I recently completed a questionnaire on a social media website, a kind of ‘bucket list' survey. It asked if I had done a range of things in my life. For example, had I...
- Performed on stage?
- Made prank phone calls?
- Driven a car faster than 100 mph?
- Laughed so much it made you cry?
- Been skinny dipping?
- Paid a fine in the last 12 months?
There were many of these questions. It got me thinking of life and what is experienced in one's lifetime. One constant in my life is my ‘relationship' with Leicester City Football Club. For me it was like an accession... I was always going to be a LCFC supporter by virtue of my father's and his father's hereditary birth rite that was bequeathed to me. I basically had no choice.
Despite never living in the city of Leicester, my father moving from Leicester to Wales in his early 20's, I was therefore saddled with this apparent burden when I was born and raised in the Welsh valleys and I grew up appreciating what this forfeit would mean throughout my life not even being an Englishman. My school friends in the 1980s, my formative years, the friends who could tolerate the sport of the round ball in the fervently passionate rugby hotbed of south Wales, were invariably emblazoned with the red of Liverpool or Manchester United. I, however, stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb, kitted out in my school sports lessons in my miniature Jock Wallace era, Umbro blue LCFC regalia. I was often the source of much derision and ridicule as my dad and I were the only Leicester City fans in the valleys.
The scorn I held towards my father was palpable in my early days as a Leicester City supporter. I wanted to be like my friends and cheer on a team that was successful and regularly achieving European and domestic success. This changed, however, when Leicester City was drawn against Cardiff City (our local team) in the FA Cup 3rd round in 1981. I was 8 years old and my dad got tickets for my first ever match at Filbert Street. We would attend with our neighbor who was a keen Cardiff City supporter.
I loved every minute of that day; getting up early on a Saturday, excitement prevented any real restful sleep, travelling the three hours by car, blue and white scarves flapping in the wind as they hung out the rear windows. The competitive banter between my dad and his pal the entire journey; arriving at the ground; the crowd; the smell of hot dogs and fried onions; the noise; the chanting; the floodlights; the colors; the roars; the passion; the excitement and anticipation; the goals; the celebration; the laughter... this was a turning point in my life...a defining moment.
I developed a passion that day, the day of the 3-1 FA Cup victory at Filbert Street, which has grown and infiltrated my very being.
Leicester City FC has been a massive part of my life since and has defined my life in many ways. The trials and tribulations of the club since that wonderful, frosty, January day in 1981 has become an allegory, a metaphor of my life. I am able to survive the tough times and troubles that we all endure from time to time whilst on our individual life journey, because we hope that the good times will offset these, however fleeting, and provide happy, wonderful experiences and form everlasting memories. Many of my life experiences, such as the ones I said ‘yes' to in the online bucket list are entwined in my relationship with Leicester City FC. The laughter, the tears, the anxious anticipation... my life has a comparative timeline and a constant theme... that of LCFC.
This season has surpassed my wildest dreams and expectations. After Sunday's home victory over Southampton, ‘we' (my extended family - LCFC) stand atop the most fiercely competitive league in world football. Seven points to our nearest rivals with six games remaining. I still cannot bring myself to utter the words ‘champions of the Premier League' and will only do so if ‘it' happens and becomes reality.
I got a little annoyed and perturbed on Sunday when I noticed a chancer, an opportunistic sales man, who was attempting to flog ‘champions' scarves outside the stadium. It unsettled me and increased my anxiety, especially when I noticed that some fans were actually buying them and parading them as if ‘it' had happened. I have become very superstitious and do not want to tempt fate in anyway. For the last few matches I have made sure that the clothes I wear to the games are the same, even down to my underwear. This has been the case since our last defeat. I would not, therefore, want others to tempt fate in such a way by purchasing scarves denoting LCFC as champions already.
My anxiety has increased exponentially since Christmas when Leicester City topped the league at the halfway stage. I started to believe that this fabulous season, and our success thus far, was no longer a fluke or a freak occurrence.
Unfortunately, however, as my expectations have increased, so too has my need to get tearful, shake uncontrollably, forfeit a decent night's sleep, and... concentration, which I require for my professional role in life, has all but deserted me in favour of frequent ‘daydreaming' moments of what ‘it' would actually mean for LCFC. The end of the season cannot come quickly enough, but I am desperately trying to enjoy what is happening to my football club... but the closer we get to ‘it' the bigger the potential for disappointment. This is a once in a lifetime thing, isn't it?
Sunday's match was different in many ways: the anticipation is palpable among the fans as you get near to the King Power stadium. I cannot ever remember an atmosphere in or around the stadium quite like current times. It's addictive. There's a physiological need to be close to and involved in what is happening. Home and away tickets are sold out within hours of going on sale... I've even seen one ticket, for the Manchester United away match, on sale via eBay for the extortionate and quite unbelievable price of... wait for it... £15,000! This is supply and demand at the extreme. This is a once in a lifetime experience right? What price on that?
The bucket list questions made me think of a fellow LCFC fan living in Australia (Tony) who has recently made the headlines because of his illness. Last year Tony was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given ‘a few weeks to live'. At the time of his diagnosis Leicester City were rooted to the bottom of the Premier League and destined for inevitable relegation... then we started winning. Tony is still alive one year later and he states that he wants to survive long enough to see ‘it' happen and he believes that he is still with us because of the amazing fortunes of LCFC over the past 12 month. His bravery and courage epitomizes what we are witnessing with Leicester City and their ‘fearless' approach to the challenges in front of them. I, and so many others, want this for Tony.
Two years ago we successfully achieved promotion to the Premier League. I considered that a huge achievement. In the past calendar year LCFC have amassed a massive 91 premier league points, 18 more than Spurs and Arsenal, the nearest competitors; we have a squad filled with international players and a chairman who provides doughnuts and beer free of charge to every supporter attending the match just to celebrate his birthday.
We are experiencing a wonderful thing. I love my football club. Leicester City in some ways defines my life experiences and is a constant in my existence. I want this once in a lifetime dream to be realized, I want to tick off an impossible dream that is on my bucket list. I want ‘it' to happen so much my health is suffering. Why did we allow expectations to rise so high? Six games to go... six long insufferable weeks...