In the Premier League, a select few clubs can spend the GDP of small Pacific Island nations in order to improve their squad, and with every signing it can feel like the magic of the English game keeps being sucked away. Watching Jamie Vardy and Leicester does bring back a bit of that essential essence as to why the Premier League is the most-watched around the globe.
Jamie Vardy’s story has been told repeatedly as he chased, and has now broken, Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s Premier League record for consecutive games with a goal. A man who couldn’t get off the bench in semi-pro football in England’s fifth tier has now broken that record not for United, or the megabucks clubs of today, but Leicester City, who paid £400,000 for him and struggled mightily to climb out of the Championship until last year. He played a part in their great escape from relegation last season, but no one, not even he could have expected this.
Many wrote and ruminated about how Leicester were surefire relegation candidates this season considering their great escape last season and how they sacked the manager that orchestrated it. When the video of players on the postseason tour in Thailand was leaked (Vardy included), that didn’t help sway wavering minds. And when Claudio Ranieri was hired to replace Nigel Pearson, it certainly felt like curtains after his disastrous spell as manager of Greece.
But, like all good fairytales, the script has been torn up. Leicester have played some scintillating counter-attack football spearheaded by former non-league strikers, Manchester United youth products that didn’t come good and marshaled by a man known for excessive tinkering even when the team is humming along. But the Tinkerman hasn’t done that. He’s sat back and watched this magic carpet ride reach new heights, with the perfect spearhead grabbing all of the headlines.
Leicester City are more than just Vardy obviously. Riyad Mahrez was signed when the Foxes were trying desperately to climb out of the Championship mire, and he was the star of Leicester’s show before Vardy took his spot on the marquee. Danny Drinkwater and Marc Albrighton were youth products from Premier League mainstays that didn’t find their groove under the big lights. A longtime Nottingham Forest defender now playing internationally for Jamaica is their rock at the back, the son of a former Premier League legend mans the goal, and if this wasn’t crazy enough, a youth product named Joe Dodoo scored four goals in two League Cup games, and that seems a distant memory.
When Jamie Vardy scored his record breaking goal against Manchester United, the Leicester fans around the KP Stadium chanted, “we are staying up” as if even the gravity of the fairytale emerging in front of them hadn’t even come close to sinking in yet. And it probably won’t. The common narrative about Leicester is that their form will eventually drop and they won’t make any more astonishing late comebacks but that is what makes fairytales what they are. They defy logic and live on the exceptions. Why can’t they win the Premier League? What’s stopping them?
In a league and world increasingly dominated by how much cash you have on hand, Leicester’s story is one that should warm the heart of every football fan around no matter what colors you bleed. Even as they can sign players they would have never dreamt of signing before thanks to that same money, and hired a manager under that same pretense, its players like Vardy, Morgan, Drinkwater, Mahrez and company that have conjured up the magic.
In a wide open Premier League this season, why not Leicester? Jamie Vardy has just broken what was thought to be an impossible record.
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