Wednesday, May 04, 2016

And Then I Shot, Shot, Shot A Hole Through Everything I Loved...

In a season like no other, it's been a day like no other: The first as the reigning champions of England. The reigning champions of England.
How's it been for you? Here's our composite version of an extraordinary day in the life of a Leicester City fan.

Wake up, late, with half a crisp cob stuck to the side of your face.

Wonder why you went to bed draped in a small kimono. You don't even own a kimono.

Struggle through a moment or two of Paul Merson-levels of thick-headed confusion.

Realise it's not a kimono, but a flag.

Hang on ... A flag you bought outside the ground late last night. The one that says Champions.

See daylight, like an express train racing from a tunnel. It happened. It actually happened.

Reach for your phone. Tweet: "So, it wasn't a dream #lcfc".

Scroll through hundreds of other tweets saying "so, it wasn't a dream #lcfc".

Sit up. Slump down again, knocked back by the sweetest hangover you will ever endure.

Get up and have breakfast. A fry-up, for both celebration and necessity.

Have a shower. Idly wonder, while stripping, if the Miracle of Leicester might also have worked its magic on your body, making you thinner/more muscley/bigger-breasted/hung-like-a-porn-star-whale ...

... Oh well.

Turn on breakfast TV. Watch a breathless report that features the words "fairytale" and "5000-1" plus an interview with a dishevelled, wild-haired passer-by, conducted to a symphony of car horns.

Switch over. Watch the exact same thing, with the same words, but in a slightly different order.

Switch over again. Ditto, but with Piers Morgan. Find, to your lasting surprise, that for once he doesn't make you want to punch a cushion.

Switch over. Repeat.

Catch a bus to town. Fight strange impulse to climb on the roof.

Open the gallery on your phone. Find several chaotic videos of pogoing feet in the pub, and a photo of you hugging a grinning stranger who looks like he might have chased you through the Haymarket when you were both 14.

Flick through your call log. Recall with a small burst of shame that you rang several London numbers at midnight, asking to be put though to Chas and/or Dave.

Open Twitter. Favourite every tweet made by a Leicester City player in the last 24 hours. Retweet a random oaf who'd predicted at the start of the season that we'd be relegated. Watch a compilation video of Claudio Ranieri's press conferences. Have a little sob.

Walk through the city, glowing like the Ready Brek kids, but with pride. Use your advanced chugger-avoiding skills, honed on countless dinner breaks in the city, to dodge roving packs of TV reporters who want to know if anyone can quite believe it.

Think: "I don't believe it".

Think: "I wonder if I've thought 'I don't believe it' more times in the last 12 hours than Richard Wilson has ever said it in his lifetime?'"

Think: "I may still be a bit drunk."

Roll up late to work, braced for middle-managerial peevishness. Find everyone is beaming like drunken chimps. Even the office misery. Notice your boss, who supported Manchester United earlier this season, has a Leicester City scarf draped over their computer. Sense you are immune.

Make tea, and a small shrine to Claudio Ranieri and Richard III.

Swap war stories from last night with your workmates.

Spend a full 25 minutes humming "we're all going on a European tour".

Answer the phone with the greeting "dilly ding, dilly dong?" Repeatedly.

Have a pointless work meeting. Don't listen to a single word, as you are otherwise engaged deciding precisely where Eden Hazard's equaliser would rank in the list of Leicester City's all-time greatest goals.

Go back to your desk. Google '+car +horn +knackered +repair +Leicester'.

Feel a fleeting urge to go on the Forest forum, but shrug it off. Realise for the first time ever, they mean as little to you as they insist we do to them.

Read this, even though you've read it before. Have a Ranieri-style trembly lip.

Be gripped by a fear you're going to wake up and find yourself in the double decker at Filbert Street, after nodding off during a dreary David Pleat-era goalless draw, having dreamed the entire last quarter of a century of Leicester's history.

Or that you've died.

Watch this.

Remind anyone who'll listen of that day you saw Andy King in Tesco.

Buy a subscription to The Fox.

Stare out of the window. Think of Vardy's volley against Liverpool. Of Schmeichel playing like a man possessed at Old Trafford. Of Mahrez dumping three Villa players on the ground with a single, dazzling turn. Of Okazaki's overhead kick against Newcastle. Of Huth's ballistic header against Spurs. Of Ulloa's last-gasp equaliser against West Ham. Of Kante's Mini. Of the Union FS tifos. Of the free booze from the owners. Of Ranieri's trembly lower lip...

...Have another little sob.

I Want To Hold The Line. I'll Bring The Cheese And Wine.

A few hundred privileged City fans glimpsed their heroes drop into an Italian restaurant for a slap-up meal this afternoon.

The 2016 Premier League champions made time for a visit to San Carlo in Granby Street, in the city centre shortly after 1.30pm.

A coach dropped off the players outside the restaurant and into a throng of delirious and chanting supporters.

They were whisked inside and the windows blocked out to afford them some privacy.

Rumours that something special was on the cards began to circulate around 1pm when a small team of police officers arrived in the street.

The crowd swelled to the hundreds as more and more people cottoned on.

David May, 64, was one of the first to arrive – complete with a City flag.

Mr May, whose company May's Electrical has a long association with the Foxes, said: "I'd booked at San Carlo for today but they rang me and apologised that they would have to cancel because there was a special party coming in.

"I put two and two together and came down from Knighton to see if I was right – and I was.

"I've been waiting all my life for this, it's been an amazing season.

"I went to the Man United game at the weekend and, although we didn't win it there, it was amazing.

"The United fans applauded City of the pitch.

"I watched the Spurs v Chelsea game in the pub and people were saying at 2-0 that we were going to have to wait for the next game, but I always believed it would finish 2-2 and that we'd be champions.

"The whole thing is crazy. We've had some successes over the years and some trips to Wembley, but this is on another plane."

Sally Frazer, of Market Bosworth, chanced on the impromptu street party as she and her family walked through the city centre.

She said: "We walked into town from the King Power Stadium – where the atmosphere was amazing.

"We saw people standing around outside the restaurant and wondered what was going on.

"Someone said they'd heard that the players were coming for a meal, so we had to stay to find out if it was true – and it was.

"The atmosphere is wonderful, everyone is so happy.

"What the team have achieved is a one-off and we won't see anything like it again."

Construction worker Jay Harbin, 44, of Ashby, was also one of the first people at the happy scene.

He said: "We saw a police car pull up and made a joke about them getting a ticket if they parked there.

"It was our break so we came out and there must have 10 or so people waiting around.

"Then it just grew and grew as the word went around that the players were going to be coming. It was brilliant."

I Long For Brighter Days Like In The Month Of May...

It is completely mad that Leicester City have become only the sixth team to win the Premier League title, midfielder Danny Drinkwater has said.

Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Blackburn are the only other clubs to have ever lifted the title, and Drinkwater admitted it was an astonishing feat to join that select band of clubs.

Drinkwater and his City team-mates were watching on from Jamie Vardy's house as Tottenham threw away a 2-0 lead against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge to confirm the title was heading to Leicester.

Drinkwater said it was unbelievable to think they had become champions.

However, he said the City players now wanted more success.

"It is mad isn't it," he said. "It doesn't sound right but we have done it.

"We are here to stay, we are not going to drop off there from now.

"We are going to push on. But when you think of the players who have not won it, it is mad, it is crazy.

"I will be looking back at this for years, it will be something I can tell my kids about. I am happy my family have got to feel this as well.

"It is a special moment, it is so hard to put into words what it is going to do for people at this club. I think they deserve it, so well done."

Drinkwater said it was an amazing time to be a City player and to share the amazing experience of becoming champions together, watching the Tottenham-Chelsea game at Vardy's house.

"I think the rest of the lads would answer the question the same, it is a brilliant time to be involved with the club," he said. "It is a special moment for us lot.

"When the final whistle went it was like four hours of madness. It was brilliant, it was good, all the lads were together and it sums us up as a group of lads."

Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill has hailed the success of City as "truly remarkable".

Having been involved with a Tigers set-up that has won the English league title on 10 occasions, Cockerill knows a thing or two about winning championships.

And he was full of praise for their cross-city counterparts.

"I am trying to think of a better achievement," he said.

"I am delighted for the city and the club. It's great news for all concerned. I probably won't have to explain where Leicester is any more because it puts Leicester on the map once and for all."

Leicester City: The Real-Life Harchester United

As Leicester City fans awoke yesterday with throbbing heads, but joyous hearts, they must have been asking themselves one question – was that all just a dream?

Even as they rubbed their bleary eyes and turned on the TV to endless news reports about how City, the club that had been bottom of the Premier League for more than 140 days of the previous season and were 5,000-1 to become champions, had defied the odds to claim the title, they must have thought they were either still asleep or in some bizarre parallel universe.

When they saw the empty champagne bottle on the kitchen table, flashbacks of the huge party the night before, sparked by Eden Hazard's amazing late equaliser against Tottenham at Stamford Bridge, may have followed, but it was still too surreal to be true.

But it is. It is all true. Leicester City are Premier League champions. Even now, as you read these words, you are probably shaking your heads in wonderment. You and the rest of the world.
How has a team of players who have all been rejected or passed over by other clubs been able to come together to defy the odds and pull off the greatest sporting shock in history?

How has a manager who was sacked after just four games in charge of Greece been able to pull together the same set of players who had faced what seemed to be certain relegation the season before and turned them into champions?

How has a club that has won just three League Cups in its 132-year history been able to break the dominance of English football's elite, to claim the ultimate prize and become only the sixth team to lift the Premier League trophy?

It is an astonishing achievement which has left everyone scratching their heads in bewilderment and clapping their hands in admiration at the same time.

The scenes outside the King Power Stadium on Monday night and yesterday were amazing. City fans descended on their stadium to worship their club and celebrate what many would admit was the greatest moment of their lives. The party is set to continue for quite some time.

People from all walks of life, from different faiths and cultural backgrounds have all been brought together by one amazing achievement.

The people of Leicester have puffed up chests and heads held high because their football team has put the city on the map.

The world's media has camped out for weeks in the city waiting for the moment when the fairytale would come true. The Leicester City story has captured the imagination because it is the greatest rags to riches underdog story in sporting history.

Less than 15 years ago, City were a club on its knees. The very future of the club was in doubt. The thought of challenging for a Premier League title in future years seemed ridiculous. There was the danger of there not being a future.

Then there was relegation to League One for the first time in the club's history in 2008, another dark time. It is fair to say there have been more downs than ups.

That is why the rest of the football community will not begrudge City this incredible moment. City fans, who wear their shirts with pride, have been applauded as they walk down the street. The travelling fans and Ranieri's incredible team have been given standing ovations by rival fans at grounds around the country, including at Old Trafford last Sunday.

Football supporters have cast aside the usual tribalism because they recognise that what City have achieved is extraordinary.

It can potentially change the landscape of the Premier League. The elite clubs must now reflect on their approach and raise their game, while the clubs of City's ilk now have belief that they can aspire to follow their lead.

They can dream as well.

When the Thai owners came to the club in 2010 there was some scepticism.

Previous foreign ownerships at English clubs had gone spectacularly wrong. They had been disasters.

The Srivaddhanaprabha family have been astonishing. Not only have they committed their substantial wealth, writing off £103million of loans into equity, they have cherished the history and traditions of the club.

They may not come from an English football culture but they have shown great respect to the supporters.

Even when their judgement was being questioned last summer as they replaced Nigel Pearson – who deserves an immense amount of credit for turning the club around – with Ranieri, they have been proven right. They are shrewd operators.

As for Ranieri, finally the bridesmaid has become the bride and on Saturday, when the Premier League trophy is presented to captain Wes Morgan he will have his big day.

Four times he has been in a title race and four times he has finished second, in Italy, France and England. Finally, Ranieri, the man who has entertained everyone this season with his genial, lovable antics, colourful turn of phrase and warmth, is a champion.

After the departure of Esteban Cambiasso, City's player of the year last season, Ranieri sat before the media and tried to raise spirits. "Cambiasso is a great champion and now we have to find another," he said. He had 24 of them right under his Roman nose.

To a man they have been magnificent. From Kasper Schmeichel in goal to Jamie Vardy scoring 22 goals and leading the attack, from the skipper Wes Morgan to the longest-serving player Andy King, who has been with City through their League One, Championship and now Premier League title triumphs, from the mercurial winger Riyad Mahrez, the greatest £400,000 signing in the modern game, to the veracious predator that is N'Golo Kante. Every single one of them has played a huge part.

They have all shown a burning desire, a hunger that has been the driving force behind their success. They have all faced disappointment and rejection but have had the character to keep going. That is why they didn't buckle during the season.

Those dark moments provided an inner strength that has proved so crucial. While their rivals seemed to wilt under pressure, City were able to stay strong.

Around the stadium there are now poster pictures of each player hanging from the lampposts, but the memory of what these players have achieved will live on long after those flags are pulled down. As Gary Lineker has said, they will now be immortals.

Finally, the supporters. The Blue Army. They have played their role. When City have been behind in games they have roared even more.

When the players have needed their help, they have been there. The sight of them remaining in the away ends singing long after their rivals have gone will live long in the memory.

The secret to Leicester City's success is easy. It has just been one glorious team effort by everyone.

Leicester City: 2015-16 Premier League Champions!

Chelsea came from two goals down to rescue a 2-2 draw against Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge and crown Leicester City as Barclays Premier League champions.

Mauricio Pochettino's men needed victory to retain hope of stopping Leicester's astonishing march towards glory and Harry Kane's 25th BPL goal of the season, along with a clinical finish from Son Heung-min, gave them a healthy half-time advantage.

In a feisty encounter played at a pulsating pace, Gary Cahill reduced the arrears in the 58th minute and Eden Hazard, who schemed menacingly as a half-time substitute, scored his first league goal at Stamford Bridge since last season's title-clinching win over Crystal Palace to ensure a new and unlikely name would be etched on the trophy.

Former Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri will hoist that silverware at a raucous King Power Stadium after Saturday's match against Everton, no doubt thrilled by the help from his former employers.

Cahill and John Terry were reunited at the heart of the Chelsea defence, with the former heading a fourth-minute corner wide as the hosts applied early pressure.

Cesc Fabregas, the former Arsenal midfielder, was picked out by Costa and dragged wastefully wide in the 27th minute.

Spurs spurned a similarly inviting opening with Son, in for the suspended Dele Alli, lashing past the near post but Pochettino's side crafted a fine opener 10 minutes before half-time.

Christian Eriksen combined with Erik Lamela for the Argentina international to pick out Kane's perfectly timed run, with the England striker able to coolly round Asmir Begovic and slot into an unguarded net.

Costa engineered space on the edge of the box to fire over as Chelsea sought a response but they were left with a mountain to climb by a blistering Spurs counter-attack.

Kane intercepted a stray pass from Branislav Ivanovic and Eriksen expertly slid a pass through to Son, whose aim was true this time.

The half ended an altercation after Danny Rose rashly fouled Willian, and both players were booked for their troubles and renewed acquaintances early in the second half as the Brazil winger crashed into his opponent before Son clipped the loose ball wide from the edge of the box.

Chelsea grasped a lifeline in the 58th minute as Spurs midfielder Eric Dier missed an attempted clearance from Willian's corner and Cahill pounced with an emphatic left-footed volley.

The complexion of the contest changed entirely, Hazard to the fore for the hosts, and Willian shot too close to Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris from a Costa pass.

Spurs right-back Kyle Walker was grateful to see Hazard's low cross spin off his shin and wide in the 74th minute, while substitute Ryan Mason shot tamely at Begovic when he should have restored the two-goal cushion.

Despite his misfiring campaign, Hazard showed why he has a more renowned eye for goal from midfield as he darted towards the area, exchanged passes with Costa and found the top corner to break Spurs hearts and spark celebrations in Leicester.

The Chelsea faithful delighted at their team’s fightback, and will now offer a guard of honour to Leicester on the final day.