Leicester supporter Kevin Wells didn’t expect their fairytale season to last when he wrote in the Irish Examiner on Christmas Eve. We caught up with him five months later...
Last time you gave your verdict on Leicester’s season for the Examiner back in December, you gave the team 10 out of 10 — but ended the conversation by saying ‘it will never last”. Now you are champions. So, what happened?
“I still can’t believe it. The whole season has been surreal — I really can’t explain it. It’s like an out of body experience and something I never, ever thought would happen. I’ve almost been through the season in a dream.”
So, how’s your head?
“Ah, not good! I watched the Chelsea v Spurs game in my local and unfortunately it stayed open late just for me! At half-time I thought the title race was going to go on but Chelsea came back in a way I hadn’t expected. To be honest, I think Spurs imploded. I have never seen a team collectively lose their cool like that before. But I don’t think anyone could say we didn’t deserve the title. I was relieved. Some people wanted us to win the title in front of our own fans — but I just wanted to get it over with!”
What’s life been like since then?
“It’s still sinking in. I went out and bought all the papers for posterity and now I can just look forward to the last game. We’ve had some Italians joining us to travel up from London for the Everton game, which was some occassion. There’s Chelsea and the civic celebrations to look forward to as well — and of course the Community Shield next season!”
How did you cope with those last few weeks of the season when the dream suddenly became reality and so much was at stake?
“People say it must be stressful having to win those games to win the title, but it hasn’t been. It was far more stressful last season when we were where a club like Leicester normally is; fighting to stay up. This time we’ve just been on such a roll, that you literally roll from one game to the next. I think maybe the players have been feeling the same thing. To finally get there was a relief though.”
Where do you think it all started?
“The story I’ve heard is that it all began with Esteban Cambiasso last season. He went to see Nigel Pearson and said in his opinion the team had to change its style to have a chance of staying up. They had to be more attacking. From then on we starting going for it; and that’s been the Leicester spirit ever since.
“It’s been down to fate, too. Cambiasso moved on, which was a shame, but that gave Danny Drinkwater his chance and he’s been outstanding. Then we got Kante for 5.5m (€8m) when other clubs for some reason didn’t see his potential, even though he was in the top five in Europe for interceptions and tackling. And then of course there’s Claudio Ranieri.”
How big a part do you feel Ranieri has played in the story? Was he just a lucky man who inherited a good squad with a strong spirit and kept it all the same? Or is there more to it?
“Oh, he’s played a huge part. I think you have to give him a lot of credit. It’ s not right to say he hasn’t changed anything — actually he’s changed quite a lot. We play a different system for a start — with four at the back.
“The story is he met the players out in Austria pre-season and a lot of them were worried he was going to bring in an Italian system. But he told them straight away he wanted them to play an English game — but he’d make a few tweaks. And that’s what he’s done.
“He’s cleverer than people think. Early in the season we started well but we were letting in a lot of goals. So he changed both the full-backs — and ever since then we’ve defended far, far better.
On top of that he seems like a great bloke, too, which makes things far easier around the place — because Pearson could be a bit abrasive. Claudio is like your favourite uncle.”
How aware are you of the support from fans of other clubs who saw Leicester as the underdog to cheer?
“You can really feel it. I know a lot of fans of other clubs who have been cheering for us — even one or two Tottenham fans believe it or not! You know what they’re like — they’re happy as long as they finish above Arsenal and then think they can win it next season instead.”
Tell us about your history as a Leicester fan. When did it all start for you?
“I’ve been a fan for 35 years but believe it or not I’m not from Leicester. I’m from Harlow, just outside of London, and the only reason I support them is because when I was eight or nine years old I read a report in the Daily Mirror about Leicester beating Tottenham. There was a kid at school who was annoying me who was a Tottenham fan so I decided there and then to support Leicester! And I’ve been going ever since.”
So it’s fate that you should finish ahead of Tottenham to win the Premier League for the first time?
“You could say that, it’s certainly turned out that way. But I wouldn’t have minded who finished second — for Leicester to win it is more than enough.”
Where do you think it should stand as an achievement in the history of football?
“It would have to be right up there — certainly in the Premier League era. It is something very special and I don’t think it will happen again for another 100 years, I honestly don’t. It’s like the planets are all aligned and something incredible happened. A perfect storm.”
Kevin’s full-time report:
Marks out of 10:
“It has to be 10. I know there’s people out there all the time saying they give 110% but I did maths and physics and school — I know that can’t be! So we’ll stick to a perfect 10!”
“I’m going to go for Kante this time, I just love him. His energy is incredible and with the way we play he’s absolutely vital. He’s got more interceptions than anyone else in the Premier League — he wins the ball back and then he’s got the energy to start attacks. He’s been fantastic , even more important than Mahrez and Vardy.”
“There’s absolutely no way you can put anyone down now. I know I put Inler before but he hasn’t had a look in since — there’s only been 13,14 or 15 players used since Christmas and they’ve all been 10 out of 10 every week for me. There’s no weak link.”
One to watch:
“Jeffrey Schlupp will get more games next season but the one I’d pick out is Demari Gray, who we signed in the transfer window. He’s not the finished article but he’s quick and goes past players, he looks like a talent.”
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