As a football fan there will be dates which stick in the mind; and these memories can normally be categorised into “the good,” “the bad,” and as has become the norm for Leicester City fans, the “unbelievable.” Whilst my first game was the play-off game against Swindon Town in 1994 as an eight-year old, I’ve been hooked ever since, and during the last seventeen years I’ve experienced my fair share of the above, which include:
It’s these moments which make standing shoulder to shoulder next to complete strangers in the freezing cold winter evenings, hoping to grind out a win that make being a Leicester fan so worth while; and I don’t think anyone can argue against the three examples of the “good” times being an LCFC fan.
1) Martin O’Neill era, including Cup victories against Middlesborough and Tranmere
2) Matt Piper getting the last ever league goal at Filbert Street; how fitting that it should go to a product of our academy team!
3) The Monday night after that game also falls into the “Good” category as the curtain was brought down on the true home of Leicester City Football Club, the moment the lights went out and the packed out crowd joined together to sing Auld Lang Sign, it was enough to bring a lump to the throat, tears to the eye and the hairs on the back of the neck to stand on end.
As hard as you try, you can never forget these moments, and some that I’ve experienced include the Carling Cup defeat at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur in 1999, it was my first experience of Wembley and the way I felt when the only goal of the game went in will live with me forever, along with the crowd violence which hit the headlines; and the season we were relegated to the third tier of football for the first time in our illustrious history.
These can range from the good, such as Stan Collymore’s hat-trick against Sunderland in what was his only appearance alongside Emile Heskey in-front of the Filbert Street faithful; and the bad, such as Brian Little declaring that he won’t be leaving Filbert Street, before being unveiled as the new Aston Villa manager a few days later.
Saturday July 30th 2011 also falls into the “unbelievable” category as it was the day our new(ish) owners brought one of the greatest teams in the world, Real Madrid, aka Los Blancos, to the King Power Stadium to face Leicester City.
From the day that this fixture was announced back in May it caught the attention and imagination of nearly everyone as they thought of the likes of Kaka, Casillas and Ozil taking to the pitch for our only home pre-season game. It was a game which I too was looking forward to, and one which when it arrived didn’t disappoint.
The owners, with the help of Susan Whelan ensured that the day lived up to the build up, and laid on a “fans village” which featured free Thai massages, Thai dancing and entertainment from local singer and Leicester City fan, Jersey Budd who took to the stage to sing Leicester’s anthem “When You’re Smiling.”
As the Madrid coach pulled up outside the players entrance, the atmosphere heightened further, as fans queued for hours to catch a glimpse of the arrogant as ever Cristiano Ronaldo walk from the coach to the entrance of the ground without even a glance towards the fans. Fortunately the Leicester squad, including new-boys Matt Mills, Neil Danns and David Nugent spent time signing autographs when asked.
On the pitch, unfortunately there isn’t a great deal to write about. It wasn’t that the game wasn’t entertaining, but it was a pre-season and it certainly had that feel about it. As the players lined up, I along with a large section of Leicester fans aimed one of our first chants to the rest of the crowd (which totalled 32,000), asking them where they were when we were *****. (I’m proud to say that come rain or shine, good times or bad I was behind the team, and will continue to be!)
Despite the millions that Real Madrid are worth, it took them until the 43rd minute to get their first goal against what looked a solid back five of Peltier, Bamba, Mills, Konchesky and Schmeichel; and it was a mistake from the rock-solid Mills which gave Los Blancos the chance to break on an almost empty goal.
Up until the goal, the Foxes battled bravely and didn’t look fazed by their multi trophy winning side. Yuki Abe, Danns, Richard Wellens all looked to hold midfield well, Nugent looked promising in attack, whilst Darius Vassell and Paul Gallagher looked dangerous on the wings, and each player was clearly playing with pride; and some may say an eye on our next game against Coventry next Saturday.
The start of the second half summed up the difference in money the two clubs have. Whilst many are casting looks at the Foxes for the money we’ve spent this summer on our nine (soon to be 10) new signings; nothing can beat the bench of the visitors. Whilst we brought on Andy King, Michael Johnson and Lloyd Dyer; Mourinho turned to his bench and introduced the likes of Ronaldo, Ozil and Casillas; but despite their will the Spanish couldn’t prevent Dyer grabbing a consolation goal in the 83rd minute; and following the game Sergio Ramos also managed to heap praise onto the Leicester side, saying they’re definitely a Premiership side (here’s hoping!).
As entertaining as it was to host one of the greatest club sides in the world, I personally cannot wait for the start of the season next Saturday. Come 12:30 August 6th 2011, I’ll be standing with the rest of the travelling faithful at the Ricoh Arena, as we take on our minor M69 rivals, Coventry!