Martin Samuel: Leicester City gave us back all that we love about football

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Be aware that this is no standard match report. No end-of-season wrap-up, no routine summary of facts. This is a memento; a marking of history; this records an event you will want to tell your grandchildren about. The year: 2016. The date: Tuesday, May 3. And Leicester City have won the Premier League.

Over time, in sport, even the greatest achievements fade. Sir Alex Ferguson's 13 titles with Manchester United meld to one glorious procession; each Ashes year becomes indistinguishable from the next; even the gold paint on those London 2012 postboxes peels and flakes as the seasons pass.

What remains is the truly exceptional. 1966. The Treble. Istanbul. Arsenal's Invincibles. Mo Farah. Jonny Wilkinson. And now Leicester. Little Leicester.

Semper eadem is the city's motto. Always the same. Not now it isn't. Not on Tuesday morning. Nothing is the same from here.

It is hard to put Leicester's triumph into context because so little can be compared. Mark Steel, the comedian, said he was trying to explain it to friends who did not follow football and was moved to increasingly bizarre analogies. 'It's like winning the Grand National,' he finally announced, exhausted, 'on a cat.'

Alternatively, try this one. Leicester City were 5,000-1 to do this at the start of the season. That means if the Premier League continued every year from now until 7016, by the bookmakers' estimation, Leicester would win it, once. Equally, had the Premier League started in 2984 BC, or around the time Stonehenge was built, and been played every year since, the bookmakers believe Leicester would win it, once.

We are used to hyperbole in sport. The good is parlayed to great, the great to fantastic, the remarkable to unbelievable, and on, upwards, into the stratosphere. It is a world of exaggeration. Yet Leicester deserve every superlative thrown at them.

For once, there can be no bombast. You may never see anything like this in your lifetime again. So don't feel foolish, snip the cuttings, preserve the scrapbooks. The 2015-16 Premier League season is a keeper.

On April 24, Leicester played the penultimate home game of their season against Swansea City. The ground was full. Nothing unusual in that, one might think. Leicester were five points clear at the top. As a club that has never won the title - the last first-time champions were Nottingham Forest in 1977-78 - every fixture down that final straight was, by definition, the biggest in Leicester's history.

Yet it wasn't just the home support who flocked to the game. The Swansea end was bursting to capacity, too. And Swansea had nothing to play for. They weren't about to be relegated, they were well short of the scramble for European qualification. For them, it was a dead rubber.

So why such interest? They had come to see Leicester. More specifically, they had come to bear witness to history, to be part of something nobody thought was possible in the modern game. They had come to tell future generations, 'I was there', the way those who saw Finney or Matthews can still recount those days, right down to their spot on the terrace and the number of the bus to the ground.

Yet Leicester's players are not greats, not legends of the game. Marc Albrighton is no Sir Stanley Matthews, no more than Wes Morgan is Bobby Moore or Jamie Vardy Jimmy Greaves. These players will enter folklore, but as a team, a collective, the ultimate band of brothers. Those Swansea fans will not talk of seeing Leonardo Ulloa or Robert Huth, but of Leicester, of watching a group of players who did not just defy what was expected of them as individuals, but rose above the limitations we had placed on their club, and all clubs like it, in the Champions League age.

The elite cannot be so sure, after this. They can no longer presume. There have been challengers from beyond the exalted few before, Norwich City, Southampton, even Charlton Athletic, but by the end of the season the established order had fallen in. It took real money to break that monopoly these days, oil money, petrodollars.

So Leicester's early-season form was seen as a pleasant diversion, an entertaining support act, before the headliners hit the stage. We had grown comfortable with our cynicism. 'Champions of England - you'll never sing that,' had become a familiar taunt at Premier League football grounds. It was the certainty of 'never' that wounded, because we thought it true.

Football had entered an age in which the title - the pinnacle of the domestic game - was the preserve of a handful of clubs, and in some foreign leagues even less than that.

Every regulatory change that has been made in the last two decades was designed to preserve the entitlement of the few and to stop Leicester, and their equivalents, from challenging that supremacy.

Roughly two miles away from the King Power Stadium is Fayrhurst Road, where the playwright Joe Orton was born. Wild and anarchic in his writing, yet authentically working-class in his upbringing. 'Somebody from nowhere,' John Lahr called him, in a superb biography.

It seems rather apt for Leicester, too. A success from nowhere, by nobodies who become somebodies. Vardy may have a film made of his story, but his is not the only Hollywood ending. Morgan, the captain, ditched by Notts County for being too fat; Riyad Mahrez, from failed trialist at St Mirren to Players' Player of the Year.

Claudio Ranieri, the coach, the nearly man, the Tinkerman, sacked by Greece for losing to the Faroe Islands. And then this, an unprecedented feat of man-management, somehow warding off the inevitable collapse, somehow convincing a group of second-class footballers that they were first-rate, that they not only deserved this success but that it could be sustained over weeks, then months - a calendar year, in fact, if we include the end of last season when Leicester's revival began, avoiding relegation from another impossible position, under Nigel Pearson.

When would Leicester's Hollywood story start? In 2002, with the club near to closure; six years later, fighting to emerge from the third tier of English football; or as recently as April 13 last year, when Leicester were still bottom of the Premier League?

The only mild resentment of this most incredible of victories can be found in Nottingham, where players and fans of Forest believe talk of Leicester pulling off football's greatest title win is a slight on their own achievement under Brian Clough.

And yes, until now, for Forest to come from third promotion place in the second tier to win the title the following season was the pinnacle. Yet football has changed. Ipswich Town also won promotion and then, immediately, the First Division championship the following season in 1961-62 - sweeping aside Tottenham's Double winners, no less.

Football had greater variety back then. Derby County were champions in 1972 and 1975, Aston Villa in 1981 - there was more opportunity. Football clubs faced other football clubs, not Sheiks and oligarchs and UEFA regulations. If Leicester simply had to overcome Manchester United and Chelsea it would be hard enough but they have also faced a system designed to keep those super-clubs in place.

These days it is inconceivable that a team could repeat Forest's feat, simply because the gap between the divisions is so great. So Forest were wonderful - and what they then achieved by winning and retaining the European Cup will never be surpassed - but the club was of its time. Leicester have surmounted obstacles that were unimagined in Clough's era.

In pure sporting terms, it has been a victory for noble athletic qualities, too. While some seasons are recalled for individual goals or performances, the abiding memory of this campaign is Vardy closing down a generic, panicking defender, somehow moving across the turf at a different speed from those around him, and then on to the next one, quicker, quicker, until possession is lost - achieving the transition that is key to Leicester's play.

Greaves, it was said, played as if in slow motion while all around him were frantic. Vardy is the opposite, a player on fast forward, while his opponents freeze.

He is not alone. 'Seventy per cent of the planet is covered by water, the rest is covered by N'Golo Kante,' as they like to say in Leicester, in tribute to the work ethic of their central midfielder. So this is a victory for tenacity, for team spirit and togetherness, for an absence of ego and for good old-fashioned graft, all qualities that become easier to admire in a world where fame and success is too often the preserve of the trite and shallow.

And yet it is more. Leicester have restored emotions we thought had been lost from the game for good. Faith, idealism, optimism, romance. They are the somebodies from nowhere that, unfathomably, pulled off the greatest title victory in the history of English sport.

And you will want to remember them, because future generations will want to know.

- Daily Mail

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