There is a delightful video from Monday evening of Wes Morgan, the Leicester City defender and the latest Premier League-winning captain, celebrating his side’s title by being dragged around Jamie Vardy’s kitchen, in slow-motion, by his legs by an unseen, celebrating team-mate.
Morgan’s eyes are closed, fingers pointing skyward. A career, a lifetime of dreams had just been realised and Morgan clearly had no idea what to do with himself.
That is what Leicester have done this season. It is more than just a title victory, a rags-to-riches tale of 5,000/1 outsiders upsetting the system and achieving the unachievable.
They’ve dismissed the notion that top-flight football is a closed shop. Claudio Ranieri’s own Italian Job in the heart of the Midlands has blown the bloody doors off.
Premier League football had entered its third decade and a familiar pattern was emerging; money talked, and we all listened intently. In 2008, when Sheikh Mansour took over Manchester City, they finished eighth. Since, they’ve won the league twice, finished second on two other occasions, won the FA and League Cup and are currently in the semi-finals of the Champions League.
Roman Abramovich’s 13 years at Chelsea has brought more league titles than the almost 90 years before him.
The last 23 Premier League titles have been carved up between four clubs; City, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal. All billionaire owned. All looking up at Leicester now.
The same old story, year after year, unfolded before our eyes and we swallowed it, taken in by the Sky-perpetuated myth of this being the Greatest League in the World.
The rest of the 16 Premier League also-rans were there to make up the numbers, right? They existed to feed off the scraps off the big boys, be content with an odd Wembley final. Gone were the days, we thought, of the 1970s, when Nottingham Forest - not a million miles away from Leicester, in geography or achievement - won the First Division title the season after promotion.
But Leicester have let football dream again. Who can fail to be inspired by their transition from relegation certainties to title-winners in 12 months, fusing together a bunch of journeymen and hidden gems to take on the might of the Premier League?
Talk of turning Vardy’s career into a Hollywood film continues, although it may yet have to be extended to encapsulate his side’s achievement this season. Hollywood’s scriptwriters churn out films every week about humans linking with aliens to save their dying planet and Matt Damon being stuck on Mars, but accurately and authentically portraying Leicester’s achievement may prove altogether more difficult.
Ranieri, much-maligned and derided during his time at Chelsea many moons ago, has assembled this country’s finest squad including a goalkeeper formerly of Notts County, Falkirk and Darlington, two cast-offs from Manchester United, an unknown from France’s Ligue 2 and a striker who was playing non-league for Stocksbridge Park Steels not so long ago.
Today, Kasper Schmeichel, Danny Simpson, Danny Drinkwater, Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy are Premier League winners. Vardy is the Football Writers’ Association footballer of the year and will go to France for the Euros this summer, inbetween marrying his fiance Becky and writing a book on his incredible life so far.
Talk of turning Vardy’s career into a Hollywood film continues, although it may yet have to be extended to encapsulate his side’s achievement this season. Hollywood’s scriptwriters churn out films about humans linking with aliens to save their dying planet and Matt Damon being stuck on Mars every week, but accurately and authentically portraying Leicester’s achievement may prove altogether more difficult.
There should be little need to embellish the facts, either. Ranieri only arrived at the club after his predecessor, Nigel Pearson, was sacked after a racism storm involving his son, two teammates and a Thai prostitute, and Vardy blotted his copybook somewhat after being caught on camera calling a fellow gambler a “Jap” in a casino. The striker apologised for a “regrettable error in judgment”, was fined and undertook diversity awareness training.
Vardy’s previous assault rap came eight years ago, when he defended a friend who was being bullied over wearing a hearing aid. Vardy was playing non-league football for Steels at the time with an electronic tag and, on occasions they were playing away, had to be substituted early so he could be home in time to meet the 6pm curfew.
Vardy, who broke Ruud van Nistelrooy’s Premier League goalscoring record when he netted in 11 consecutive games this season, remains a shy character, typical of someone catapulted towards stardom rather than being slowly introduced to it. His story is an inspiration to a generation of youngsters released by clubs - as Vardy was at 16, by Sheffield Wednesday - who still dream of a career in the game.
Vardy, Mahrez, N’Golo Kante and Ranieri’s band of brothers didn’t just beat Manchester City, Arsenal, Spurs and 16 other clubs to the unlikeliest of Premier League titles. They beat the odds and the establishment, and won our hearts too. Kante may leave this summer, Vardy may struggle to replicate the heights of this season, Ranieri is 64 and will one day hang up his glasses. But their achievements are etched in history and, whatever happens, they will always be remembered as the unlikely lads who allowed us all to dream again.