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The Ultimate Underdogs of Leicester City

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Here in Crystal Lake, life is pretty simple. The last things on the minds of high schoolers are two things that might seem very different. The Little Engine That Could and English soccer. But, right now, perhaps for the first time ever, that book has a real application on a worldwide stage. It seems ridiculous, but hear me out.

As a fan of soccer, I follow the standings and watch the games on the weekend. Right now, something amazing is happening in the Premier League, the main soccer league of England, and arguably the top league in the world. Leicester City, a team that was recently promoted to the Premier League last year and has struggled in the lower leagues before that, is leading the standings by five points with just eight games to go. A lot can and will happen in that timeframe but with every win, Leicester gets closer to the championship.

Big deal, right? Jack, tell us why we should care. So what “Leicester City” is doing really good. Is it really that special? The answer is YES.

Imagine. Right now, we can all agree that the Philadelphia 76ers are pretty bad team. Right now, they have a record of 10-68. Imagine the 76ers next year come back, win 73 games to break the season win record, stomp on teams in the playoffs, and cap it off with a four-game sweep of the Warriors, who are currently having one of the greatest seasons a basketball team has ever had, all without making any major roster changes. Wouldn’t that be insane? Something of that magnitude is happening with Leicester City in the Premier League.

A major difference between European and American sports is there is no salary cap, so teams who have the most money spend the most, and they ALWAYS have the best players. In any given year, there are only a few teams that compete for the title. Those have been Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal. Only in the last few years has a fifth team, Manchester City, has arrived on the scene winning two titles in 2012 and 2014. Outside of that, there hasn’t been any change in who wins. If you support a smaller club like Newcastle United or Watford, you’re rooting for your team to stay out of relegation, where the bottom three teams in the league are sent down to the next lowest league. However, this year is completely different.

In third place, sits Arsenal, a traditionally good team. But silver and gold are a little different this year. In second place, Tottenham Hotspur, a football club that shares a fierce rivalry with Arsenal (the two play in what is called the North London derby), is a team that is usually pretty good, but not quite good enough to be in the title race. Recently, under a new manager and leadership of young striker Harry Kane, the “Spurs” as they are called, have had a lot of success. But, little Leicester sits atop, leading by seven points.

Leicester has a pretty incredible story. Being a newly promoted team, most people did not expect them to stay in the league after last year, as newly promoted teams are often relegated the next season. However, Leicester fought hard and finished 14th, just outside the relegation zone. Over the offseason they worked hard and acquired key pieces on offense and defense. This year, people expected them to do alright in the standings, but nowhere near first place .

One incredible story is that of Jamie Vardy, their main offensive striker. A man with personal problems, he grew up fatherless and had run-ins with the law. He started playing semi-professional non-league soccer and worked his way up from the literal bottom. Hard work, skill, and determination took him from a kid with no father to one of the best footballers in the world.

The moral of the story is, any excuse you might have for anything, when you break it down, is rationalization. Leicester has NO business being at the top of the league. Every week, soccer “experts” have predicted their collapse. Thirty weeks in, they’re still at the top. It won’t be easy, but with hard work and a bit of luck, they might be able to do it.

There are 38 weeks in the Premier League season. Week 32 just wrapped up over the weekend, leaving just six games remaining in the season. At the beginning of the season, Leicester’s odds to win the title were 5000/1, and betting houses are now trying to buy people out in order to avoid losing millions. Barring intervention from God, it looks like Leicester might just run away this one.

In the end, whatever it is that we do, we get in what we put out. You can do anything you want if you actually work for it. It sounds childish and corny, but Leicester City are the real engines that could.

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One Response to “The Ultimate Underdogs of Leicester City”

  1. Ruth Ann Vokac on April 8th, 2016 1:52 pm

    Jack, this is such a well written article! Before reading it, I knew absolutely nothing about English soccer. Your article packed in lots of specific, organized details and made me want to care about what happens with English soccer in the next 6 weeks. Even more importantly, your passion for English soccer shines through every paragraph. As a former English teacher, I appreciate the way you connected the intro and conclusion. Your writing skills will help you succeed in whatever you do in life!

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The Ultimate Underdogs of Leicester City