LEICESTER, May 8: In scenes that would have seemed absurd a year ago, Leicester captain Wes Morgan collected the English Premier League trophy after one of the most improbable turnarounds by a sports team.
Leicester City’s owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha (holding the trophy) and his son, Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha (next to Kasper Schmeichel) join in the celebrations after winning the Barclays Premier League at the King Power Stadium in Leicester on Saturday.
“It’s the best time of my life. You just want to enjoy every minute,” Morgan, who joined Leicester as a second-tier club four years ago, said on the field last night.
After the pre season 5,000-1 title longshots got their hands on the biggest prize in English football, fireworks erupted on the King Power Stadium pitch before yellow and blue streamers cascaded from the roof. Ticker-tape emblazoned with the lyric to fans’ song “Jamie Vardy’s having a party” also covered the seats. The top-scoring striker has powered the 132-year-old Foxes to their first top flight title by contributing 24 goals, with two of them coming in a swaggering 3-1 victory over Everton before the trophy presentation.
The striker, who signed from non-league Fleetwood Town four years ago, only missed out on a hat-trick on his return from a two-game suspension when he missed a second penalty.
It was apt that midfielder Andy King was also on the score sheet. The lifelong Leicester player has been on the journey as the club climbed back from the third tier in 2009 to the top flight only two years ago. Just a year ago, King and his teammates feared they were going to make an instant return to the second tier, and were relegation candidates at the start of this season.
But powered by Vardy’s goals, Riyad Mahrez’s trickery, and Kasper Schmeichel’s saves, Leicester confounded the odds to surge to the summit.
Leicester has embarrassed big-spending clubs from Manchester rivals United and City to Chelsea by winning the world’s richest soccer league without a lavish spending.
Although Leicester has been owned for six years by Thai duty free group King Power, the squad is largely a collection of bargain buys and players cast off by bigger clubs.
At times, club chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha seemed to hold onto the trophy longer than his players on the field as he was followed by a picture of the Thai king.
“I always believed in the power of our spirit,” he wrote in yesterday’s matchday magazine.
“It is a spirit that has spread beyond Leicester, taking our story to the hearts of the world.”
Thousands of fans gathered outside the stadium more than four hours before kickoff, before a deluge washed out the sunshine.
Hundreds of Italians also travelled by bus and plane to Leicester without tickets just to be part of a story that has enthralled the world beyond football fans. They have been captivated by how compatriot Claudio Ranieri turned the team into England’s first-time champions since promoted Nottingham Forest’s 1978 success – an era before the financial disparities were so vast.
The most famous Italian at the celebrations was tenor Andrea Bocelli, who serenaded Ranieri on the field before the game to sing “Nessun Dorma,” the aria popularised in England during the 1990 World Cup. – AP