, the King Power was absolutely rocking. Midway through the first half, Kasper Schmeicel caught the ball from a United corner and quickly released it to Christian Fuchs, who was racing down the right wing. Advancing past the halfway line, Fuchs steadied himself and played a perfectly timed through ball into the path of Vardy, who angled his run across the United defence and took a touch to take the ball away from Carrick before firing it past De Gea.

The home crowd erupted. It was an unforgettable goal, and Vardy ran off pointing to his chest as if to say 'I've done it' before celebrating with his jubilant team mates. The record is an amazing achievement in the Premier League, and it could stand for quite a while before it is broken as the division seems to become increasingly more competitive each season. To consider that it was broken by a player who had not long ago been playing at non-league level makes it a magnificent story, which can almost be seen as a microcosm of Leicester’s remarkably improbable success.

Vardy formed a superb partnership with Riyad Mahrez, another player who completely shocked the World with the way he also rose from nowhere to become one of the most dangerous wingers around. The two combined against Liverpool to score a goal that will still be spoken about by fans from every corner of the globe for many years to come. The ball falls to Mahrez in the right hand channel facing his own goal. He turns with a brilliant first touch and hit a perfect 40 yard pass into the path of Vardy, seemingly without even looking - it was as if he knew exactly where his team mate would be. The ball sat up perfectly for Vardy, who hit the ball first time, catching the keeper off his line with the sweetest of volleys, which flew into the top corner.

It was yet another truly special moment in their fairytale season, and when Vardy added a second to seal the victory, people were starting to believe that Leicester had what it took to go all the way and win the title. Their performance in the following game against Man City was one of their finest of the campaign, as they blew their opponents away with a 3-1 win, with the scoreline perhaps not fully reflecting the Foxes' dominance.

Mahrez scored a superb goal, flicking Kanté’s pass over a sliding challenge before beating Demichelis with a stepover to leave him with only Joe Hart to beat. England’s then first choice keeper was left rooted to the spot as the Algerian struck the ball high into his right hand corner before running over to celebrate with the elated travelling fans. It is results like this one that don’t come around often, and again Leicester showed no signs of stuttering, as everything they tried seemed to come off in this most glorious of seasons.

There were so many occasions throughout it where they could have crumbled however. Danny Welbeck's last gasp header in the next game could have completely derailed Leicester's title challenge, as the Gunners reduced their lead at the top to just two points. This result led many to believe that that the North London club could build on the result and go on to win a long overdue league title of their own. It would prove to be just Leicester's third and final defeat of the season, and the run in was full of yet more classic moments.

An 89th minute winner from Leonardo Ulloa against Norwich caused a minor earthquake inside the stadium, which was recorded by students at the local university. This really reflects just how almighty the roar must have been as the Argentinian slid to convert a low cross from Mahrez in the dying minutes of the game. It would prove to give Leicester the first of many crucial 1-0 wins as they closed in on the title.

"Football is about dreams, about feeling a special sensation, giving surprise and inspiring joy." – Claudio Ranieri

A Vardy brace at Sunderland guaranteed Champions League football for the following season and put the Foxes just three victories from the Premier League trophy, but after giving his side the lead in the following game at home to West Ham, his sending off from a second yellow turned the game completely on its head. The Hammers were enjoying a brilliant season of their own, pushing for a champions league place, and demonstrated their quality, scoring a quick fire double in the last 10 minutes.

But as the clocked ticked into the third minute of injury time, Jeff Schlupp was brought down in the box and Ulloa held his nerve to convert from the spot and provide another huge goal in Leicester's season. This game provided one of their toughest tests, with events not quite playing out in their favour, but yet again they didn't collapse and Swansea were thrashed 4-0 at the King Power to put them within touching distance of the unthinkable.

Tottenham's draw with West Brom the day after meant that Leicester could win the league at Old Trafford in their next game. After all of the talk, the drama, and the questioning of whether they could keep their run of form going, it was actually possible. United took an early lead through Anthony Martial but the Foxes replied through Wes Morgan, heading home a real captain's goal to draw level, meaning that just two points would be required from their last two games to win the league.

This all depended on whether Spurs would be able to beat Chelsea however, and although they were 2-0 up at half time, Gary Cahill pulled one back with just before the hour, and suddenly the Blues had built up a head of steam. The introduction of Eden Hazard from the bench had given Chelsea that extra edge and with just seven minutes remaining he scored a sublime goal, curling the ball right into the top corner - one that Leicester fans, together with fans of the game all over the planet, will never forget. Spurs were unable to reply meaning that the impossible was now a reality, and soon after the final whistle a video emerged online of the Leicester team celebrating emotionally in Jamie Vardy's living room. The news left us speechless. Leicester City, against all odds, had won the Premier League.

For everyone who witnessed it, their triumph will always mean something to us; it's a story that we feel a part of and will enjoy recalling for many years to come. It reminded us of the purity and spirit of the game, and their story certainly didn't stop here. A brilliant run in the Champions League which included a special comeback to knock out Sevilla, and then a valiant effort against Atletico Madrid once again shocked the footballing world, demonstrating the fearless and exciting style that has become ingrained in their identity.

The legacy of the team and what they achieved will live on in all of us, and as the disappointed home fans reflect on their thrashing at the hands of Palace a few years on, it perhaps puts into perspective just how incredible the recent history of Leicester City has been. The atmosphere walking away from the ground is not a bitter or negative one - it seems that instead of complaining about their players or manager and their current form, Leicester's fanbase are simply grateful to be able to support a club that will forever inspire and galvanise. Even as players and managers eventually move on, the way they gave us all a reason to believe and a chance to dream will always remain and will remind of us of just how special the game can really be.

This article was first featured in our very first issue of the magazine, if you enjoyed it why not pick up a copy of our most recent issue here, your support really does go a long way!



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