There has already been talk of a film about Jamie Vardy’s life, but Leicester City’s season is also shaping up to be a story suitable for the silver screen.
The in-form Foxes have gone from relegation favourites to title contenders in a matter of months, but can their fairytale start to the 2015-16 campaign really have a Hollywood ending?
History suggests not – the last time a true outsider went the distance in a title race was in the Premier League’s first season, 1992-93. Norwich City led for longer than anyone else and topped the table as late as April, but finished third.
So, can Claudio Ranieri’s side copy the Canaries, or even out-do them?
Chris Sutton, a teenage centre-half turned striker in that Norwich team, tells BBC Sport how it feels to be unlikely leaders, what Leicester need to do next – and what could go wrong.
Leicester can go back to the top of the table if they beat defending champions Chelsea on Monday. No team leading after 16 games has finished lower than fourth in the Premier League. In 18 of the past 23 seasons, the team leading at that stage finished second or better, and on 13 occasions they ended up champions.
Sutton: “We were eight points clear at the start of December, but we were definitely not thinking about winning the title.
“There was talk of it outside the club but, among the players, we did not take it too seriously. Looking back, that helped a lot.
“All the rhetoric coming out of Leicester in the last few weeks is the same. Whether it is the manager or their players, when they are asked questions about the title, they just answer by talking about getting enough points to stay up.
“We were the same. We had finished 18th the previous season and stayed up by three points, so when we got to 30 points in November we just thought, ‘great, we are not going down’.”
No pressure – ‘It didn’t matter when we lost’
Norwich lost 7-1 to Blackburn and 4-1 to Liverpool in October 1992 but suffered only one other defeat in their first 18 league matches. Leicester’s only league defeat so far is a 5-2 home defeat by Arsenal on 3 October. They responded by winning six of their next eight games.
Sutton: “Like Leicester, we were an attacking team with a goal threat that was full of confidence after making a tremendous start.
“Another similarity was that we did not give up – we came back from 2-0 down to beat Arsenal 4-2 in our opening game and always had that belief.
“We went from game to game without worrying about anything, and it looks like they are doing the same.
“Every team has a blip but even when we lost heavily or had a run of games over Christmas where our results dropped off, it did not really affect us because nobody expected us to be up there anyway.
“There was no pressure – in the first half of the season it was one of those times where we did not think about our situation very much.”
Norwich led the league for 129 days out of 270 in 1992-93, compared to Manchester United’s 69 days and Aston Villa’s 32. The Canaries were last top on 3 April – if they had beaten United on 5 April, they would have returned to the summit and gone five points clear of the eventual champions, and a point above Villa.
Sutton: “The longer you stay up there, and the closer you get to seeing it through, the harder it gets.
“We got through March and we were back on the top of the table and it hit us. All of a sudden we started thinking about whether we could actually do it.
Top of the Premier League table on 3 April 1993 – before Norwich v Man Utd
|2. Aston Villa||35||18||10||7||64|
|3. Man Utd||35||17||12||6||63|
“Everywhere you went in Norwich, people would ask, ‘can we win it?’ We were thinking, ‘how are we still in the race?’. We also started to wonder, ‘what if we do win it?’
“It was a kind of pressure that was new to all of us, the manager Mike Walker and the players, and we faltered at the big moments.
“We had two crunch games before Easter against the two other teams challenging and, although we beat Aston Villa, we lost at home to Manchester United, who had just gone four games without a win.
Top of the Premier League table on 5 April 1993 – after Norwich v Man Utd
|1. Aston Villa||36||19||10||7||67|
|2. Man Utd||36||18||12||6||66|
“I look back and genuinely think that if we had won that game then we would have gone on to win the league because that would have completely knocked the stuffing out of United at a crucial time.
“Instead we were the ones who were left deflated, and we only won two of our last five games.”
1992-93 Premier League table – final standings
|1. Man Utd||42||24||12||6||84|
|2. Aston Villa||42||21||11||10||74|
What were Norwich missing? ‘A title mentality’
Former Chelsea defender Robert Huth is the only member of the Leicester squad to have won a top-flight title in any of the big five leagues in Europe (England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain). Foxes boss Claudio Ranieri has also never won a top-flight title in his 29-year managerial career, although he has had top-four finishes with four different clubs in Italy and was a runner-up with Chelsea in 2004 and Monaco in 2014.
Sutton: “Norwich came up a little bit short but at the time we never really talked about it in terms of how we almost won the title, mainly because we couldn’t believe what had just happened.
“When I won the title with Blackburn in 1995, there was a completely different mentality around the club throughout the whole season.
“I had arrived in the summer of 1994 at a team that had just finished runners-up and finishing first was the target from day one – there was far more expectation, and pressure.
“But there was also more experience of how to handle it, from the players who had finished second the season before to the manager, Kenny Dalglish, who had won titles with Liverpool.
“We had some big characters in the dressing room like Alan Shearer and Tim Flowers, and the kind of steely resolve you need. Even then, we almost threw the title away.”
Can Leicester do it? ‘They will never get a better chance’
In the 11 seasons before the Premier League started in 1992, 13 different teams finished in the top three of England’s top flight. In the first 11 seasons of the Premier League, 10 clubs did. Since 2003, only five teams have managed top-three finishes: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United.
Sutton: “Norwich were a selling club who were never going to chuck big money at a mid-season signing to try to win the title.
“But Leicester could be different. With the money there is in the Premier League at the moment, why not splash out in the January transfer window like Sir Alex Ferguson suggested this week? It would be very interesting if they did.
“They have given themselves a great platform and these opportunities don’t come around very often.
“They don’t need seven or eight players, just one or two in case Jamie Vardy or Riyad Mahrez get injured. The wheels could still come off horribly, but why not have a go?
“It is early days and I still expect one of the big clubs to put a run together and come out of the pack to win the title, but even if Leicester don’t win the league, a top-four finish now looks a realistic aim for them.
“That would still be an incredible feat and making the Champions League could be the next chapter for them, the same way qualifying for the Uefa Cup was for Norwich with our famous win over Bayern Munich the following season.”[Source:- BBC NEWS]