No-one would want to rain on Leicester City’s parade.
RMAnd what a parade it was. One British national newspaper described the cacophony which greeted the team members as they made their way to a local Italian restaurant for a celebratory lunch as being akin to Jesus’ triumphant ride into Jerusalem.
But elsewhere not everyone is quiteh so willing to applaud the Foxes for having pulled off what was widely thought to be impossible.
Leicester’s fairytale season made a mockery of the notion that an unfashionable club without much money (relatively speaking) would never again become champions of the English Premier League.
Ray Crawford is one person who certainly doesn’t think Leicester has done something unique. Ray who? Well, once Leicester had been confirmed as Premier League champions, Crawford would have been one of the first people contacted by the sports desk at the Ipswich-based East Anglian Daily Times.
The reason? The 79-year-old Crawford was a member of the Ipswich Town team which sent shockwaves through English football by winning the First Division title back in 1962 — the equivalent of what Leicester has achieved in the Premier League this season.
Crawford thus has grounds to question the hyperbole which has gushed from the media and elsewhere in the week since Leicester’s triumph. Crawford told the newspaper he and his team mates were even bigger underdogs than the current Leicester side.
Well, he would say that, woudn’t he? Unlike Leicester, however, Ipswich had the added kudos of winning the title in the club’s first season in the top flight, having been promoted from the old Second Division the previous season.
No-one in the team had played at international level. Like Leicester, Ipswich were considered to be a collection of nobodies and a prime candidate for relegation straight back to where they had come from.
So much for the pundits. Ipswich began the season in August with a draw and two losses. The team then defied expectations and won the next five games. There was another purple patch during November, with Ipswich beating Tottenham Hotspur, the previous season’s champions, along with Manchester United and Chelsea. By February, Ipswich was in second place behind Burnley, whom were eventually overhauled, making Ipswich the new champions.
The person who was most responsible for this unexpected success was Ipswich’s manager, none other than Alf Ramsay, the man who would earn the everlasting thanks of his nation four years later when England, under his stewardship, won the World Cup for the first and so far only time.
Ramsey’s England team came to be called the “wingless wonders”. In those days, wingers were supposed to patrol the touch line and draw marking full-backs out wide before crossing the ball to the team’s centre-forward who would rise above the opponents’ centre-half and head the ball past the goalkeeper and into the net.
Ramsay pulled his wingers back into a deeper position which made them more like midfielders than forwards.This tactic had its genesis at Ipswich.
It confused opponents’ defenders. Ipswich’s strikers — Crawford and Ted Phillips — scored 61 goals between them. With a total of 33, Crawford, who was nicknamed “Jungle Boy” by the team’s fans because he served briefly with the British army in Malaya,was the division’s top equal goal scorer.
In contrast, Leicester hero Jamie Vardy has hit the back of the net 24 times this season, but from fewer appearances.
Both clubs benefitted hugely from some of their heavyweight competitors, like Chelsea and Manchester United, being out of form and having poor or patchy seasons.
For all his success on the pitch, however,Crawford was paid the princely sum of £30 a week — which is equivalent to about $1000 in today’s money. In contrast, Chelsea’s best players who are on three-year contracts now get from between £140,00 to £185,000 a week.
The scale of such rpayments highlights the crucial difference between Leicester’s and Ipswich’s respective achievements. A handful of clubs are now awash with cash partly thanks to having (usually foreign) multi-millionaire owners. The playing squads of those top Premier League sides squads are stacked with some of the world’s best players, including internationals from Argentina, Brazil, Spain and African countries, such as Nigeria, Senegal and Cameroon. Those squads have a vast depth of talent to insure the club as much as possible is not affected detrimentally by injuries or a hectic schedule of matches. Back in 1962, there were few foreign players on the books of English clubs.
The ever-widening of the gap in the wealth between an elite few clubs and the rest makes unfancied Leicester’s winning of the Premier League more of an achievement than Ipswich coming out on top of the First Division back in 1962. But not by that much.
Ipswich slipped to 17th place in the next season and were relegated to the Second Division in the following one.
Leicester’ fans should make the most of things while they can. Next season will come around soon enough. Rumours have swirled for months that the big clubs have been sniffing around Vardy and Leicester’s other star players. Some of those are bound to be lured away by big money offers. It may sound depressing, but the brutal truth is that life at the top for such clubs is always brief and they have to transform themselves into outfits which are hard to beat if they are to survive in 7the Premier League.
- As f at as upsets in a single match go, the United States1-0 victory over England in the 1950 Worldh Cup in Brazil was of real David and Goliath proportions. The American team was comprised of unknown semi-professionals and amateurs, including the driver of a hearse. An England victory was considered to be a formality. So much so that when the result was telegraphed to the world’s newspapers, many assumed that the operator had meant to type 10-1 in England’s favour. The New York Times delayed publication of the shock outcome of the match because it thought it was a hoax.