KIN 2016 AWARDS: Best Sports Team

I’m so proud. I’m happy for my players, for the chairman, for the staff at Leicester City all our fans and the Leicester community. It’s an amazing feeling and I’m so happy for everyone.  Manager Claudio Raniero

The Foxes beat the odds

By Roger Childs

leicester-cityThe top few teams in the English Premier League table are usually drawn from the big six: Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.

Over the last 20 years, prior to the 2015-16 season, just four of these teams had shared the titles between them. Other sides don’t really get a look in, and at the start of each season the smart money is scattered around these elite sides with the big spending power.

Last year the odds on Leicester City winning their first every trophy were 5000 to 1, similar odds to Elvis Presley being found alive in Nashville. A few punters who showed blind faith in the East Midlands team from the start, made a fortune in late May!

Rags to riches

Claudio Ranieri
Claudio Raniero

The appointment of 63 year old Italian Claudio Raniero as Leicester coach for the 2015-16 season was greeted with derision in many quarters. Former Leicester, Spurs and England star, Gary Lineker’s observation: an uninspiring choice, was one of the kinder comments.

Raniero inherited a team which after being promoted in 2014, had spent 140 days at the bottom of the premier league. It seemed that the Foxes were not up to the big time and would soon be back to the First Division where they belonged.

However a great run of seven victories in their last nine games meant they avoided demotion, to fight another day in the world’s toughest football league. None of the sports writers gave them any chance what so ever of getting anywhere near the top in the 2015-16 season.

Showing the elite how it was done

However, Raniero worked away quietly building team spirit and a winning culture. In August-September they won five of their first eight games and the rest were draws. It can’t last said the experts, and sure enough in the ninth game at home they were thumped 5-2 by visiting Arsenal.

leceister-cityWas this a turning point for the worse? No way, just a blip in the record. The team was unbeaten in the next 11 matches. By Christmas they were the unlikely leaders of the league.  They were playing with plenty of confidence based on

~ a solid defence

~ mid-fielders who were quick on the counter attack

~ a scoring machine in Jamie Varney.

They were also merciless in punishing the mistakes of their opponents and showed they could win against top teams on the road by beating Spurs and Manchester City away.

Did the elite clubs under-estimate them? Quite possibly. By April The Foxes had pushed out to a 5 point lead and realistically only Spurs could catch them. However, the start-studded London club faded in their final league games.

Doing it in a canter

leicester-city-fansIn the end Leicester City won by 10 points, much to the delight of club fans, including those in Japan pictured alongside! This was one of the biggest winning premier league margins in the last 20 years.

Former Leicester, Spurs and England player and Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker told BBC Sport:

I can’t think of anything that surpasses it in sporting history. It is difficult to put over in words. I got emotional. It was hard to breathe.

I was a season ticket holder from the age of seven. This is actually impossible.

 

Footnote: The most tragic team story of the year, was the plane crash in late November which killed all but one player in the Chapecoense side from southern Brazil. The team was due to play the first leg of a two-game Copa Sudamericana final.