Underdogs Vs. (Leicester City Sitting Pretty)
Barring the obvious, a vested interest in a rival or the kind of personality that sees you never invited to anything ever, you’ll be wanting Leicester to win the Prem this season.
The Foxes’ phenomenal rise from the flames of relegation to the frying pan of the top four, in less than a year, is making a mockery of our greed-centric game and fools of charlatan pundits the world over.
Who’d have thought a Leicester reserve player’s self-filmed abuse of a prostitute in the homeland of the club’s owners could wield such a positive outcome, hey.
With Nigel Pearson’s sacking off the back of his son James's bantz, Claudio Ranieri is the closest to a league title he’s ever been, as are Leicester City. Yet people continue to write them off.
Here’s ten reasons why Leicester shouldn’t give two fox about what the doubters think.
Ernesto Cambiasso stop reading here. Go back to looking at your Greek Superleague medal or something.
10 - Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente, 2012
Founded in 2007, Xolos de Tijuana weren’t promoted to the Mexican top flight until 2010.Two years later they were national champions.
Like many Latin American countries, Liga MX dishes out two championships per season - the Apertura in the winter and the Clausura in the summer. Think of it as a more official version of Sky Sports News boring on about whoever’s top at Chrimbo, or a needless faff. Whatever you’re into.
Come the end of the Apertura, Xolos found themselves in 15th place, amongst the faves for relegation, and surprising no one. They got their shit together enough during the Clausura to finish sixth, qualifying for the title play offs, which remarkably they then went on to win.
Impressive, but come on, just play each other twice and see who comes out on top?
9 - AZ Alkmaar, 2008/09
Unfortunately for Man United fans this was the victory that set Louis Van Gaal on the trajectory that eventually brought him to Manchester in 2014.
The mad bastard’s career was on the wind-down when he took over unfashionable AZ in January 2005, and by 2007/08 it had got so out-of-hand that he promised to quit at the end of the season. The club had finished eleventh and spent most of the season in a relegation battle, a drastic drop from a second place finish the season before.
The squad begged him to stay (the Dutch, hey) and without really adding to the playing staff, he decided to give it another go. Things began terribly with AZ losing their first two games of the season, and just as thoughts were starting to turn towards another season at the wrong end of the Eredivisie, the players pulled it out their arses, big time. They went unbeaten until April, a run of 28 games, and had the title wrapped up with three weeks to spare. Van Gaal jumped ship to Bayern Munich, and now here he is flopping around on the touchline in England.
8 - Iraq, 2007
Civil unrest aside, no one would’ve had Iraq down to win their first Asian title in 2007. The tournament included the more football-experienced nations of Australia, Japan and South Korea, yet the Lions of Mesopotamia proved everyone wrong.
After winning their group by beating pre-tournament favourites Australia, they overcame holders South Korea in the semis before beating Saudi Arabia 1-0 in the final.
The team included Sunni and Shia Muslims, along with Kurds, and for a brief moment, the miraculous victory united the divided and hugely troubled country.
7 - KV Mechelen, 1987/88
In 1982, while Chelsea, Man City, and PSG were nothing but mid-table clubs making up the numbers, an electronics tycoon bought KV Mechelen and made them super rich.
John Cordier’s millions helped build a squad of players to included Michel Preud’homme, Leo Clijsters, and Erwin Koeman. After lifting the Belgian Cup in 1987, Mechelen entered the (now defunct) Cup Winners Cup.
It was their first ever European adventure, and going undefeated for the whole campaign, they beat an Ajax team which included Danny Blind, Aaron Winter, John Bosman, and Dennis Bergkamp 1-0 in the final.
That summer Dutch international Bosman swapped sides and scored twice as Mechelen beat PSV to add the European Super Cup to their haul.
6 - Montpellier HSC, 2011/12
When Qatar Sports Investments bought Paris St Germain five years ago it was with the vision of total dominance that has just seen Les Parisiens seal their fourth consecutive Ligue 1 title. Montpellier could give a shit about that though.
During the first season of Qatari rule, in which Carlo Ancelotti spent £82m in the January transfer window, PSG were no match for a Montpellier side whose budget didn’t even make the league’s top ten. Olivier Giroud scored 21 goals en route to the southern French team’s first and only title, which was only sealed in the last game of the season. Former Portsmouth donkey John Utaka the hero with a brace at Auxerre.
La Paillade’s bonkers chairman Louis Nicollin had vowed to dye his hair orange and blue to match the club’s kit if they became champions and was true to his word. He also commented that he’d “stab himself in the arse with a sausage” if he was Marseille or PSG after losing out to his unfashionable champions, so I guess he got off lightly.
5 - Deportivo la Coruna, 1999/2000
Given that since 1984 the Spanish title has only evaded the demonstrative grasp of Real Madrid and Barcelona on five occasions, four of which shared by quasi-giants Atletico Madrid and Valencia, Deportivo la Coruna’s solitary title is something special.
You’d have thought that when the provincial team from Galicia blew the 1994 championship by missing a penalty in the final minute of the season, their chance had come and gone. However, spearheaded by Roy Makaay’s 22 goals, Super Depor were able to exorcise the demons caused by Miroslav Djukic’s awful peno just six years previous.
Granted 1999/00 wasn’t a vintage season; Real finished fifth and Depor lost eleven games en-route to the crown, with their points tally being ten less than what was required for the title the season before. Only nine teams have ever won La Liga though, and Deportivo la Coruna are one of them.
4 - Hellas Verona, 1984/85
Promoted from Serie B in 1982, Verona shocked Italy by claiming La Scudetto a mere three years later.
They led serie A from the first week of the season after ruining Diego Maradona’s Napoli debut by securing a 3-1 win, and never looked back. In true Italian fashion they only conceded 19 goals and scored just 42 with their top scorer Giuseppe Galderisi notching a paltry 11.
Only beaten twice, to runners up Torino and Avellino who narrowly avoided relegation, it was the first time in fifteen years that the title went to a team away from Milan, Turin, or Rome. AC Milan finished fifth, while Juventus, with league top scorer Michel Platini’s 18 goals, only sixth. Maradona and Napoli could only manage eighth place as Verona performed the greatest upset in Italian history.
3 - Greece, 2004
No one would’ve given Greece a hope in Hellas at progressing through each individual round, never mind lifting the cup, but that’s just what happened at Euro 2004, as I’m sure you remember.
After a 24 year absence from the tournament finals the Greeks managed a shock 2-1 win over hosts Portugal in the opening match before drawing with Spain and losing to Russia in their remaining group games. Their performances were widely criticised by purist bores as they dragged their way through the knockout stage with a series of one-nils versus France, Czech Republic (after extra time), and Portugal once more in a dull final that was never going to be about the quality of football.
Greece is a truly bananas football country, and their fans deserve to experience such highs if you ask me. And it made CR7 cry.
2 - Nantes Atlantique, 1994/95
Before Arsenal beat Leicester the other week, Arsene Wenger was asked if he’d ever seen anything quite like the Foxes’ this season, and he conceded only once in his lifetime.
In the summer of 1994 Nantes coach Jean-Claude Suaudeau had a favour to ask of his good friend Wenger, who was then managing Monaco. He wanted to borrow a couple of players as the Canaris board had sold most of his, and the threat of relegation was very real. Wenger was unable to loan anyone to the Breton club so Suaudeau, fearing the worst, had no choice but play the kids.
Fortunately those kids turned out to be Patrice Loko, Nicolas Ouedec, Claude Makelele, and Christian Karembeu so Suaudeau needn’t have worried. “He won the championship that year! For fuck’s sake, 32 games unbeaten!” Exclaimed the usually eloquent Wenger, if you pardon his French.
Nantes finished ten points clear of second place Lyon, losing only once, with Loko and Ouedec delivering 40 goals between them. Monaco and Wenger finished sixth.
1 - Nottingham Forest, 1977/78, 1978/79, and 1979/80
Leicester have got a long way to go to match their fierce east midlands rivals Nottingham Forest in having a feature length film made about their exploits.
When Brian Clough took over in 1975 they sat in thirteenth place in the Second Division and had just been turned over 2-0 at home to neighbours Notts County. Clough himself was fresh from his infamous 44-day tenure at Leeds, but five years later they had two League Cups, a league title and two European Cups to endlessly boast about.
In 1978 they beat Liverpool in a League Cup Final replay, and then got the better of their much more fancied rivals again for the league title. It remains the most recent instance of an English team winning the championship after only being promoted the season before.
The next year, after knocking out holders Liverpool and German champions FC Koln, Forest beat Malmo of Sweden 1-0 to become unlikely champions of Europe. They also retained the League Cup by beating Southampton at Wembley.
If that wasn’t daft enough they defended their European crown the following season by beating Hamburg, and two-time Balon d’Or winner Kevin Keegan, to become the only team in Europe with more European Cups than League titles. Until 2018 and Leicester that is…