The 2015-16 season will always be remembered as one of the most surprising in Premier League history. Due to the heroics of Leicester City, the likes of which the Premier League has never seen before. This is the story of one of the biggest underdogs in sports history.
Rising Up The Leagues
Eight years prior to their promotion Leicester City were playing League 1 football. They steamrolled their way to the top of the table as champions in the third division.
Following their promotion to the Championship the Foxes looked strong at a higher level earning a place in the Play-Offs in 2009-10 and finishing in the top half the season after. The watershed moment for the club came in 2011 when chairman Milan Mandaric sold the club to Thai billionaire Vichai Raksrikasorn.
On his arrival the billionaire stated his aim was for the Foxes to qualify for European football within the next five years. However, many owners promise big things when they arrive and few expected Leicester to thrive like they have done in the years that have passed.
The Early Years
After the takeover, Leicester underwent a transition period with former England manager Sven Goran Erikkson, spending big in the transfer window to try and gain promotion. However, after an inconsistent start to the season Eriksson was sacked and former manager Nigel Pearson made a return to the club finishing the season in 9th position.
In his first full season as manager Leicester showed signs of improvements and made the play off positions by finishing 6th. This season was also the start of the journey for future club legend Jamie Vardy who had been signed from Conference side Fleetwood Town, this made him the first ever million pound player to be signed from the Conference.
Vardy’s first season was a settling in period and despite strong performances alongside Nugent he managed just four goals in his first season.
The following season Nigel Pearson’s men were promoted as champions to return to the Premier League for the first time since 2004. Jamie Vardy and David Nugent combined for a total of 36 goals for the Foxes.
On their return to the Premier League in 2014-2015 it proved to be an extremely difficult season for The Foxes. For most of the season Leicester were marooned in the relegation places and looked certain for the drop.
There had even been rumours circulating that Nigel Pearson would be sacked as manager. Tensions were high during the later stages of the season and Pearson referred to a Journalist as an “ostrich” in an explosive interview.
Despite being tipped for relegation Leicester City defied the odds and a run of 7 wins from their final 9 games ensured a great escape, Leicester comfortably finished in mid-table.
The pre season that followed looked to be extremely turbulent manager Pearson’s son was involved in a scandal which led to him having his contract terminated. A dispute between the owner and Nigel Pearson resulted in him resigning from the football club. The loss of the manager in pre season compounded with the scrutiny surrounding the clubs pre season tour made Leicester many book makers favourite for the drop.
Eventually Claudio Ranieri was appointed the new manager which seemed a controversial decision at the time with the likes of Gary Lineker all criticizing the appointment.
Ranieri had struggled in some of his previous jobs and had recently been sacked by Greece after a dismal qualifying campaign which saw them lose to the Faroe Islands.
Many wondered if Ranieri would be able to instil the discipline needed to survive a relegation battle. Alongside the fact that Leicester were favourites for the drop many people believed Ranieri would be amongst the favourites to lose his job.
A New Dawn
Behind the scenes admist all the panic and chaos that surrounded the club over the summer. Leicester were making shrewd acquisitions in the transfer market, Okazaki was signed to bring fresh energy and work ethic to the frontline.
Frenchman N’golo Kante proved to be one of the signings of the season. A midfield engine at the heart of the midfield who seemed to anticipate every opposition move adding immense defensive solidity.
The momentum from the great escape carried through into the following campaign and a free scoring Leicester were unbeaten in their first 6 games with notable results including a 4-2 victory over Sunderland and a last gasp winner by Nathan Dyer in a 3-2 victory over Aston Villa.
Despite the good form many people expected Ranieri’s Leicester to fizzle out in a similar fashion to the likes of Wigan in 2005/06 or Hull in 2008/09. Following a 5-2 defeat to Arsenal many pundits felt that Leicester’s bubble had burst. There was no sign of Leicester City slowing down at this point. The Foxes instead started to hit their stride in the Premier League.
Wing wizard Riyad Mahrez was a huge threat from the wide areas and former non league star Jamie Vardy. Who hit a purple patch of goalscoring form which saw him elapse Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s record and score in 11 successive Premier League matches. In doing so he helped The Foxes to top spot going into the Christmas period.
The second half of the season Leicester City had become the team to beat and had to show resolute defending to keep out the opposition. But as true champions do The Foxes were able to win ugly, winning 6 of their final 19 games by a scoreline of 1-0 with the partnership of Robert Huth and Wes Morgan proving formidable.
Defeating the Oddsmakers
The 2015/16 season was a fairytale for Leicester City and not only were they able to secure the Premier League title they won it by a ten point margin. To put Leicester City’s 2015/16 odds into perspective, a $100 bet at 5000/1 would payout $5000.
In comparison to many teams in the division Leicester had one of the lowest budgets in the Premier League. Making their achievement even more of a shock in total Leicester City squad was esembled for just £57 million, the lowest of any team in the top half of the Premier League that season.
Be sure to check out more of Kurt’s underdog stories here on Betting Insider Journal.