Result: Leicester City 4-2 Manchester City (Premier League)
Venue: King Power Stadium (Saturday 10th December 2016, 5.30pm)
As the mid-season mark rapidly approaches for most sides in most leagues around the country, which seems strange as it seems only a few weeks since the season got underway in earnest, I also had the conundrum of quite where, and indeed how, to mark my 200th ground. Having had the 100th pass in pretty mediocre (I think, I haven’t checked) fashion, I had already decided it had to be somewhere a little special. So, when my City supporting pal Ashley came up with the idea of heading to Leicester, I was pretty up for it. The only thing left was to get it to tie in with the bicentennial home.
It turned out that the schedule worked pretty kindly, but did require a double game the previous week, hence the two visits to Tempest United and, latterly, Port Vale over the weekend. So with 199 grounds in the book, it was time to head for Leicester and the King Power Stadium, home of the Foxes; the champions of England!
After being picked up (yes, it’s a rare non-public transport blog) at just before midday, it was a quick and pretty uneventful journey down through Cheshire, Staffordshire (Der)Byshire as one sign announced it with the bracketed letters obstructed before finally negotiating Leicestershire. All this was done without truly hitting a red light, leading to Ashley having many aborted efforts to remove his coat. When we did eventually catch a red, we were just seven miles from the city. Unlucky, mate!
After a while of negotiating the, admittedly not too pretty, streets leading into Leicester, we eventually pulled into some matchday parking (£6), which far undercut the “official” price and set off back into the city but not before being given some directions going along the lines of “there’s a pub and a Nando’s, lots of choice” by the car park guard. I don’t think that was said in sarcasm either strangely. Anyway, off we headed passing the Leicester Tigers ground as we went, as well as the Nelson Mandela Park, Ashley regretting visiting the public facilities here. That last part may even be an understatement. I wasn’t going near.
Heading towards the centre itself, it has to be said that, at that point, we weren’t too enamoured by Leicester. All that, though, was changed as we arrived at the pedestrianised centre and a quick walk through the festively decorated streets showed that there is everything and more that you could need here. Another big plus, for myself at least, was the large amount of watering holes available! Sadly, I was on a cut-back for today, so these would have to wait for another occasion. For now, though, it was off for some culture!
Firstly, we headed to the castle gardens where we found no castle, but we did find some grass and a canal. There was the motte still visible but the bailey had long gone. Next up on the list was the cathedral and a quick 10 minute walk back towards the centre was undertaken. Once here, a quick picture of this and the statue of King Richard III, who I still believe has little in common with the city bar being found there in not too good off a condition, and we headed off to find some fast food to keep Ashley sane.
Ashley reckoned a Subway would suffice, so after a quick stop, it was off to the Last Plantagenet Wetherspoon’s for a quick Punk IPA (for me only, the ever reliable driver remained on the softs) and a catch up on the scores of the day on the poor man’s Soccer Saturday. The ‘spoons was fairly full, with a mix of both club’s supporters in here, but the place was a bit bland, to be honest and I wasn’t too disappointed when it was time to head for the ground. What I was put off by was the steady rain that had now begun to fall.
After a fair soaking while walking the 25 minutes or so towards the King Power, we were soon inside the, surprisingly empty, turnstiles we’d been allocated, with the others being pretty full with fans filtering through. With programme already secured and a good feel up encountered, it was into the concourse and for a Chicken Balti pie (£3.70). The pie was your bog-standard PL-style cuisine, but nothing to complain about, as I reckon I’ve done that a fair amount over the course of this blog already!
With food bought, we headed up the #Fearless stairway and into the stands in earnest, finding that we were on the segregation line, which promised some fun, though this would be tempered somewhat by the fact it appeared he family area was the side directly opposite. This is both a good and bad idea, I think, as it keeps trouble to more of a minimum, but doesn’t create too great an atmosphere for the youngsters and families who don’t want that sort of stuff. Pros and cons and another moan there. Anyway, the King Power is a smart, new-build ground, fairly basic in terms of description with all stands fairly similar. Penchants from loads of clubs line the top of them all too, which is a bit different, so a plus there. We quite liked it, so the 200th ground wasn’t a damp squib. Well, apart from the weather…anyway, here’s a bit about Leicester City FC…
Leicester City Football Club was founded in 1884 by a group of Wyggeston School Old Boys and took on the name of Leicester Fosse, with the club joining the Football Association in 1890. The club played at five grounds during their formative years before moving to Filbert Street in 1891, when the club moved into the Midland League. Leicester were then elected to the Football League’s Division 2 in 1894, after finishing as the Midland League’s runners-up.
In 1908, Leicester achieved promotion to Division 1 as runners-up, but were relegated after just one season in English Football’s top division. Here they remained through to WWI and after the cessation of hostilities, the club folded and reformed as Leicester City FC, following the borough’s recent awarding of city status. They went on to win the 1925 Division 2 title and finished runners-up in Division 1 in 1929. They remained in the top-tier through to 1935, when they suffered the drop, only to bounce back up (1937) and down again (1939) within the next four seasons.
After being losing finalists in the 1949 FA Cup, the club did ensure survival a week later to remain in Division 2. They went on to win a second Division 2 title in 1954, but were relegated again the following year. After returning to Division 1 in 1957, they remained there through to 1969, the longest period of time the club has spent, uninterrupted, in the top flight, which encompassed three further FA Cup Final appearances, a League Cup Final win over Stoke City in 1964, but a further Final defeat in 1965.
1971 saw City back in Division 1 and they also won the Charity Shield for the only time to date, playing in it due to Arsenal’s European commitments. They were relegated once more in 1978, but again won the Division 2 title in 1980 but their stay was again to last just one season. However, 1983 saw the club again return to the top-level, as their slight yo-yo existence continued and 1987 saw the club back in the second tier.
Following the creation of the Premiership, Leicester found themselves in Division 1 for 1991-’92, losing in the play-off final to Blackburn Rovers, following this with another play-off final heartbreak the next season. But it was to be third-time lucky for the Foxes, as the 1994 play-offs were successful and the club overcame Derby County to take up a place in the Premiership, but again one campaign was all they could manage before suffering the drop.
1996 saw Leicester back in the Prem once more, following a late winner in the play-off final and this time Leicester were able to consolidate a place in the top division. With Martin O’Neill in charge, the club went on to win two League Cups (1997 & 2000), qualifying for the UEFA Cup on both occasions and were runners-up in 1999 too. After O’Neill’s departure, a downturn in form followed and 2002 saw Leicester return to Division 1.
The club moved into the ‘Walker’s Stadium’ at the beginning of 2002-’03 season and despite administration, the club returned to the Premiership at the end of the season, only to return back to the newly named Championship for the ’04-’05 campaign. After a tumultuous period concerning the managerial position whilst the club transitioned through ownership, the Foxes dropped into the third tier of English Football, League 1 for the first time at the end of the ’07-’08 season.
They did manage to return to the Championship at the first attempt, though, finishing as League 1 Champions and reached the play-offs at the end of their first season back in the second tier, only to lose out in the semi-final. Following another take over and Sven Goran Eriksson’s managerial tenure, Nigel Pearson returned to the club and led them to the play-offs once more, only to miss out in the semis again, however they were promoted the next season ’13-’14, following a 10-year absence, as the winners of the Championship.
After a 14th placed finish under Pearson in their first season back in the Premier League, he was sacked in favour of Claudio Ranieri. In what some have called a fairytale season, Leicester went on to lift the 2015-’16 title after starting off at 5,000-1 outsiders. This season has seen them struggle to recreate the magic of the last campaign, with the club currently sitting just above the drop zone.
After an informal touch for Chapecoense, involving inviting some applause for the club in a show of support, the teams came out of the tunnel to the traditional fox-hunting bugle call. This definitely seemed to resonate with the champions on this occasion, as they flew out of the blocks, swiftly blowing away the visitors in a matter of minutes and leaving the majority of the travelling support in a state of disbelief.
First, a swift attack saw Jamie Vardy get clear of the static City three-man back-line and fire across Claudio Bravo and into the far corner, sending the fans across the way from us into raptures and clappers flying to all parts. This quickly became two, Andy King unleashing a fine, curling effort into the top corner, past the despairing dive of Bravo and the home fans, who’ve had something of a disappointing season thus far, were entering delirium by this point.
If they were at delirium by the second goal, then when Vardy added his second just minutes later to make it three-nil to the home side, then I don’t know what adjective they were at! Inside twenty first half minutes, Leicester had taken Manchester City apart and stormed into what looked an unassailable lead. Surely, they weren’t going to throw this away?!
Indeed, the visiting City showed little signs of coming back into the game and the half fizzled out somewhat, with fans behind us largely having and back and forth with one Leicester fan clad in orange, who therefore became many different words, followed by the suffix “in orange”, just to make everyone certain who the barbs were directed at. Indeed, this eventually escalated to involve burger vans, but the stewards seemed to find it all fairly amusing. Ashley and I were also regaled with one fan’s story of a trip to Highbury in the ’80’s and how its bad start reflected this game. Or something like that. Oh and back on the pitch, the half ended 3-0, before the “Jester from Leicester”, Mark Selby, paraded his new UK snooker title on the pitch following his recent defeat of Ronnie O’Sullivan.
The second half got underway, with the visitors showing a little more life, but definitely seeming to struggle without the dynamic style and pure threat of Aguero and the control of Fernandinho in the middle of the park. Leicester, therefore, were able to control the game a little more, with skipper Wes Morgan and Robert Huth winning most that was put in front of them. Despite this, when the Citizens did break through, they found their own finishing skills lacking, with De Bruyne and Gundogan both pulling shots wide.
Eventually, though, Man City’s push for a goal back fell away and Leicester again became the force in the game, this despite the introductions of Yaya Toure and Nolito into the fray, though I did tip Nolito to net as he made his way onto the field. Indeed, Vardy completed a fine hat-trick, as he intercepted a poor pass-back by John Stones before finishing from a very acute angle, the goal-line technology confirming the goal to Michael Oliver. 4-0 and considering the last time I’d seen Jamie Vardy score was for Stocksbridge Park Steels in 2008, he’s not done too badly.
Despite being four down Man City, to their credit, did battle on and pulled two goals back. Firstly, Aleksandar Kolarov bent a free-kick from the edge of the box past German stopper Ron-Robert Zieler, before Nolito showed I am, clearly, a football predicting genius by cleverly finishing Kolarov’s low ball in. (NB: I’m not a predictive genius, please don’t ask for tips, you will lose).
So, the full-time whistle went to signal Leicester’s fine 4-2 win and we quickly exited the arena, eventually finding ourselves on the right track back to the car, after finding ourselves heading the wrong way when we popped up somewhere near the club’s old stomping ground, Filbert Street! Soon and mercifully out of the non-abating rain, Ashley created a decent exit strategy and we were, fairly swiftly, on the way back up North and onwards back from whence we came.
Arriving back at just after a quarter-past ten, Ashley dropped me back off before going off in search of some more deep-fried goodness, whereas I headed off to indulge myself in some more of that beautiful stuff with alcohol in it. You know, alcohol. That was that, then. 200 grounds have been and gone and in fairly quick time too. So then, where for the next 200?
Value For Money: 6