By Rod de Lisle
To Rob Ferguson. (Ex Auckland University AFC and Forrest Hill Milford Utd stalwart).
Do you remember us watching black and white footie on your telly when we were 13? The mid-seventies in a Tokoroa winter when we picked a couple of average English football teams to support. You, Tottenham Hotspur and me, Leicester City. Tokoroa was as far from England as you can possibly get, but we were football players and fans of the game: it was a ritual to have a club in the Mother Country to support, even for a Scots born kid like you. Picking a team didn’t involve much analysis or research. It was kind of like the house-selecting ‘sorting’ hat from Harry Potter: once you had a team it ‘felt right’ and that was it.
Spurs did have a better pedigree, it must be said, but Rob, you didn’t guffaw when I selected the unfashionable foxes who were famous only for winning nothing. Ever. At the time I may well have been the only Leicester fan in New Zealand. Apart from Tom Christensen and you Rob (both Spurs) most of the other kids went for Liverpool, Leeds (they were a decent club back then) or Manchester United.
Since that day 40 years ago Rob (40? surely not?), both our teams have meandered around winning little of note, save three FA cup wins for Spurs (once after beating Leicester in the semis) and two league cup wins (one after beating Leicester in the final). There were a couple of league cup wins also for Leicester. But neither team has ever threatened the summit of old First division and latterly the English Premiership. The stratospheric height of this, the high rollers table, is strictly the private domain of the so-called ‘big’ clubs. Oh, and it’s the entry portal to European football where the big money is.
How surprising, astounding really, that this season finds Leicester and Spurs battling it out for that ultimate prize, the Premiership. For non-football types it may be hard to comprehend, but the fact is that in 23 years, only four teams, Man Utd (13), Chelsea (4), Arsenal (3) and Man City (2) have ever won this title. Ok save for the one-off win for Blackburn Rovers in the early days of the Premiership before the pecking order was properly established.
To put it into a New Zealand context, a Leicester Premiership win would be like Thames Valley winning the Rugby championship or Colin Craig being elected Prime Minister. It just would never happen. Leicester were 5000/1 at the start of the season. Translated, that meant probable relegation. A Spurs win would be more understandable, although they were 100/1 outsiders as well. Favourites were Chelsea (13/8) who are 20 points behind Leicester at time of writing.
Rob, you won’t believe the hoopla and media coverage of this season’s battle. The press are lapping it up of course. TV news readers in far flung corners of the globe like, well, New Zealand, are having to figure how to actually pronounce ‘Leicester’ and the name of the Spurs manager (Pochettino). Even ex Leicester and Spurs hero Gary Lineker is raving.
You would love it Rob, as do the public, the neutrals and the romantics who sense a fairytale in the making and a season that will be long remembered. For Spurs it would be their first championship for over 55 years and Leicester their first one, full-stop.
It’s a real arm wrestle between our teams, which to me sums up the general awesomeness of this year. And if Leicester fall at the final hurdle which every real Leicester fan fully expects, then how good would it be that Spurs (and by default, you Rob) are the ones that pip us?
It’s so damn exciting that I’m planning a visit to Blighty to take in the last two games. Not because I expect Leicester to be still in the race, but insurance just in case they are. Can you see how the mind of a foxes fan works? I haven’t waited 40 years to not be at the party when the fat lady sings.
It’s a real pity that you sadly passed away, Rob, two years ago, shortly after we played together in our last football match. Fittingly, given it was the game that bonded us 40 years ago. And wherever you are mate, I hope you have subscribed to Premier League Pass and are on the edge of your seat as this beautiful season unfolds. See you in Europe next year!
Categories: English/UK Football
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.