Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Tony Becca | Leicester, the surprising kings of England

Published:Sunday | May 15, 2016 | 5:00 AM
Leicester'’s Wes Morgan (second left) celebrates with teammates after scoring during the English Premier League match between Manchester United and Leicester at Old Trafford.

Leicester City, captained by Jamaican international Wes Morgan, are the English Premier League champions, and congratulations to them.

Congratulations go out to them, not only because their captain is widely known as a Jamaican, but because, in their run to the title, Leicester City left behind, and way behind at that, richer and more glamorous clubs like Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, and Manchester City.

Last August, when it all started, they were not even mentioned. They were posted at the outlandish 5000-1 odds to win the title, and their aim was only to muster up 40 points to save the drop.

When Manager Claudio Ranieri was appointed, his job was to do just that - finish above the bottom three teams.

As the season developed, however, as Leicester City started to show their intention, and as they started winning match after match and kept on going, people started looking at them and were wondering if they could really make it.

Even their own fans wondered if Leicester City had it in them to stay the course. Many predicted that each victory would be their last.

That never happened. They finished, with one match to play (today), in style, five 1-0 victories, two 1-1 draws, and a brilliant celebratory 3-1 victory.

The team which suffered was Tottenham, who, after trailing by five points with four matches to go in their best season since 1961, stumbled. They drew two, and gave up the ghost with two matches remaining.

 

GREATEST UPSET

 

It was a victory which shocked everybody and staggered the imagination of English football fans. It was a victory which many are labelling the greatest upset ever in sports.

It is so considered because Leicester City came back into the Premier League just two years ago, because the club was threatened with relegation last year, and because when Ranieri was brought in, with the sole purpose of keeping them from being relegated, the fans, to a man, asked, Ranieri who?

Ranieri coached Chelsea, Roma, and Inter Milan previously, but as good as he was supposed to be, as good as he is, as good as he must be, and as respected as he is in football, he had never won anything of real substance.

On top of that, he was ignored by two Premier League clubs before Leicester City picked him up. He also had the nerve, while playing down the dreams of his players, to refer to them, who Vardy called his brothers, as nothing but fighters and mountaineers.

I can think of many instances in individual sports to bracket with this one, including the time when the unknown Ingemar Johansson knocked out world heavyweight boxing champion Floyd Patterson in 1959, and when the outsider Buster Douglas knocked out the feared Mike Tyson in 1990.

And in team events, I remember hearing of the stunning defeat of England by the USA in the World Cup of 1950, reading about the stunning 3-0 lead before losing 5-3 of North Korea against Portugal in the World Cup of 1966, seeing on television the victory of Greece in the European Championships of 2004, and also reading about the equally surprising victory of the unheralded Montpelier in the French season of 2010-11.

I can only believe that it is being considered as the greatest upset victory in sport, because of the bookmakers' odds against them at the start of the tournament, because of their bank account in relation to other clubs like Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea, because they were fighting relegation the season before, because they were expected to fight for survival this season, and because of the strength and length of the competition.

It can also be because the English fans consider the English league, despite the presence of Real Madrid and Barcelona in the Spanish league, to be the best league in the world.

Nine months, however, through sun, rain, and snow, beginning towards the end of summer, going through autumn, winter, and spring, and ending in early summer, is a long, long time to play for a title.

The Barclays Premier League (BPL) is a competition in which, as poor as it may be, a club can go out and buy players, however, and Leicester did just that in their preparation for this season.

While it is true that players like Andy King were there from 2006, and that Morgan, Danny Drinkwater, and marksman Jamie Vardy were there since the 2012-13 season when they played in the Championship. Leicester City, they did get players like Danny Simpson, Marc Albrighton, Riyad Mahrez, and Robert Huth for 2014-15, their first season on their return to the BPL, and others like Shinzi Okazaki, N'Golo Kante, Nathan Dyer, Christian Fuchs, Gˆkhan Inler, Daniel Amartey, and Demarai Gray for this season.

They were not all players coming up from the championship with them. That, really, would have made it the greatest upset of all time, or probably nearly so.

 

EXPERIENCED PLAYERS

 

The real difference was in how they spent their money and the type of players they bought. They bought players with experience, players who were willing to follow instructions, players who were willing to do just what they were asked to do, nothing more, nothing less, and players who were willing to play together as a team.

They did not bring in young, so-called talented, cocky, and flashy players, players who sometimes consider themselves bigger than the game. They did not bring in unreliable players, and players who would not listen.

They also brought in the right kind of manager, a nice, quiet, easy-going man who knows the sport, who, despite his history up to then, knew how to win, and who never counted his chickens before they were hatched, and kept reminding his players and supporters to do the same.

Leicester City was not the most gifted team in English football this season, and they certainly did not have the best players, or the so-called best players.

They had the players who longed for victory, however, players who probably never thought that day would come, and players who would grab it with both hands when the chance came their way.

Leicester City definitely played the best football, especially when it came down to the wire. They completely outfoxed all of England, they looked unbeatable - and they were, for a long time, unbeatable.