Cinderella. Worst to first, Doghouse to the penthouse.
These are just some of the modern-day sports idioms use to describe teams that have gone from last-place to first. To put into words how EPL leaders Leicester City have gone from near-relegation to league champion is nothing short of magical.
In a fairy tale-like story that Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling couldn’t even dream of writing herself, the Foxes have come out of nowhere to take the 2015-16 EPL campaign by storm. Thanks to a two-nil win over Sunderland, Leicester City—or LCFC for short—find themselves seven points clear of their closest pursuer in second-place Tottenham and 13 points clear of Spurs’ North London neighbor Arsenal.
While many had the likes of the aforementioned Gunners and Spurs as perennial contenders along with defending league champion Chelsea, Manchester City and United as favorites to win the EPL in 2015-16.
Congratulations if you picked Leicester City as they were the ultimate longshot at 5,000-to-1 per the UK-based betting website, Betting App Store.
Other than the 2012 discovery of the remains of King Richard III under the choir of Greyfriars Church, very few in the soccer world knew of or really heard of the charming and culture-filled East Midlands city of 836,000-plus.
Just as many may not have known of Leicester City, even fewer would have predicted such a fortuitous ascent for a club that flirted with the abyss of relegation, as the Foxes did last year. Now, one year later, LCFC is one the brink of perhaps the most improbable rags-to-riches turnaround in English soccer history.
The main focal point for LCFC’s rise is Foxes talisman Jamie Vardy.
Vardy, a 29-year-old native of Sheffield, is second in the EPL with 21 goals, one behind Tottenham’s Harry Kane and thanks to his brace vs. Sunderland, has fired the Foxes to within striking distance of their first-ever EPL title. With the win, LCFC also qualified for next year’s UEFA Champions League for the first time in their 132-year history.
Under the careful purview of Italian boss Claudio Ranieri, LFC have methodically and efficiently dispatched of the likes of Spurs, Man City, Chelsea, Everton and Liverpool en route to a 21-9-3 record, 72 points with a goal differential of 26.
In their last five fixtures, the Foxes have tallied five consecutive clean sheets in outscoring their opponents, six to zero.
With the league crown firmly in their sights and upcoming road fixtures against United and Chelsea, Leicester will have their chance to etch their name in the sacred hallows of soccer lore as the most unlikely—and worthy—league champion ever.