It took Leicester City Football Club 87 years to move one step further up from the old First Division’s runners to Premier League champions. But when they did finally win it all in the 2015-16 season, it was a football fairy tall, described as a once in a lifetime achievement, against all odds, a football-heaven season.
That season was even more impressive, since Leicester comes from a relatively small market, it is not known to be among England’s elite football clubs and has spent its rich history of 133 years mainly fighting against relegation to lower divisions and doing its best to qualify back up. Even the title winning season started with a profound intention of not getting relegated. Or, as then manager Claudio Ranieri said: “we’re only trying to win the next match”.
Leicester City Football Club (LCFC) was founded as Leicester City Fosse F.C. in 1884 and joined the Football League six years later. Financial hardship struck, and the club was taken over by a company and changed its name to Leicester City in 1919. It wasn’t until 1948 that the fox’s head was added to the now famous club shield, to commemorate Leicestershire’s involvement with fox hunting, thus giving the team its nickname “The Foxes".
During the 50’s, Leicester was promoted twice to the First Division. During the 1956-57 season, striker Arthur Rowley set a club record with 44 goals scored in a season.
The club reached three FA Cup Finals during the 60’s and won its first League Cup in 1964, an achievement that resulted in its first European competition. The goalkeeper in that span was Gordon Banks, England’s finest ever goalkeeper, a World Cup winner in 1966, who made 293 appearances for Leicester between 1959-1967. By the way, Banks was sold to Stoke City for then a goalkeeper’s record of 50,000 GBP.
Banks was replaced in goal by a young Peter Shilton, who made 286 appearances for Leicester during 10 seasons, and registered 125 caps for England.
Despite winning the League Cup in 1997 and 2000, Leicester spent the majority of the four decades since the 60’s either trying to avoid relegation, or moving up between the divisions. The lowest point occurred in 2008-09, when the club has fallen to the third division. However, its rise to prominence was rapid and took only seven years. In between, Leicester relocated in 2002 to the new 32,500 seats Walkers Stadium, sold to a Thai consortium in 2010, and renamed its home the King Power Stadium in 2011. During the 2014-15 season, the club was once again fighting relegation, but managed to win seven out of the last nine matches of the season and kept its place in the Premier League.
The championship days of 2015-16 were so stunning, that club legend Gary Lineker, now a TV pundit, promised that if Leicester would win the title, he will present the first show of BBC’s Man of the Match next season in his white Leicester underwear. And he kept his word. Ranieri’s men were off and running since day one, with striker Jamie Vardy breaking Ruud van Nistelrooy’s Premier League record and scoring in 11 consecutive matches. Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel - together with his father, Manchester United great Peter - became the first ever father-son combination to win the title.
The sentiments are over now. Ranieri is long gone, but the Foxes are again up and running. In fighting against relegation, or giving the Premier League biggest clubs a hard time, Leicester City will continue to excite fans and the imagination, playing hard-nosed football
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