“Leicester's story epitomises the romance of football”
Claudio Ranieri's side are a whisker away from clinching the Premier League title for the first time in their history. Michael Robinson doffs his hat.
How have you been living Leicester's meteoric rise?
My father, who is a massive Leicester fan, could never have imagined that one day he would witness something like this. He has had to reach the ripe old age of 92 to see this. And up until only recently, in February, the two of us both thought: “Well, at least we won't go down...”. Not long after that he said: “Hey, you know what? we might be able to qualify for the Champions League”. The idea that we could really win the Premier League only began, for me, after the draw with West Bromwich Albion the other day. From that moment, people started to believe it could actually happen.
A dream come true...
It's strange because when the season started, Leicester were 5,000-1 to win the league...
Please tell us your Dad put a pound on them Michael!!
5,000 pounds for every pound bet on them, I'm telling you! You won't get higher odds for finding the Loch Ness Monster or finding Elvis alive! (laughs). And at the same time, for Leicester to be relegated, it was 5-1. That was the reality for Leicester.
How are the people back in England reacting to all of this?
Listen, I'm not going to argue with those who say that, Leicester's success demonstrates the low level of the game in the Premier League. I'm not necessarily in disdagreement with that...
Do you think so?
The romanticism that Leicester are about to win the league, for me, far outweighs the cynicism or criticism about the level of football in the Premier League.
It could even be good publicity for the English league?
There are a lot of people who follow the Premier League who maybe wouldn't have paid as much attention had it not been for the possibility that Leicester might win it...
The whole world is with Leicester!
Yes… And I was born in Leicester, and I am absolutely delighted that now no one is ever again going to say to me: ‘Oi, you're from Lei-ces-ter’ (feigns Spanish accent: 'Lay-thest-err'). That's all thanks to the football team.
What kind of city is Leicester like?
Traditionally, the main industries were the hosiery and shoe factories. Now there is a lot of immigration from India and Pakistan, because the textile industry is still thriving. Funnily enough, it made headline news quite recently after workmen discovered King Richard III's remains in a car park. That caused a stir in the media...
... and what kind of club is Leicester?
A lot of great players came out of there, Gordon Banks for example. And Peter Shilton, who was the England national team goalkeeper in the 80s and 90s. Gary Lineker's from there too and he started out with his hometown club. As for how they have been doing in sporting terms, I've always considered them as a side who are on the up.
What memories of the team do you have from your childhood?
Very few. I was very little when my parents moved to Blackburn, not far from Liverpool. But I did go to the game with my Dad at the old ground - Filbert Street. Not a lot because England was a bigger place back then - there were no motorways like today and the journey seemed endless. My son has a closer relationship with the city because he played rugby with Leicester Tigers' youth team. In terms of sporting success, the jewel in the crown has been the rugby team, one of the best in the northern hemisphere.
A bit like Wales, whose national rugby team has enjoyed more successes than the football team?
Yes… But having said that, the football team has always been well supported. I'd say around 20,000 loyal supporters who never thought that this would be their year.
Die-hard fans a bit like your Dad...
The other day I was watching a report on TV. Some of them had placed a bet when Leicester were at 5000-1, but he ended up cashing it in when the team drew at home to West Ham a couple of games ago. They didn't believe it was possible, because at the same time Tottenham had caught up, Vardy was sent off and handed a two-match ban.
And some cashed in on their bets so close to the finishing line?
Everybody was expecting Leicester to nosedive. I think they've already done it - they won't let the league escape from their grasp now.
How can you explain this miracle?
English football has never been subtle when it comes to tactics. I remember United during the 90s and the start of the new millenium when they dominated the Premier League, but struggled in Europe. Why? Because in England, teams have never been that astute. They play the kind of football which their fans want to see - a more noble brand of football, always pushing to attack - the faster, the better…
Well anyway, Ranieri has applied the old Catenaccio style which was popular in Italy in the 70s. He had a plan you could say. I guess it's easy to play like that when you have obedient players and one upfront who are like bullets - players with blistering pace. But I do see a point where other teams are going to get the measure of them and sit back and wait instead of attacking them. And that has happened. But winning and losing are habits, and when they have dominated the ball in their matches they have played superbly too. The team has grown.
Some feel that his methods, his style of play is a little dated… it's a miracle that he's going to win the Premier League to be honest.
Can you recall any other similar cases in football?
Probably the closest in recent history is that of 'Súper Depor' [Deportivo de la Coruña], but then that team ended with players like Mauro Silva and Bebeto - world champions with Brazil and top quality players. Leicester's star player, Vardy, is 31 and has only been playing in the top flight for a couple of years.
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