Looking back over the last two years of Leicester City’s 132-year history as a football club, few could comprehend how they turned out.
The 2014/15 season, the Foxes’ first back in the Premier League after a decade of despondency, was the polar opposite of the forthcoming unparalleled campaign of 2015/16.
It was with much anticipation and promise that that initial year began. Wins over Stoke and draws with Everton and Arsenal out-shadowed a spirited defeat to Chelsea as Nigel Pearson’s side stamped their return to the big time with measured aplomb.
Despite the impressive start, Leicester fans were cautious. The ‘yo-yo club’ moniker had been hung over their collective head for years and even an opening month like the above wouldn’t change that, at least not yet.
Enter Manchester United. The mightiest of English clubs was set to visit The King Power Stadium loaded with a big money roster and even bigger expectations. This was supposed to be the end of the Foxes’ good start. Things were to return to normal.
And it certainly started that way. Two goals for United in the opening 16 minutes left some questioning whether the home side were truly fit for this long haul of football at this level.
Fast-forward 74 minutes and Leicester had completed the most improbable of comebacks, eventually beating the 20-time English champions 5-3 in a wild, wacky affair.
City fans couldn’t quite believe it. The game-winning goal was expertly scored by this nobody Jamie Vardy and the small midlands town celebrated like it had won the league itself. To think...
Leicester was back. A proud club with a long history, one that had spent too much time toiling below the first division, finally had a squad to be excited about. The yo-yo string was getting cut and they could finally start building something in a city that much preferred watching an oblong-shaped ball get kicked through upright goalposts than a round one into a goal frame.
It truly, at the time, was a benchmark match for a club that hadn’t had a win that big since the last time it was in the Premier League over a decade prior. Every moment of it was magnificent. The crowd, gasping at each forward move, erupted in a way that I never thought possible when that non-league lad from Sheffield slotted home his go-ahead tally in the 79th minute.
Pure joy. This wasn’t real. Leicester didn’t deserve this. Beating big, scary Manchester United 4-3 in a match wasn’t possible, even if the result wasn’t quite final. This was uncharted territory and Mr. Vardy was steering the ship.
How could things possibly get any better?
At that time, as I watched the match from a hotel room in Hoboken, New Jersey, I thought to myself that this is it. We have reached the pinnacle. When I was feeling down about the inevitable slide down the table (yes, that slide most certainly came), I could look back on this moment and close my eyes and watch Esteban Cambiasso rip his game-tying goal past David De Gea in all its glory. Vardy’s winner, Ulloa’s clincher, the nutmegs...my goodness, the nutmegs.
It would ease that pain. Things would be a-ok...but you know what, Leicester beat Manchester United in one of the games of the season and no one could take that away from us. All the Louis Van Gaal moaning in the world couldn’t reverse it.
The painful slide to last place followed and the great escape followed that. Leicester fought it’s way to Premier League safety the way it did to beat Man United on that sunny September afternoon. It was as if the whole season was validated and the win was that much more special.
Again, I reflected. The season that had just passed was an incredible one to say the least. No one expected Leicester to remain in the Premier League, not a soul. But they did and was set for a summer of being thankful for that fact alone. The United match felt like ancient history. Beautiful, delicately preserved history.
Leicester fans everywhere could treasure it. They could get the season review DVD and actually be excited to watch it, just knowing how the story would end.
As we all know, something even more ridiculous happened this past season. Something so out of this world, it broke Leo Messi because the football shockwaves were that intense.
Leicester City Football Club won the Premier League.
Even in writing that sentence, nearly three months later, it still doesn’t make sense to me. I find myself reading it over again and again trying to find the holes.
“Leicester and Manchester end in the -ester, must be a typo. Right. Got it.”
“Oh yeah, yes, of course, they somehow confused netball and football. Easy mistake.”
And what’s more is that match against Manchester United that featured Dean Hammond as the Foxes starting central midfielder with Liam Moore behind him on defense, somehow, someway...became ordinary.
That was supposed to be as good as it was going to get.
But the unfathomable happened and Leicester did in fact raise a certain Premier League trophy in May. Look, I’ll prove it to you:
Now here in August with the new season hours away, I still struggle to believe the last two years happened as they did. My feelings, not uncommon amongst the fine people you see above, may take another decade to change to the point of acceptance. That’s not an exaggeration.
So for those of you reading this to get their fix of Foxes’ commentary before Saturday’s opener, who have been enjoying the highs and battling through the lows with me these past two years (and I assume many, many years before that), my advice to you is this:
Sit down. Get comfortable. Buckle up. The fun has only just begun.
Thank you for reading Fosse Posse.