Leicester City – Against All Odds
The gauntlet has been thrown down and Leicester City’s challenge is to top last season’s Premier League title win. 5,000/1 at the start of the season according to the Premier League betting, their odds came down during the season but it wasn’t until Arsenal fell away that the Foxes triumph looked likely.
At that point, the odds shortened considerably and the likelihood of their first title became based more on reality than aspiration. In the Premier League era, they were the least likely of any champions yet. Others such as Blackburn Rovers and Arsenal had the quality of players to make their title wins less unlikely.
Even so, in the English game in the post-war era, there have been two occasions when a title win came like a bolt from the blue. The first is perhaps the romantic tale of all. Ipswich Town, elected to the Football League in 1938, scuttled between the second and third divisions until in 1960/61, then won the Division Two title.
Promoted for the first time to the top flight and managed by one Alf Ramsey, they were crowned champions after a 2 – 0 win over Aston Villa at Portman Road in their final match of the season.
Ipswich’s odds for success would surely have exceeded Leicester. It was so unexpected, especially with Burnley and Tottenham, the previous two title winners finishing in second and third respectively. The Tractor Boys didn’t so much tear up the form book as pulp it and recycle the paper.
Football doesn’t have the sole rights on dreams coming true. Every other sport has a tale of sporting success which defies explanation.
In May 2010, Cardiff Blues travelled to Marseille to face the Harlem Globetrotters of European Rugby Union, Toulon. Pack with internationals – Jonny Wilkinson, Tana Umaga and Sonny Bill Williams – the French side were expected to romp to a European Challenge Trophy victory.
It was do or Dai for the Welshmen, and Dai Young’s team were up for it from the start. The partisan crowd inspired Toulon to a 13 – 6 half-time lead but Jamie Roberts, Leigh Halfpenny and Bradley Davies all tore through the French defense to land second half tries. The Welsh club ran out 28 – 21 winners and to date, remains the only team from the Principality to win a European trophy.
Anyone for tennis? Boris Becker was. Seventeen years of age, he’d served notice of his prodigious talent when he had won the Tennis World Young Masters at Birmingham’s NEC in 1985, following that up with a win at the traditional Wimbledon curtain-raiser at Queens.
What followed next was copyrighted by the Brothers Grimm. The German, unseeded, took it all in his stride, quickly dispatching Hank Pfister and Matt Anger before facing seventh-seed Joakim Nystrom in the third round. In a Wimbledon epic, Becker progressed by winning the fifth set 9 – 7. Tim Mayotte, seeded sixteen, lost a five-setter against the precocious German before the Wimbledon crowd favorite was swept aside 3 – 1.
At which point, the world sat up and took notice. The favorites had fallen by the wayside and it was old stager Jimmy Connors, who the public took to their hearts. Kevin Curren, the eighth seed, awaited Becker in the final after the German had seen off Anders Jarryd. And the German teenager blew him away in a 3 – 1 triumph which served notice on the rest of the tennis world. He’d overcome inexperience, pressure from his home country and ginger hair, to become Wimbledon champion.
Football, or indeed sport, is a funny old game as the slightly ad-libbed saying goes. Whether it’s a humbly assembled Leicester City squad toppling the Premier League establishment or a wet-behind-the-ears German teenager shocking the world of tennis with a Grand Slam victory at the age of 17, these triumphs are what make sport or indeed betting on it at times, so scintilating. With another jam-packed calendar of sport that awaits us in 2017, readers of this article and indeed the rest of the world will sit patiently and wait for the next sportsman/team to do a ‘Leicester City’ of their own.