Sport has had a long history of upsets with James ‘Buster’ Douglas defeating the undefeated 37-0 ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson in 1990, 100/1 horses winning the Grand National, and the ‘Kings of Football’ in 1950 England losing to USA who had only just embraced soccer and presented a team of teachers, mailmen and a hearse driver with one training session. In this season’s Premier League it is the turn of Leicester to embrace the spirit of the underdog and with just a few games left to go before they can secure their victory, Leicester City are edging ever closer to glory. The club finished just six points above relegation last season (2014/15) under the wing of Nigel Pearson. This season however they have been truly unstoppable under the highly experienced and hugely successful management of Claudio Ranieri.
Success tends to come in a variety of ways – transfers, fans, momentum, individual talent, team chemistry and a great management/player relationship. We’ve previously seen Manchester City buy their way to victory in the Premier League, but with Leicester City’s 2015/16 transfers costing them less than £30 million in transfer fees it’s a combined element of all the other factors that has really led Leicester to become the most unexpected Premier League success stories this season, and throughout the history of football. Players such as Mahrez (undisclosed but believed to be £400,000), Vardy (£1m) and Fuchs (free transfer) were all snatched up for bargains and all have contributed to the recent success of the club. We’ve seen clubs this season falter because of a breakdown in player/management relationship, such as Chelsea with Jose Mourihno, but the relationship the players have with Claudio Ranieri seems to be holding tight.
Jamie Vardy himself is an unexpected from rags-to-riches success story and is living proof for non-league players that their dreams can become a reality. The forward was released by Sheffield Wednesday’s academy for being too small as a teenager and previously combined playing for Stocksbridge for £30 a game with working 12-hour shifts at a carbon fibre factory. Vardy was also convicted at 20 years old of assault and played with an ankle tag and had a 6pm curfew which led him to being subbed off in matches to make sure he was home in time. He then moved to FC Halifax Town in 2010, and then to Fleetwood Town who sold Vardy to Leicester City in May 2012 for a fee of £1m. However, when first arriving at the Foxes, Vardy struggled for form and even considered quitting football at the end of his first season. Nigel Pearson managed to convince him to stay on and since then, Vardy has established spectacular results, with the help of Buddhist monks to provide positive energy and prosperity, and has led Leicester City to the position they are in now.
West Ham United is another example of a success story this season. With Upton Park being retired at the end of the season, with the club looking to move into their new ground at the Olympic Stadium in time for the 2016/17 season, the team appear to be giving the stadium a firework style send off, with the likes of Angelo Ogbonna, Dimitiri Payet and new boss Slaven Bilic’s fiery persona. With Andy Carroll scoring a hat trick against Arsenal on Saturday, the club have managed to hold off many clubs having only lost 6 games throughout the whole of the season, and equally drawing and winning the rest.
Watford were having a blinding start to their season in December and were looking to be another unexpected success story in the Premier League this season as players Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo wreaked their havoc against clubs like Liverpool, Chelsea and Everton. But with a recent drop in form (With the last six games resulting in DLLLLD) it looks like Watford will stay static near the bottom end of the table, but are quite safe from the relegation zone.
Southampton is another team that have been a relatively unexpected success story this season. Currently sat at 7th in the table (although Liverpool at 8th have two games in hand) Southampton have beaten Arsenal 4-0, Chelsea 1-3, Liverpool 3-2,and Manchester United 0-1 as well as having many other wins under their belt.
Clubs like Leicester City have given many smaller clubs in the Premier League and players in non-league clubs hope that they too can succeed against the big money teams and has proven that the underdog always has a chance at defying the odds. With only a handful of games left this season, whether Leicester City will become the most unexpected Premier League success story of the season is soon to be found out.