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Leicester City’s fall from golden pyramid

Leicester’s demise stands out because of the dramatic nature of their slide into Championship football after experiencing the most spectacular period in their history in recent years

Our Bureau Published 30.05.23, 07:20 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. File photo

Relegations happen every year from most football leagues. For a variety of reasons, clubs find themselves dropping to the immediate lower tier — some of them bounce back, for some others the slide continues. The fans of the relegated teams are of course initially despondent but life moves on. Very rarely does a relegation trigger emotions among football followers from all over.

Leicester City’s relegation from the English Premier League is one such instance.


Just seven years ago, the feisty East Midlands club had provided the Premier League with one of its greatest fairy tales, winning the title as a 5000-1 shot in 2016 under Claudio Ranieri.

Leicester’s demise stands out because of the dramatic nature of their slide into Championship football after experiencing the most spectacular period in their history in recent years.

The 2022-23 campaign was a wretched one. The club was run by three different managers and they lost 22 of their 38 matches.

It is a remarkable fall from grace for a side that promised so much with its dazzling play that kept it in the top flight since 2014-15. They played the Champions League in 2016-17 and the Europa League in 2020-21 and won the FA Cup just two years ago.

Yet, the warning signs for those who cared to see them were there before the season started. Brendan Rodgers had done a fine job as manager since joining from Celtic in February 2019, replacing Claude Puel, leading the club to domestic cup success two years later and also securing the Community Shield.

Under Rodgers, Leicester narrowly missed out on a return to the Champions League with consecutive fifth-placed finishes, in 2019-20 and 2020-21, before ending up fifth last season and reaching the semi-finals of the Europa Conference League.

Rodgers had set his ambitions higher and wanted to refurbish the squad to push for a Champions League berth again. For this, he was keen to offload surplus players and bring in younger legs with more drive, motivation and energy.

But Covid-19 had hit the club’s Thai owners — Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha and family — hard. Their King Power Duty Free business had been severely affected because of the disruption to the aviation industry. That meant the funds for Leicester dried up.

The result was that the club’s only significant signing last summer was centre-back Wout Faes, who came from Rennes for about £15m.

Leicester won just one of their opening 10 games of the 2022-23 season but recovered to sit 13th with 17 points — four clear of Nottingham Forest in the relegation zone — when the campaign stopped for the World Cup on November 13 last year.

The restart though was a disaster as they bagged only four more victories over the rest of the campaign.

It was not as if Leicester weren’t scoring. Not for 12 years has a team been relegated from the Premier League having scored as many as 51 goals. But Leicester conceded 68, and kept only seven clean sheets all season. One reason was the decision to let then captain Kasper Schmeichel join Nice and not sign a suitable replacement.

The result was a slide that the delayed exit — on April 2 — of Rodgers could not arrest and his successor Dean Smith could not reverse.

“The Premier League is where everybody wants to be playing,” Smith said after Sunday’s 2-1 win at home over West Ham. “It feels raw now, it hurts and everybody will be devastated. But with the infrastructure it’s got it will bounce back.”

Encouraging words but there is no guarantee that Leicester would be back in the top flight any time soon.

Top players like James Maddison, Youri Tielemans and Harvey Barnes could all depart and will have suitors from leading clubs.

And think of once super sniper 36-year-old Jamie Vardy. Having joined Leicester in 2012, he helped the club earn promotion to the Premier League in 2014. Two years later he was a champion. In 2020, got the Golden Boot and next season won the FA Cup. On Sunday, he was relegated.

It remains to be seen how the club’s chairman, Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, reacts to the disappointment.

In March, Leicester announced a pre-tax loss of92.5 million pounds ($114 million) for the previous financial year.

It is likely to have to spend again to rebuild from here.

The last time Leicester dropped out of the Premier League was at the end of the 2003-04 campaign. It took 10 seasons to return to the top flight, including one campaign spent in the third tier League One.

Supporters will hope the exile isn’t as long.

Written with inputs from AP/PTI

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