It’s been a couple of days now, and the world is starting to come to grips with the fact that none of Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal or Chelsea have won the Premier League title. Not since Blackburn in the 1990s had these four clubs been denied the ultimate glory – until now. Leicester City have taken home the crown, and they’ve done it at a bloody gallop. Never mind challengers, they’ve done it with games to spare. It will be interesting to see what they do. Personally, I’d play the last two rounds drunk. But enough about that. Let’s look at how they did it and – perhaps more importantly – where to now for the Foxes?
One Year On
Almost a year ago, the city of Leicester was celebrating what was a remarkable story in its own right, but what has become a precursor to arguably sport’s greatest story in history. Anchored heavily in last spot, eight points clear of safety, they looked a team out for relegation. To put it in context, they were last year’s Aston Villa, and we know how that story went this time round. Bets were off.
But, within a group of trusting teammates brewed greatness. And it began to click. Under the ill-fated Nigel Pearson the squad banded together for a staggering undefeated run to finish safely above the relegation zone and take their spot in this most fateful of Premier League seasons.
As the revival party blossomed, Pearson was sacked amidst a dusty circle of controversy, partly with his own son at fault. In came the replacement – mocked widely – in the form of ex-Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri. What a prophetic appointment that was.
Following some brilliant recruiting over multiple off seasons – this is a team made up of castaways like Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante – Ranieri steadied the ship, kept things fairly consistent, and let the team fly.
We know what happened then – they went on, setting the pace throughout the year, and they won the League. Unbelievable.
Where to Now
Some in the industry – as well as a few in the pub – are of the notion that Leicester’s breakout success has turned the tide in domestic football dominance (indeed, even mid-table Spurs have had a decent run) and that along with the TV money to come, smaller clubs are ready for their day in the sun.
This, certainly, is a popular thought and one that has reignited the romance of modern football. Nonetheless, for this to happen again with a Pep-led City, a growing United and a Chelsea football club with a lot of cash to throw around and even more to prove, it will take a story almost (though not quite) as remarkable as this year itself.
For the rest of us not convinced that dawn has or will come, the most exciting thing about next year is Leicester vs Barcelona, Leicester vs Real Madrid, Leicester vs Bayern Munich. How far will they go in the Champions League? Can they retain the Premier League title? A city soon to be awash with new tourism money now has Australia’s reigning domestic champions seeking a glittering off-season match with the Foxes.
How big can this story get?
There is a sense that this revelling in Premier League success after a long and brilliant season is the start, rather than the end, of the Leicester story.