I must say immediately that I secretly agreed with every word of his ecstatic declaration of love, hope and admiration for Claudio Ranieri and his underdog heroes as they close in on pulling off “quite possibly the most unlikely triumph in the history of team sport”. For me, however, the key word there is ‘secretly’. Before I was halfway through reading Gary’s splurge, I felt the muscles in my bottom beginning to tighten, and a terrible sinking feeling in my chest cavity.
All season Ranieri has been employing a masterful policy of modest denial. Even after City had been in the top four for months, he’d wheel out his lovable, avuncular buffoon to repeatedly assure everyone that the club’s only target was Premier League survival. And the media swallowed it whole.
It’s a strategy widely followed by Foxes fans: there’s no pressure because there are no expectations. Getting into Europe would be a dream come true for plucky little Leicester, never mind winning the title. But now, thanks to Lineker’s effervescent enthusiasm, the cat is finally out of the bag.
And it’s clear where my duty as a City fan lies in response to this potentially calamitous lapse by my boyhood hero: I need to try and cram it back in again.
To begin with, forgive me a brief bout of armchair philosophising.
Consider the plight of the traditional lower-table supporter. We follow our team through thick and thin (the players often appear thick; the rewards are thin), offering our devotion and hard-earned money despite knowing in our bones that the most excitement we can look forward to is a last-minute relegation escape, or perhaps a drubbing of Forest in the FA Cup.
Whisper it quietly, but there's a romance to this futile adulation. The lower-table supporter's psyche (yes, I'm getting ahead of myself here) is all about dreaming big – imagine if Leicesteractually win something? – while achieving little. Not for us the glory of the big boys, the teams who win cup after cup, medal after medal. No, we're in it for the sheer joy of throwing our all behind our local team fighting for its life. It's support for support's sake – and, in it's own way, it's glorious.
So ... what happens if Leicester actually win something? Like the Olympian who won gold at his home Games, life for us City fans will never get better. We achieve our dream – and are left dreamless. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow disappears.
OK, philosophising over. Now let's get serious and ask: what if they don't win? What if Leicester, after leading the Premier League for months and months, get pipped by a triumphant Tottenham, or a resurgent Arsenal? What if an ugly-but-effective victory over bottom-two Newcastle proves to be the final plus point in a season that has already played out beyond our wildest expectations?
What if Gary Lineker has bestowed the commentator's curse on our beloved City? Think what us fans will have to deal with ...
1. The smug joy of pundits finally proved correct
Just imagine the glee of the London-Manc media axis if Man City, Spurs or Arse were handed the title by the Foxes. They would have been right all along: the unfashionable East Midlands paupers never did stand a chance against the pwopah big clubs wiv a histowy of glowy.
2. Patronising comments about 'Champs of the last 12 months'
It’s true: the Foxes ‘won’ the 12-month period to the beginning of March, leaving moneybags Man City 11 points adrift in second spot. But so what?
3. Comments about our true place in life
“I will not believe Leicester are title favourites until they have a five-point lead with one match left,” Claudio Ranieri said yesterday. “We have already won our title by saving the team from relegation.” Oh, the irony. The bookies were right to set those insulting 5,000-1 title odds despite City’s amazing form at the end of last season.
4. Constant reminders of 'The Greatest Story Never Told'
With 80 per cent of football fans behind our title bid, players, managers and kids all over the world are drawing inspiration from Leicester City, the team of cut-price journeymen who took on the petulant millionaire playboys and won. Up to a point. Close, but no cigar.
5. Normal service will be resumed
It took the media up until Christmas to notice there were other players in the City side besides Jamie Vardy. First Mahrez and Kante, then Drinkwater, Schmeichel, Albrighton, Huth, Morgan, Fuchs... But, as was predicted all along, their run of form couldn’t hold. The luck ran out. They never really stood a chance against the might of money and genuine clarse.
6. Player of the Season snub
Not Jamie Vardy or Riyad Mahrez or N’Golo Kante, but Middle England’s choice, Harry Kane. Kane even gets to play Roy of the Roversin the movie, while Chat S*** Get Banged, the rags-to-riches Vardy biopic pencilled in by Hollywood, is shelved indefinitely. It’s LVG for Manager of the Season. And good old Harry Kane for Goal of the Season, rightfully trumping Jamie Vardy’s ‘Goal of the Decade’ (Copyright G. Lineker, MOTD).
7. The big sell-off
How did funny little Leicester suddenly come to have all these good players? All along, there’s been a sickening assumption that bigger clubs will come in to take them off out hands in summer, helping to restore the status quo. Footballers are only human, after all.
8. The Italian Job
Cheerio Claudio, off to boss Italy at the Euros.
9. Scouting for boys
Cheerio Steve Walsh, the statto Assistant Manager responsible for signing Vardy, Mahrez, Kante, and many more. Poached for pennies to try and save Arsene Wenger’s job.
Pity Leicester City supporters – this is as good as it gets
Reviewed by Link Naija