There is something very wonderful about Leicester City’s Premiership win. But when the BBC’s Dan Roan (and many others) said that this is something that should not have happened, the couldn’t be more wrong.
Let’s start with the bookies. Whoever gave odds of 5000-1 against the Foxes coming out on top shouldn’t be in the business. It’s a 20 team league with a load of random factors you can’t control or predict.
But even if the odds were more modest, is it still such a bolt from the blue? Unexpected? Yes. Unlikely? Yes too. But what Leicester’s win does is show how narrow the gap between success and failure is.
Jamie Vardy or Riyad Mahrez are fantastic footballers – but they have counterparts who have the same potential in the lower reaches of football, but just miss out, or get injured, or don’t progress for some another reason.
Claudio Ranieri is not an inexperienced manager – but until anyone wins something significant, they can be described as the “nearly man” (or woman).
Leicester may not have assembled a team costing hundreds of millions – but that does not mean they are poor, or unambitious, without a rich and influential benefactor, or poorly run.
So all the ingredients were at Leicester for success. But then you have the added ingredients of confidence from good management, momentum from good results and crucially Fate – intervening in referring decisions that could have gone the wrong way (albeit balanced by those that did – like Vardy’s arguably unfair dismissal in a pivotal match against West Ham), the loss of form of key rivals, and players avoiding injuries.
And let’s not forget that City’s success has been built on some fairly old-fashioned, traditional values – speed in attack, a robust defence, good organisation on the pitch, high levels of fitness.
Former Leicester boss Martin O’Neill ruminated that this is the biggest story in football since the remarkable feats of Nottingham Forrest nearly 40 years ago (documented in the superb book by Daniel Taylor) Maybe he is right – but Leicester’s feat is magnified by the global interest in the top flight of English football. This is a big, big commercial deal which gives the story unprecedented resonance.
It is with indecent haste that thoughts turn to next season – European competition, more matches, the pressure of success, can they keep it up? We should resist the speculation and enjoy the a fairy-tale-come-true. Long-term supporters of the club are entitled to the hyperbole.
The dividends of Leicester’s success are dispread across a wide area – from community cohesion in an ethnically diverse city, to tourism, to more kids playing the game. But for whatever reason, and irrespective of consequences, we’ve all got a big smile on this sunny morning. A good news story, and a sense of hope has been restored. Well done Leicester City.