Wednesday 13 December 2017

Leicester City writing the story of a lifetime

Dave Devereux

Robert Huth celebrates with Shinji Okazaki after scoring Leicester's first goal against Manchester City
Robert Huth celebrates with Shinji Okazaki after scoring Leicester's first goal against Manchester City

With the Leicester City juggernaut showing no sign of grinding to a halt anytime soon, the unglamorous club are quickly becoming not only the sports story of the year, but of a lifetime.

Weird Wide World of Sport

In a surreal top of the table clash that not many could have foreseen on Saturday, they not only beat moneybags Manchester City but they clinically dismantled them pound by pound, dirham by dirham and euro by euro.

This is a rabble of supposed no-hopers, who were an unconsidered 5,000/1 to win the Premier League before a ball was kicked at the start of the season.

Yes, 5,000/1 - they're the sort of odds you would expect to get on Mick Wallace becoming the next Taoiseach, or even turning up for work in Kildare Street sporting a suit and tie which, let's be honest, is probably even more unlikely.

To put it into some kind of perspective, both London and New York are deemed to have a better chance of winning the All-Ireland football title, with bookmakers giving them quotes of 2,000/1 to achieve the impossible.

Not that too many will be rushing in to take those odds - Rory Best would have as much of a chance of guiding a horse to victory in the Grand National.

Greece upsetting the odds to win Euro 2004 is widely regarded as one of the biggest shocks in sporting history - but they were a paltry 150/1 to lift the title, almost stonewall certainties in comparison to lowly Leicester.

Make no mistake, if Claudio Ranieri's men do manage to pull off what six months ago would have been an unimaginable feat, this will be far and away the biggest surprise of them all.

Leicester are playing with an abandon and smiles on their faces that's infectious and they are the embodiment of what a team should be about - no sulking prima donnas and everyone melodiously singing off of the same hymn sheet.

Of course, they do have stars in their ranks, like the sublimely skillful Riyad Mahrez, who has been the player of the season so far, and the league's top scorer, Jamie Vardy. To think Mahrez cost a mere £400,000, which is a pittance in Premier League terms, and Vardy only £1 million after plying his trade in non-league football less than four years ago.

It shows that real top flight talent can still be found at bargain basement prices, if you have the right people looking in the right places.

When you compare that to Andy Carroll swapping clubs for £35 odd million when he switched from Newcastle to Liverpool, or more recently Raheem Sterling moving from Merseyside to Manchester for a ridiculously inflated £49 million, it shows the folly of some of the money men in the game.

It really has been a phenomenal season across the water. Okay, the quality mightn't always be of the highest level but to have a team like the Foxes with clear daylight between themselves and the more illustrious chasing pack at this stage of the season is refreshing and wonderful.

When you consider the stranglehold the Manchester clubs and Chelsea have had on the Premier League over the last decade, with Arsenal in the mix before that, it really is a mammoth achievement to be among them, never mind leading the way. The general dropping off in standards in the English game is obviously a factor, but it in no way takes away from Leicester's accomplishment.

This conceivably could be the last chance for a seismic shock like this to happen. Guardiola will be looking to put a proper pep back into the step of Manchester City and you can be sure limitless wads of dough will be thrown his way so he can assemble a galaxy of superstars.

With Jose Mourinho looking set to take his place in the opposite corner at Old Trafford, he too will be given copious amounts of cash to splash as United look for a quick-fix solution, although it remains to be seen if the sulky one will be able to win over the Manchester United faithful - if it was my club I'd rather see Steve Staunton take the reins.

Enough about these wannabes - Leicester are the men of the moment and fingers crossed they can continue to play without fear when the finishing line is in sight.

If they do falter Spurs lifting the trophy wouldn't be a bad consolation, considering they haven't won it since The Beatles were starting out.

Even Arsenal would be a welcome change, given their lean period in the league of late.

Anyone, just anyone, but the usual suspects.

Wexford People

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