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Published: 10:11 | 4/5/16

OPINION: Just Champion

Football columnist Wayne Barton on Leicester's title success

How would you prefer your team to win the title?

Leicester City supporters were presented with four likely options on Sunday morning - win it on Sunday, Monday, next weekend or the last weekend of the season. Frustratingly for them, they were unable to overcome a Manchester United side they had subdued after conceding early, and so they couldn’t accomplish the goal of winning the Premier League at Old Trafford.

Never mind, there was always the opportunity of winning it in front of their own fans, with even some Spurs supporters praying for their team to win at Chelsea if only to give Leicester that feeling against Everton at the weekend. As we all know, now, Spurs had a two goal lead and surrendered it in one of the most intense Premier League games in modern memory, meaning that the Foxes had achieved one of the most unlikely successes in sporting history.

It may be worth remembering that the first two Premier League titles were not won by Manchester United on the pitch; instead, Oldham Athletic and Coventry City served as unlikely spoilers to Aston Villa and Blackburn Rovers respectively. United would have to wait until 1996 to enjoy winning the title on the pitch - it is a feat that if not relatively rare is at least not common.

Judging by the scenes at the Vardy household - where the England striker was indeed having a party - these statistical references mattered not. And, indeed, nor should they. Because ‘how’ Leicester City won the title was not in how the trophy was ultimately decided, it was in the 36 games prior to that point. Claudio Ranieri’s success was by no means certain, and when Danny Welbeck headed an injury time winner for Arsenal against Leicester on Valentine’s Day, it seemed as if momentum favoured the Gunners. That Leicester’s entertaining position as league leaders would soon be shortly lived.

Except, of course, it wasn’t. Perhaps it is true, if a little harsh, that the greatest entertainment has been in witnessing the unlikely. But, then, if Leicester’s football has been criticised, where has the good football been elsewhere? Undoubtedly at Spurs, but not at Arsenal, who are famed for it, and not in Manchester, where the riches on show at both clubs have not translated into enjoyable seasons. And so if you’re looking for thrills, there’s no place better to start than backing the underdog.

If it seems as if this columnist is damning Leicester with faint praise, then let it noted that they should absolutely be commended for their commitment and energy levels, which put other teams of reportedly greater talent to shame, and arguably made all the difference. And it is not out of sympathy that so called ‘better’ clubs are casting envious eyes on stellar performers like Kasper Schmeichel, N’Golo Kante, Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy. Vardy’s is the most high profile story, of course, though for the most wholesome story, it’s hard to look past Andy King, who has been part of the entire rise from League One. Vardy, like Dele Alli, have had their rise from the lower leagues well documented, but King has been there every step of the way since he was released by Chelsea as a youngster.

Perhaps the narrative of footballers on the scrapheap is a little overplayed so as to undermine their ability in the pursuit of storytelling; but Leicester’s story has been so incredible because of how unlikely it is. It needs no further sweetening. And with that, it needs to be said that the best team won the league. Leicester’s wins over Liverpool and Manchester City in early February were emphatic and thrilling, while their most recent result - that confident draw at Old Trafford - saw the performance of a team confidently justifying their position in the table.

Ranieri, for his part, has excelled in utilising the basics at his disposal, but done so to such great effect that Leicester had gained such an advantage that when it came to a question of holding nerves, they were not pushed to do so. Time and time again this season the Italian has executed a perfect game plan against managers with loftier reputations; it is almost a beautiful, straightforward simplification that has captured the imagination of Leicester fans and most neutrals.

One only needs to look at the reaction to Burnley’s long odds following their promotion, or tap into that growing, tangible optimism that surrounds England’s chances at the European Championships and for once isn’t inflated by media expectancy, to feel the good will that has been generated by this incredible story. Away from all of this, and the talk of what will follow next season, one truth must be remembered - Leicester City are worthy Premier League champions.

Follow Wayne Barton on Twitter @Yolkie_

Wayne Barton has been the football columnist for international broadcaster Setanta Sports since 2011 and has been described by the Independent as ‘the leading writer on Manchester United on the period between Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson’ after numerous books on the club and autobiographies. The most recent are ‘74/75’ with Tommy Docherty and ‘Rise Of The Underdog’, the autobiography of Danny Higginbotham.

Wayne has also worked in Hollywood and across the USA with Gold and Platinum selling musicians and actors from the monster hit TV show ‘Breaking Bad’.

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