PARTY STARTS FOR FOXES...

The Football League Paper - - FRONT PAGE - By Chris Dunlavy

LE­ICES­TER last night found them­selves back in the Pre­mier League with­out kick­ing a ball as both QPR and Derby County lost.

And it left their ju­bi­lant play­ers and fans to say to them­selves – what a dif­fer­ence a year makes!

This time 12 months ago, Le­ices­ter had tum­bled from the sum­mit of the Cham­pi­onship and looked set to blow even a place in the play-offs.

They made it – just – only to suf­fer last-minute heart­break at Vicarage Road as Anthony Knock­aert missed an in­jury time penalty be­fore Troy Deeney sent Wat­ford to Wem­b­ley.

It was a re­sult that came within a whisker of cost­ing man­ager Nigel Pear­son his job, with Le­ices­ter’s Thai own­ers think­ing long and hard be­fore eas­ing their fin­gers off the trig­ger.

Now, of course, we know it was the best de­ci­sion they ever made. Quite sim­ply, the Foxes have been un­touch­able, the best side in the Cham­pi­onship by a mil­lion miles.

And for that, the man­ager must take huge credit. Had some­one else walked through the door in June, he’d have torn the place to pieces.

But Pear­son knew he had a good side. He knew they were all uber­mo­ti­vated by last year’s fail­ure. Above all, he was con­vinced that he could get more from those who hadn’t per­formed.

And he has. Danny Drinkwa­ter – nom­i­nated for player of the year – has gone from a job­bing Cham­pi­onship mid­fielder to the finest box-to-box player in the di­vi­sion.

Liam Moore from raw rookie to po­ten­tial in­ter­na­tional. Anthony Knock­aert from flash show pony to dili­gent winger. Even David Nu­gent has bro­ken the 20-goal bar­rier for the first time.

Best of all, though, is Jamie Vardy. The for­mer Non-League man was per­suaded by Pear­son not to quit the club in the sum­mer af­ter a dire first sea­son. He has re­sponded by scor­ing 15 goals and be­com­ing a cult hero.

Ev­ery player has done his bit, turn­ing the Foxes into a side shot through with pace, both strong at the back and lethal on the counter.

Tech­ni­cally, they went up yes­ter­day. In re­al­ity, the deal was sealed months ago. In fact, it was prob­a­bly set in mo­tion in early Novem­ber, when Le­ices­ter re­turned to Vicarage Road and won 3-0 with a per­for­mance ooz­ing author­ity and class, ex­or­cis­ing the ghosts of last sea­son.

“We were very dis­ap­pointed last sea­son but from the first day back in pre-sea­son, ev­ery­body had the men­tal­ity of ‘Right, let’s do it this time’, said Le­ices­ter keeper Kasper Sch­me­ichel. “You could sense it in ev­ery­body. There was an at­ti­tude of ‘We will get to the Pre­mier League’.”

Now they have, it’s time to give Pear­son the con­tract that has so far been with­eld. He’s cer­tainly earned it.

PIC­TURE THIS: Le­ices­ter play­ers cel­e­brate their pro­mo­tion to the Pre­mier League yes­ter­day with a selfie

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

GET­TING SE­RI­OUS: Le­ices­ter’s 3-0 win at Wat­ford in Novem­ber un­der­lined their cre­den­tials

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