Do you believe in miracle? How often do they occur? Do they ever? Some people do not even believe in it at all, they call it magic, but we hear about it, not often do we see it occur. At best, we see a little card trick or hear about someone’s experience. Leicester City Football Club won the English Premier League by 10 points (not one of those other premier leagues) sounds magical.
Claudio Ranieri when asked about his time as Greece interim manager said “I’m not a magician, I’m a normal man who works with passion, with love.” Little did he know that this “normal man” will lead one of the world greatest footballing miracle, defy a 5000/1 odds at the bookmaker, it’s even a bigger miracle if you placed the bet. There was a higher chance that asteroid 1950 DA struck the Earth than Leicester winning the Premier League.
Leicester City after only a year in the top flight seem bound for relegation but a run of seven wins in nine games saw them escape relegation in what many called “the great escape”. Nigel Pearson, the then Leicester City manager, has done the impossible a team doomed for relegation had just finished 14th on the premier league table. No team in the premier league history has been at the bottom for that long (140 days) and escaped relegation, the feeling was great but it was nothing like what is to come.
After the great escape, late owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha organized a tour to Thailand, a goodwill tour, perhaps it was the Buddhist monks that prayed on the King Power stadium in 2010 that brought them such good fortune. The tour didn’t go as planned when three Leicester players (Tom Hopper, Adam Smith and the manager’s son James Pearson) were found guilty of racially abusing female escorts in a hotel room in Bangkok. Leicester sacked the manager and the three players forthwith. This event will be what will bring the “normal man” Claudio Ranieri to the foxes to perform what will be a miracle. Perhaps, it was a blessing in disguise.
During their title celebration, Ranieri said “keep dreaming, keep dreaming, don’t wake up”. The dream had come true; they probably didn’t even dream that big. When Leicester started winning early on in the season, we all thought it was lady luck still blessing them with all the comeback wins, they weren’t playing in an aesthetically pleasing manner, they just always somehow create chances and convert them. It was the economic approach and was the only way they could compete.
Claudio Ranieri told LCFC TV that “the best player was the team and the team spirit was the best player”. This wasn’t just mere words, at the start of the season, Vardy had broken Ruud van Nilsterooy record scoring 13 goals in 11 consecutive matches. Vardy, the athletic Sheffield born player who was from non-league roots with Stockbridge Park Steels, FC Halifax Town and Fleetwood Town eventually won the golden boot with 24 goals and a pace that scared defenders.
A failed St. Mirren trialist from Algeria, Mahrez had 28 goal involvements just 2 shy off his lad, Vardy, the only teammates to finish with first and second in premier league goal involvement since Didier Drogba (39) and Frank Lampard (36) in 2009/10 season. Mahrez who won the PFA Player of the Year has led the team in chances created as he often cut in from the wings and dazzles amidst oppositions.
Ngolo kante who only had five days to make his debut had played like he had five lungs, he led the division in interceptions (156) and tackles (175), a stat no one including himself has matched. He was an engine room for his side with a partner in crime, Danny Drinkwater who led the team in ball recoveries.
Leicester had topped the league on Christmas, but it was not until February 6 when they won Manchester City that the fans started believing owing to a brilliant display from Mahrez and Kante. Then, a defeat to Arsenal came at them really fast and the questions started popping up again, “is this the end of the road?”
Bouncing back from this defeat was vital and Ranieri the normal man didn’t succumb to pressure as he sent his players on holiday for a week. They came back from this holiday prepared and bouced back in style with six wins in seven games.
Tottenham were perhaps their only existential threat, the main threat they neded out of the way. Leicester had drawn with Manchester United, Tottenham were leading Chelsea 2-0 but threw away the lead to hand the title to the East Midland team with 2 games to spare.
A team that had just survived the horrors of relegation, with no superstar, a team that averaged 42.4% possession, second to last in pass accuracy, conceding 317 shots in their penalty area (fifth in the league) and rescued by their style of play, tenacity and resilience with highest number of interception and ball recoveries in the league, second in tackles, third in most blocked shots, second in clean sheets and a fast and deadly counter attack had won the English Premier League.
A fan-created earthquake with a seismic jolt 0.3 on the Richter scale when Ulloa scored an 89th minute winning goal on February 7, 2016 does not tell the whole story of a city of 340,000 people rejoicing. This is truly a symbol of hope.
On May 7, 2016, Wes Morgan and Claudio Ranieri lifted the Premier League trophy at the King Power Stadium and we will never see anything like this again. It was a moment in history, a moment of magic, a moment of miracle.