Picture a grey rainy day in a Waikato farm barn after a cross country race with the Tokoroa Track club as we stood watching a tiny grainy telly. I was 11ish and a bit fat. I hadn’t yet started playing soccer (football was rugger). We were witnessing the British Lions deal to the All Blacks in 1971, and it remains one of the earliest sports memories I have.
I didn’t know much about rugger but the grownups in the shed were grumpy. I was pretty shit at cross country running but the All Blacks were shitter at rugger. So I decided to support them. The barn memory was only re-triggered as I stood in a damp standing-only cowshed stand at Peterborough’s London Road ground in 2009 watching the home team stick a couple past Leicester in a Division 1 defeat. It had the same grey feel. Dismal days.
I’d become a Leicester fan not long after starting my ‘soccer’ playing career at an elderly 13 years old. I picked City although for the first ten years I thought they were called Leicester City Nil (kaboom-tish) and they were mainly dreadful. That didn’t faze me at all. The All Blacks eventually came right didn’t they?
Jump forward, and I had actually seen City play live before the 2009 Peterbro’ game of course. I had the pleasure of seeing City in the Premiership in 2000 hosting Southampton (1-0) and Everton (1-1) then go top of the league the week later under their new manager Peter Taylor. For only a week… People actually got tee shirts printed featuring that league table, it was a Halley’s Comet event. Then they got relegated the next season under the dreadful Taylor.
And I was back in the UK in 2002 at the sparkling new King Power (known then as the ‘Walkers’) stadium to see them win a couple of games and the eventual Championship with promotion to the Premiership. But yep, they went down again straight away and remained exiled from the lucrative premiership with even a one season spell in the First (read 3rd tier) division in that 2008-9 season when I saw the Peterborough game. And it was 2nd tier until two years ago when I once again visited the East Midlands and saw a couple of 2-1 victories in a Championship winning season.In those games, ex-Hamilton Wanderer and All White Chris Wood was playing for City along with a speedy guy called Jamie Vardy. Plus a bunch of other journeymen such as Andy King and Danny Drinkwater. Kasper Schmeichel in goal was mainly known as the son of a famous Man United glove man. Vardy scored a beauty right in front of us in the game against Huddersfield and I have to say he looked the business.
I will head back this weekend to watch the same side, with a couple of key additions. I didn’t expect to be back so soon but booked tickets a few weeks ago when it seemed there just MIGHT be a good reason to be at the last two games.
So we know the ending now. Fish ‘n chip paper already. A city of 300,000, over 8000 miles awa,y that I had barely heard of when I first decided to adopt an English footie team, has defied the odds, fucking big odds, to create the biggest football, and ok sports, upset – ever.
Allow me a gloat or two. At least for a week or two. I know, yeah yeah, I am in danger of boring even myself. But if Enzo will allow it, I’ll pen a post from the KP stadium over the weekend to share a taste of the celebrations.
And finally, to anyone who knows the “That’s Amore” choon, I penned a wee homage to Enzo’s Roman mate. Hum along now.
When the ball hits the sky
Like his big pizza pie
When the world takes a shine
to this blue team of mine
Bells will ring dilly-dilly-ding, dilly-dilly-dong
And you’ll sing N’golo Kante
Mahrez will play tippy-tippy-tay, tippy-tippy-tay
And pass through to Vardy
With the manager so cool cos we know City Rule!
When you dance down the street with a ball at your feet
You’re in love
When you walk in a dream but you know you’re not dreaming signore
To City from Chelsea, via Roma and Napoli
[Rod de Lisle is the Hamilton Wanderers first team manager (in the UK that means coach, here it means dog’s body) and a Leicester City former tragic who has earned the right to gloat on here as many times as he likes!]
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.