When the champions were relegated: What can Leicester learn from Manchester City's relegated title winners of 1938?

Leicester City’s dismal Premier League campaign has put them in danger of becoming only the second English champions to see their title defence end in relegation.

The Foxes still have time to escape the ignominy that befell Manchester City in 1938, but they should be wary there is precedent – albeit rare – for the mighty to fall with the heaviest of bumps.

Don’t rely on the teams around you being terrible

(RIchard Sellers/EMPICS Sport)

The table is tight, with just two points separating the bottom six teams, and a run of results could see Claudio Ranieri’s men pull clear of danger.

Equally however, the teams below them, notably Hull City, are looking a little less useless than they did at the start of the season.

Going into the final round of games in 1938, even 12th-placed Blackpool were still in danger. City’s fate was in their hands and they would have survived with a draw.

However, they lost 1-0 to Huddersfield, a result that would not have been disastrous had any of Grimsby, Portsmouth, Birmingham or Stoke lost – but they all won. Don’t rely on worse teams keeping you up, Leicester.

Big wins won’t necessarily save you

(Mike Egerton/EMPICS Sport)

There were some obvious high points in City’s relegation season, notably convincing victories over Derby (6-1 and 7-1), West Brom (7-1), Middlesbrough (6-1) and Leeds (6-2) when they showed their champion qualities.

In fact, they rattled in 80 goals in the course of their 42 games, more than any other team in the division and finished with a positive goal difference.

Leicester haven’t quite managed results like that this year, but they did impress with draws against Arsenal and Tottenham, a 4-2 win against Manchester City, and numerous impressive victories in the Champions League.

It is defeats against teams they were beating 1-0 last year that are putting the Foxes in trouble.

Don’t prioritise the cups

(Simon Cooper/PA)

Leicester’s lowly position might not put them in immediate danger, but it is likely to affect how they prioritise for the remainder of the season.

Historian Gary James writes in his book, Manchester – The City Years, that at one point in that 1937-38 campaign, City captain Sam Barkas wrote an article for the Manchester Evening Chronicle which he ended with, “an admission that his ambition was not now to win the league but to win the FA Cup which he called the greatest prize in football”.

That prize is still available to Leicester, as is the one now considered even greater, the Champions League, but avoiding the drop is likely to become their biggest battle.

And last but not least, you can’t rely on luck

(Martin Rickett/PA)

In their final game of the season, City felt they should have had a draw after claiming a 35-yard drive from Alec Herd struck the stanchion inside the net and rebounded into play. The referee viewed it had hit the crossbar.

Goal-line technology would rule out such an error these days, but other decisions could easily go for or against Leicester on the final day of the season this year.


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