Team Of The Year Le­ices­ter City’s fairy­tale run re­lived by the peo­ple at its heart.

MARC ALBRIGHTON WINGER CHRIS­TIAN FUCHS DE­FENDER ANDY KING MID­FIELDER LEONARDO UL­LOA STRIKER JA­SON BOURNE BBC RA­DIO LE­ICES­TER DAVE BEV AN FAN AND AU­THOR OF THE UNBELIEVABLES JOHN LEDWIDGE GROUNDS­MAN, KING POWER ST ADIUM BRAD V ARNHAM PA ANNO

Australian Four Four Two - - CONTENTS - In­ter­views James Maw, An­drew Mur­ray, Martin Mazur, Joe Brewin

Le­ices­ter’s un­fath­omable Pre­mier League ti­tle win made head­lines across the globe. Play­ers, staff mem­bers, broad­cast­ers and fans give us their own tales be­hind FFT’s Team of the Year

MA:

Our only aim for the sea­son was to stay up – that, and to fin­ish higher than we had the year be­fore. The way we had ended the pre­vi­ous sea­son meant that we fin­ished 14th, and it al­most looked like we hadn’t even been in a rel­e­ga­tion scrap at all. That gave us real con­fi­dence go­ing into the 2015-16 cam­paign.

CF:

I joined the club [on June 3, 2015] when Nigel Pear­son was still man­ager. He sold it to me on the way that he wanted the team to play. He told me about ‘the great es­cape’ the year be­fore, and the plans for the new sea­son. So, of course, it was a bit of a strange start for me. I had signed to play un­der an­other man­ager, and in that sit­u­a­tion you never know if you’re go­ing to be in the new guy’s plans.

AK:

We didn’t get told un­til maybe five min­utes be­fore Clau­dio Ranieri came into the room that he would be our new man­ager. Then we were work­ing with him straight­away – it wasn’t just a case of him com­ing in a week’s time or some­thing. I was ac­tu­ally a ball boy at Chelsea when he was the man­ager there [from 2000-04] – he would never re­mem­ber me as I was just one of many academy play­ers there at that time – but it’s weird how things came full cir­cle.

MA:

Our first game was at home to Sunderland. The first game of the sea­son is al­ways hard, as you can’t com­pare your­self against the other side be­cause it’s hard to work out who has had the bet­ter pre-sea­son. We ended up win­ning 4-2. I got a cou­ple of as­sists and even man­aged to get for­ward my­self and grab a goal, which was the per­fect start to the new sea­son for me.

LU:

It was a very clear vic­tory, not only in terms of the goals scored but also in terms of the dif­fer­ence shown on the pitch: we could see in ev­ery ac­tion that we were su­pe­rior. We were more in­tense – some­thing we’d see in most of the games over the course of the sea­son.

AK:

The first game was bril­liant – it was im­por­tant that we got off to a good start in the league. I don’t think any­one ex­pected us to be 3-0 up at half-time and cruis­ing, but we were. We came out of the blocks bril­liantly. So there were three points on the board straight­away. We man­aged to carry that on: we beat West Ham away in the next game, and we were up and run­ning. The mo­men­tum just built from there.

JB:

In Septem­ber there were a cou­ple of games in quick suc­ces­sion where the team came back from 2-0 down: they won the first 3-2 against As­ton Villa live on the telly, and drew the sec­ond 2-2 at Stoke. Those re­sults showed the real fight­ing spirit, and mo­men­tum con­tin­ued to build. Sud­denly we were hav­ing thoughts of Le­ices­ter fin­ish­ing in the top six and get­ting into Europe. You could al­ready see they had that con­sis­tency in per­for­mance.

DB:

At that early stage I still don’t think that any fan thought we would lose only three games all sea­son! When you look back now, those were prob­a­bly the games we didn’t lose that we looked most likely to.

JL:

There was al­ways the be­lief that the abil­ity was in the squad – and that’s the whole club, from the play­ers down to us on the staff. The lads play on our pitches ev­ery day of the week so you re­ally feel like you’re do­ing your bit, not just with the sta­dium but the eight-and-a-half pitches at the train­ing ground as well. If we con­trib­ute even one per cent to their suc­cess, then that’s a great achieve­ment in it­self.

BV:

I first thought that some­thing spe­cial was start­ing to hap­pen dur­ing the build-up to the Chelsea game in De­cem­ber. They were on the rocks and Jose Mour­inho was re­ally strug­gling. I bumped into the club sec­re­tary be­fore the game and he said he’d take a draw. I said, “Chelsea are there for the tak­ing.” We won the game 2-1 with Riyad Mahrez scor­ing an ab­so­lute bel­ter, and sud­denly I was think­ing about the Europa League.

AK:

Through­out the year we went through dif­fer­ent stages. Af­ter 10 games we thought, ‘Right, we have had a re­ally good start.’ Then we beat Chelsea and Everton in De­cem­ber, which put us top at Christ­mas [with 38 points]. Then we were think­ing, ‘We re­ally shouldn’t get rel­e­gated now, and we will get to 40 points’, which was still the main tar­get at that stage de­spite be­ing top – it was only our sec­ond sea­son back in the Pre­mier League, don’t for­get. We were look­ing at teams like Stoke and Southampton, who had come up through the leagues and grad­u­ally got bet­ter and es­tab­lished them­selves in the top flight.

LU:

As the matches went on, it be­came strange, be­cause the com­ments were still that we would even­tu­ally fall away, and yet we were do­ing it on merit: play­ing very well, win­ning at home, win­ning away. It wasn’t a mat­ter of luck; we were march­ing on con­fi­dently, while all of the big clubs couldn’t take off, and yet the me­dia fo­cus was still on how long we would be able to hang on be­fore we fi­nally col­lapsed.

MA:

Win­ning 1-0 away at Tot­ten­ham in Jan­uary gave us a re­ally good feel­ing, be­cause we had done it by de­fend­ing for our lives and then nick­ing a goal through Robert Huth’s header late on. Win­ning a game like that is some­times the best way to do it. You feel amaz­ing.

AK:

Peo­ple def­i­nitely un­der­es­ti­mated us at the start of the sea­son, and then as it went on, it was al­most too late to stop us. Our mo­men­tum had built up. We grew in con­fi­dence and be­lieved to­wards the end of the sea­son that we could beat the top teams. We weren’t an­noyed that peo­ple were un­der­es­ti­mat­ing us or not giv­ing us enough credit – if any­thing, it played into our hands. The way peo­ple slacked off a lit­tle bit helped us.

MA:

Af­ter we beat Liver­pool [in Fe­bru­ary], I spoke to James Mil­ner and he said, “Bril­liant – go and win it now.” For some­one who has won it be­fore to say that meant a lot. It started to put the ideas in your head that it would be ab­so­lutely mas­sive if we could win it.

BV:

I’ve been a Le­ices­ter fan since I was eight and I have been work­ing as DJ and sta­dium an­nouncer for 20 years, in­clud­ing ev­ery year at the King Power since it opened in 2002, so from the rel­e­ga­tion to League One, I’ve seen it all. Af­ter ‘the great es­cape’ we just wanted to avoid rel­e­ga­tion – and here we were, right at the top. I don’t think a home game went by with­out fans singing, “We are stay­ing up.” For the first time in my life, it was said with irony.

JB:

A lot of peo­ple were com­pli­men­tary about the team – I’d go into dif­fer­ent press con­fer­ences and press rooms and speak to jour­nal­ists cov­er­ing the dif­fer­ent clubs and they’d all say nice things – but I still don’t think many peo­ple were tak­ing Le­ices­ter too se­ri­ously. I re­mem­ber hear­ing on TV and ra­dio that they would fall away at some point. Ev­ery­body was talk­ing about the Manch­ester City and Ar­se­nal games and how they would be the turn­ing point.

CF:

The game away at Man City was one of our best per­for­mances. It just showed the strength we were ca­pa­ble of. We had plenty of con­fi­dence be­fore that game, but even af­ter, I never thought that we would def­i­nitely win the ti­tle. We just fo­cused on how we were go­ing to play in the next game, and watch­ing the op­po­si­tion to see how we could over­come them.

MA:

We played City off the park. It was a com­fort­able win in the end. I’d been there a few times with Villa and been on the wrong end of some big score­lines. I re­mem­ber once be­ing 5-0 down and the crowd were olé- ing – we couldn’t get any­where near the ball that day. So to go there, be 3-0 up within an hour and then go off to a stand­ing ova­tion from the whole sta­dium at full-time is some­thing that’ll stick with me for­ever.

DB:

At Ar­se­nal, we were draw­ing 1-1 deep in in­jury time. They won a free-kick, and it kind of felt as soon as that hap­pened, know­ing it would be the last kick of the game, that it was in­evitable it was all go­ing to go wrong. Danny Wel­beck scored and they went crazy. It’s hard to de­scribe the feel­ing; in that mo­ment it was ut­terly de­flat­ing be­cause we were not used to los­ing, but we were so proud of how far we’d come that day.

CF:

Af­ter the game [Ranieri] gave us a few days off to get our heads straight, and then we just went again. We knew we had to just keep do­ing what we had been do­ing, even though it was a par­tic­u­larly cruel way to lose, in the last minute. We were never go­ing to win ev­ery game. There was some talk in the me­dia about how that would be the start of the col­lapse, but I chose not to fo­cus on the me­dia. The only thing that mat­ters to me is how we fo­cus and how we per­form. Ob­vi­ously you can’t al­ways avoid know­ing what peo­ple think of you, but I never give these things too much at­ten­tion.

JB:

We couldn’t be­lieve the way that Ar­se­nal were be­hav­ing af­ter that game. We were still on air at the Emi­rates, and they were cel­e­brat­ing it like they’d won the Pre­mier League al­ready. They weren’t even top of the league yet – they hadn’t even over­taken Le­ices­ter!

LU:

Af­ter the match, there was this pho­to­graph on In­sta­gram of the Ar­se­nal play­ers cel­e­brat­ing in the dress­ing room and hold­ing up two fin­gers. It made us all laugh. They were two points be­low us, and in the end... well, I think they ended up a lit­tle fur­ther be­hind than that in the ta­ble. We had this pic­ture stuck up in the dress­ing room as a nice re­minder of what they were all think­ing about us. We would also share these pic­tures through What­sapp. I can say they helped us keep fo­cused and con­cen­trated.

DB:

As a fan, you are al­ways look­ing for those lit­tle signs that some­thing may be about to go wrong, and when we played New­cas­tle we could see one. Rafa Ben­itez had just be­come their man­ager and we all feared the in­fa­mous ‘new-man­ager bounce’. But Shinji Okazaki scored the win­ner with an over­head kick. It was a great goal, but it’s also funny be­cause up un­til that point, quite a lot of Le­ices­ter fans didn’t re­ally rate him par­tic­u­larly highly. To­wards the end, though, the feel­ing that he was re­ally im­por­tant grew and grew.

“AR­SE­nAL PLAY­ERS PUT O n In­STA­GRAM A PIC­TURE OF THEM CELEBRATI nG I n THE DRESS­InG ROOM. THAT MADE US LAUGH – THE n FO­CUS”

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