What a season it has been for Leicester City! Written off a year ago as they were bottom of the table and secured their Premier League survival only rivaled by Fulham’s great escape a few years previous under Roy Hodgson and now they are crowned Premier League champions!
Centres of Industry
As an inhabitant of the city of Leicester for four years I have met many people following the club but the bug never quite caught me despite Magdeburg and Leicester having similarities. It begins with the colours: Both play in blue shirts, though Magdeburg have white stripes in between but the similarity is striking. Both cities are among the oldest in their respective countries. Magdeburg is more than 1200 years old and once was an important city on the border with the Slavonic tribes east of the river Elbe. Throughout German history Magdeburg played its role. Either as residential town for Otto the Great, Germany’s first emperor or as a hotbed for the Reformation. During the 30 years war it was destroyed and rebuilt by Otto von Guericke. Both Ottos are now part of the city’s slogan: Magdeburg – Ottostadt. In modern times Magdeburg has become an engineering hub in East Germany. So much so that it was impossible to talk about heavy engineering in the GDR without mentioning Magdeburg. Any heavy machine featured at least one part that was manufactured in Magdeburg. After 1990 it struggled with its image as an ugly duckling. Leicester dates back to Roman times as the name suggests. Its history in the 20. century is similar to that of Magdeburg. Once a centre of the textile industry, especially hosiery, it has taken Leicester a long time to come to terms with its post-industrial reality. Brian Clough once had this to say about Martin O’Neil winning the League Cup with the Foxes:
Anybody who can do anything in Leicester other than knit a jumper has got to be a genius. If he’d been English or Swedish, he’d have walked the England job.”
In footballing terms both cold not be further apart and yet they have had similar experiences in recent times as both had a near death experience in 2002 for similar reasons: an alternative TV channel collapsed and suddenly there was a lack of money that affected both clubs severely. Slowly they recovered and Leicester are now English champions. It was eight years ago almost to the day that they were relegated. I was there in Leicester when it happened. The mood among those that followed the club was dark. A colleague worked in the box office and reported of people leaving in tears as their jobs would be insecure or be made redundant. The season in the third division brought local derbies with Peterborough and the immediate promotion back to the Championship.
Despite regular visits to the then called Walkers Stadium I never really liked the club although I would consider myself a football fan with the capability to attend matches without necessarily taking sides.
The first match was in December 2005 against Crewe Alexandra. The tickets were at a reduced rate and I thought it could be a chance to get to know the club and the atmosphere. Neither worked as the match was a dull 1-1 draw and it was freezing cold. On top of that it was also a culture shock. Being used to stand during matches and exposed to the elements as well as cigarette smoke and the occasional beer shower, the Walkers was a quiet place that rarely livened up. The same was true for the following matches against Derby County and Leeds United. Both were derbies with a special meaning but neither team could really enlighten the ground. It took until March 2006 to witness the first victory for the team. It was remarkable only for the winning goal scored by Johannes Gudjohnson from the halfway line. That was about it. My time as a student came to an end shortly afterwards and with it the benefit of cheap tickets.
What could have possibly become a healthy relationship became a state of ignorance on my behalf towards the Foxes. There was of course an element of schadenfreude when they were relegated. Magdeburg never experienced that during my time but they always missed out on bigger occasions. So this felt good for me. I wanted people to get to know how it felt to lose out, to be down and out. A few years later i can only laugh about it.
Incredibly, Leicester City are now the Champions of England. Cue questions from colleagues, friends and family about Leicester. I reply that we never have had a close relationship but instead chose to exist beside each other. Nonetheless, Leicester is my adopted home town and i’m happy having spent time there, time that i cherish and remember fondly. Here’s to you Leicester City, Champions of England! Well done!
As if this wasn’t enough, Leicester’s finest brass band, the King Brasstards have written a song: