Unless you’ve been living in a cave at the bottom of a crevasse in a rainforest on an uninhabited island at the centre of a vast, unforgiving ocean for the last year – or if you don’t like football – you’ll have heard that there’s been a rather unusual season going on.
Leicester City have won the Premiership. Leicester. City. To put this in some kind of context for those non-football-loving-types among you: Leicester have never, in their 132-year existence, come close to doing this. They narrowly avoided relegation last season and were favourites to be relegated this time around, with bookmakers offering those now-famous 5000-1 odds (the same odds offered by William Hill that Nick Grimshaw would win an Olympic medal in Rio) that they would win the title. Comedian Mark Steel accurately described the Foxes’ triumph as “like winning the Grand National – on a cat.” The global reaction has been unprecedented in the modern game, winning the team millions of new fans in the space of a few months.
There are so many stories around this bizarre and inspiring triumph that it’s difficult to know where to begin. With Claudio Ranieri, the instantly likeable manager for whom an elusive league win was beginning to look like an inescapable career-spanning albatross, and who coined the phrase ‘dilly ding, dilly dong’ as a motivational tool? Jamie Vardy, who, from playing for non-league Fleetwood Town four years ago, broke Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s record for goals scored in consecutive Premiership games and will lead England’s attacking line in Euro 2016? Or Riyad Mahrez, who was an unused substitute against Burnley in April 2015, and went on to be voted PFA Player Of The Year in the same month this year, having played some of the most sublime football the league has ever seen? In fact, my favourite story is Andy King’s: he becomes the first player ever to win titles in League One, The Championship and now The Premier League. Of course, an honourable mention must go to lifelong Leicester fan Gary Linekar, who, at the time of writing, has still not made good on his promise to present Match of the Day in nothing but his boxers if Leicester won the title. The time has come, Gary: dilly ding, dilly dong.
You might be sick of reading about all this, but I suspect, almost a month after it was confirmed, that most football fans actually aren’t. Partly because it’s just not the kind of thing that happens in a sport where money has become such an overarching and dominating presence (case in point: 18 year-old Dominic Solanke demanding £50,000 a week despite only having made one senior appearance for Chelsea) – but also because it gives fans of every team up and down the country a little frisson of excitement: that their bunch of ragtag misfits might just emulate Leicester someday. Football, for the vast majority of supporters outside the “Big Clubs” (who all looked pretty darn small this season), is about hope rather than expectation, and Leicester have provided the former this season in bucketloads.
There have been a predictable slew of Leicester-related books announced in the last few weeks, but deCoubertin have come up with an absolute doozy by David Bevan, a Guardian and Mirror writer and Leicester season-ticket holder whose The Unbelievables: The Remarkable Rise of Leicester City charts the 2015-16 season through the eyes of a disbelieving fan who went to every home game. It is due out in June, presumably once David has had some time to collect his thoughts on this astonishing, unrepeatable period in English football.
The Unbelieveables is published 30 June by De Coubertin Books
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