The 2015/16 Premier League season is one that will live long in the memory for all Leicester City fans. Following Tottenham’s second half capitulation at Stamford Bridge, resulting in a 2-2 draw with Chelsea, Claudio Ranieri’s side clinched the Premier League Title without even having to kick a ball. It rounded off a remarkable season from the team that the bookies gave 5000-1 odds to win the title.
John Hutchinson's Leicester City History
We got in touch with Leicester City Club Historian and Archivist, John Hutchinson, to get his take on the momentous season just gone, as well as looking further back into the history of ‘The Foxes’.
The 2015/16 season proved to be an unforgettable one, after toying with relegation the previous season, did you ever imagine in your wildest dreams that Leicester City would achieve the unthinkable and lift the Premier League trophy?
I certainly did not expect Leicester City to win the Premier League last season. The odds of 5000-1 which were offered at the start of last season against Leicester achieving this feat, indicated that nobody else did either. The ‘Great Escape’ at the end of the 2014-15 season which saw the Foxes win 7 and draw 1 of their last 9 games, lifting them from bottom of the table, seven points adrift from safety, to a final position of 14th was itself truly remarkable, but to continue this run of form throughout the whole of last season was beyond my wildest dreams.
To lose only three games all season and to win the title by 10 clear points was a feat which attracted massive world-wide attention. Many considered it to be one of the greatest sporting achievements of all time.
As a fan of over 50 years, I always believed that the famous ‘Ice Kings’ team of 1962/63 would be the best Leicester City side that I would see in my lifetime. They were realistic contenders for the League and Cup Double, as they were top of the table with five games to go and overwhelming favourites to win the FA Cup Final against a relegation threatened Manchester United. Sadly they lost the Final and finished 4th, but it was a great season by Leicester City standards and I never expected a Leicester team to better this in my life time. The only other occasions in the Club’s entire 132 year old history that came close to last season’s achievement were in 1927/28 when they finished 3rd and 1928/29 when they were runners-up, missing the title by one point.
(Leicester City - The Ice Kings)
Jamie Vardy signed from non-league Fleetwood Town for a reported 1 million in May 2012, causing a few raised eyebrows at the sight of the transfer fee. Were there any early signs that he would eventually flourish and turn into an England international?
It was clear from the start that Jamie had great speed, but initially he looked a bit raw. His first season at Leicester, in the Championship, didn’t really indicate that he would become a top England striker. He only scored 5 goals in 29 league appearances and at the end of the season even considered giving up football until being persuaded by the management team to continue.
The following season (2013/2014) when Leicester City ran away with the Championship title, saw a complete transformation. He scored 16 goals and he was named the Club’s Players’ Player of the Year.
His third season at Leicester (2014/2015) saw him make his mark as a Premier League player in his ‘Man of the Match’ performance in the 5-3 home victory against Manchester United in August 2014. He later scored some vital goals in the ‘Great Escape’ and made his England debut at the end of the season.
(Vardy Celebrates his Man of the Match performance vs Man United, 2014)
His form in the title winning season (2015/2016) was phenomenal. He broke the Premier League record by scoring in 11 consecutive games and scored 24 Premier League goals that season, missing out on the Golden Boot by one goal. He was one of 4 Leicester players in the PFA team of the year, and was also named Footballer of the year by the Football Writers Association, as well as becoming Barclays Premier League Player of the Season.
(Jamie Vardy celebrates yet another goal)
Leicester City have had a fine and varied mix of managers over the years. Matt Gillies, David Pleat, Martin O'Neill and Sven-Goran Eriksson to name just a few. If you could pick out one manager from Leicester’s history as your favourite, who would it be and why?
Until Claudio, the managers who were my favourites, for different reasons, were Matt Gillies, Jimmy Bloomfield and Martin O’Neill.
Matt Gillies (1958-68) managed Leicester City in the top flight for 10 years. With his coach Bert Johnson, he was a tactical innovator. He took them to 2 FA Cup Finals (1961, 1963), two League Cup Finals (1964, 1965, winning in 1964) and to very creditable positions in the league (6th in 1961, 4th in 1963 , 7th in 1966 and 8th in 1967). He took the team into European competition for the first time in the history of Leicester City in 1961/62. Players he either brought to the Club or nurtured whilst they were at Filbert Street included Gordon Banks, Frank McLintock, Davie Gibson, Mike Stringfellow, Bobby Roberts, Peter Shilton, Jackie Sinclair, Derek Dougan, David Nish, Allan Clarke and many others.
Jimmy Bloomfield (1971-77) put together some very entertaining teams. Key players he signed included Keith Weller, Jon Sammels, Alan Birchenall, and Frank Worthington. His sides were a joy to watch.
Martin O’Neill (1996-2000) took Leicester to the Premier League in his first season. He then achieved 4 top ten Premier League finishes. He won the League Cup twice (1997 and 2000) as well as reaching the League Cup Final again in 1999. He qualified for the UEFA Cup in 1997 and 2000. He brought some superb players to the Club from the lower leagues. These included Neil Lennon, Muzzy Izzet, Matt Elliott, Robbie Savage and Steve Guppy. He also developed Emile Heskey into an England international.
On balance, I would go for Matt Gillies as my favourite manager, although in the fullness of time I may find myself opting for Claudio!
(Matt Gillies and Matt Busby lead their respective Leicester City and Manchester United Teams out for the 1963 FA Cup Final)
Leicester have had some real stars turn out for them over the years, the likes of Gordon Banks, Keith Weller, Frank Worthington, Gary Lineker and now the class of 2016. Who has been your favourite Leicester City player to watch in modern times and why?
This is a very difficult question. To choose one player is virtually impossible. Banks and Shilton, who played a combined total of 15 years for the Club were both world class goalkeepers. Gary Lineker, who scored over 100 goals for the Club, was a world class striker. Frank Worthington, who became an England player whilst at Leicester, was breathtakingly entertaining. His team-mate, fellow England international Keith Weller was outstanding. Muzzy Izzet and Neil Lennon were brilliant midfield players, and from the current team, Mahrez, Kante and Vardy have all been a revelation.
(Frank Worthington signs for Leicester City, 21st August, 1972)
My favourite player however was Scotland international Dave Gibson (1962-1970) who was an amazingly skilful inside-forward. His visionary and elegant play mesmerized me as a youngster and will forever live in my memory.
(Dave Gibson played for Leicester City between 1962-1970 before moving to Aston Villa)
In a climate where Football managers are rarely given more than 2 years to succeed, do you think Leicester City will ever see the likes of Matt Gillies record of 508 games in charge again?
Highly unlikely. Since Matt Gillies, there have been 24 full time managers at the Club, in a period of 48 years. This averages one manager every two years. The only manager in this time whose managerial spell lasted for more than 5 years was Jimmy Bloomfield (6 years) although Nigel Pearson clocked up over five years, but in two different spells (2008-10 and 2011-2015).
The 1961/62, 1997/98 and 2000/01 seasons saw brief forays into Europe for Leicester City. Now qualified for the Champions League, how far do you think Claudio Ranieri can take them in Europe?
Who knows? Leicester now have some top players. Last season’s squad has been strengthened with the addition of record signings Nampalys Mendy, and Ahmed Musa (who has Champions League experience), along with Germany’s World Cup squad goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler, not to mention Spanish defender Luis Hernandez. Leicester City’s counter-attacking style might well catch Europe’s top teams unawares! After last season, anything is possible!
(Can Leicester City's new reocrd signing, Ahmed Musa, fire them to European glory?)
And lastly, The King Power Stadium, formally known as The Walkers Stadium opened its doors in 2002, closing a chapter on Leicester’s previous home of Filbert Street. Have you got a favourite memory from the Filbert Street years?
My favourite Filbert Street Leicester memory was probably the 4-3 victory over Manchester United on Easter Tuesday 1963. The previous day had seen a 2-2 draw played out at Old Trafford. In front of a packed crowd at Filbert Street and with gates locked, Leicester took the lead after 29 minutes through reserve forward Terry Heath. Denis Law equalised two minutes later. In the second half, there were four goals in six minutes. Ken Keyworth scored a hat trick, in the 50th, 54th and 56th minute. Law pulled one back for Man United in the 52nd minute with a glorious scissors kick, before completing his hat trick 20 minutes from time. What made the game even more enjoyable was that the victory took Leicester City to the top of the table. It was terrific football.
There was also the 4th Round FA Cup replay in front of a near 40,000 crowd at Filbert Street, under the floodlights in February 1968. Leicester were 2-0 down after 22 minutes, but then scored four goals in reply in a twenty minute spell either side of half time. Frank Large’s header into the box fell to young Rodney Fern to crack home the first goal just before half time. Frank then lashed home the equaliser after 50 minutes, and then, following a goal by David Nish, Large headed in a curling corner kick for his second and Leicester’s fourth. Manchester City’s goal in the 89th minute made the final score 4-3.
A more recent Filbert Street highlight was the 3-3 draw between Martin O’Neill’s Leicester City and Arsenal in August 1997. Leicester were 2-0 down until Heskey pulled one back 6 minutes from full time. In the 90th minute, Matt Elliott equalised for Leicester City to make it 2-2 before Dennis Bergkamp completed his hat-trick to restore Arsenal's lead in added time. Steve Walsh headed the final equaliser in the sixth minute of added time.
(Leicester vs Arsenal, FA Cup 5th Round Replay at Filbert Street, 1975)
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