5000/1: The Unbelievable City

04/05/2016 09:08 | Updated 04 May 2016

I've never been a patriot, I've never felt particularly enamoured when I see the Union Jack flying high in the sky or when Rule Britannia bellows at the Proms, but the feeling I get when I spot Gary Lineker on TV or take a bite in to a Red Leicester cob has the complete opposite effect. You see, I am passionately in love with my hometown - and in my social circles, I am famed for it.

Few things are better at teaching you to love your community than your local football club. I was eight years old when I fell in to football, I knew nothing of the game, and I didn't even know my city had a team until I won free tickets to attend a match, via a community scheme at my local primary school.

I still remember the first time I walked up the steps at Filbert Way, the bitter chill in the air from the callous winter breeze, the noise of raucous supporters anxiously awaiting a sniff of three points and the comforting smell of cheap hot dogs and meat pies. It's a recipe that indoctrinates you for a life time.

When you become a Leicester fan, you quickly learn to accept your chips in life; you assume you won't see your club grace the top echelons of success, maybe barring fleeting moments of fugacious glory in either of the cups. But that's it - I certainly never imagined writing this very article. Maybe I would have afforded myself a few stolen moments to daydream of doing so in my wizened old age but never in 2016.

Leicester fans have developed an unshakable ideology of realism felt by football fans the nation over, and it's easy to see why. Since I've been following the Foxes, I have seen us relegated from the Premier League, relegated to League One, promoted back to the Championship, two devastating last minute play-off heartbreaks, a failure to compete in a season when we were the favourites, and last season's incredible relegation skirmish.

It seemed to everyone at Filbert Way that the Foxes would always be the nation's biggest nearly club. Until now, we had come as close as possible to winning the top-flight in the 1920s and 1960s without ever doing just that, and we still hold the record for the most FA Cup final appearances without ever lifting the trophy.

In fact, this culture of mediocrity has long pulled at the mentality of my city. For decades, Leicester, despite being the nation's 10th largest city, has been kept off the map by Birmingham and has been ridiculed by Nottingham for failing to replicate their sporting exploits - but no longer.

The culture of self-deprecation in Leicester makes this historic Premier League victory even more special. Leicester is the United Kingdom's most overlooked city, it is a pristine example of how diversity works, the home of some of the nation's favourite media figures and delicacies, the home of the modern English language, yet a city with a name that those outside the British Isles can't even pronounce.

It's this inbuilt humility that makes Leicester fans so unique, even though the Foxes have had 19 other clubs snapping at their heels since January, confirmation of the championship last night is still not believed, despite our best efforts to process it until the early hours of Tuesday morning.

As a chisit myself, an affectionate term gifted to Leicesterians by the locals of Skegness, it feels so incomprehensible that even persistent confirmation simply won't convince me of what we have achieved.

The phrase 'fairytale' has been bandied about like it's going out of fashion but it's a cliché that is apt. This hard-working squad of rejects and misfits perfectly encapsulates the reputation on which Leicester has traded on, as a city, for its entire existence. They are an eclectically diverse bunch of players who have grafted to achieve the unthinkable, and garner the recognition they didn't receive though richly deserved.

Led at the helm by smooth-talking maestro, Claudio Ranieri, the Foxes have done the impossible. Ranieri has now superseded Martin O'Neill, a man with god-like status in the county, as the club's most successful manager. And, as if the story wasn't poetic enough, his story almost mirrors Leicester's. A man who was always the bridesmaid but never the bride - apparently the nearly man and the nearly club needed each other to shirk both of their curses.

As Arsenal went down in history in 2004 as the 'Invincibles', this Leicester side will go down as the 'Unthinkables'. City have left a legacy that spending money and global megastars aren't everything in sport, even in this modern era dominated by sponsorship deals and oil-rich billionaires. They have taught us that hard-work still counts.

It's not only a triumph for Leicester, but for football. Our Premier League heroics have given back hope to the fans that the money-dominated game of the contemporary age has not completely eroded the hopes of the unfashionable clubs to rock the establishment.

This club, like it's city, has defied every convention and preconceived notion of what can and cannot be achieved.

Leicester was a city desperate for an identity when its textile industry was decimated in the 1990s, but it persevered and found another.

Leicester is a city that perfectly illustrates how harmoniously and successfully different cultures can co-exist in one place, revoking the claims we so frequently hear that "multiculturalism has failed".

Leicester is a city that's home to a football club that was told it wasn't good enough to stay in this division, so they went and won it instead.

This place is not some shoddy obsolete town crammed in to the anonymous midriff between London and Manchester. It is no longer a place just for making jumpers; it's the city of hope, the city of dreams, and the city of the greatest sporting upset of all time.

According to the bookmakers, this is the single least likely event that has ever occurred in recorded history. Leicester's glory breathes life in to an increasingly cynical world that persistently reinforces the idea that you have to have some kind of head-start to have a chance of succeeding.

But, in the face of that cynicism, that derision and that disbelief, the 5000/1 team from Filbert Way, a clan of rejects, a band of brothers, led by a wily underachieving Italian have ripped up the rule book and shown the nation, or better yet, the world that spirit, determination and teamwork can take you anywhere, maybe somewhere even as remarkable as Leicester, the unbelievable city.