Vulpeculated v. to be stolen by a fox, as in ‘my footballing heart is being vulpeculated’
I don’t tend to write about football. Not because I don’t like it, I do. But it’s a crowded market place and you’ve got to have the right sort of thing on your stall. I usually leave writing about football to others.
I didn’t reckon on this though. Perhaps none of us did. It’s a footballing story that is slowly starting to transcend sport. Leicester City Football Club keep winning. And, it seems, there are very few people who mind.
When I think of Leicester City, I think of my cousin Del. Half Welsh, half Italian, he grew up in Leicester and picked out his hometown team at an early age. Our families would get together every so often and as a group of male cousins, conversations would often turn to sport. The rest of us had jumped on grander, richer, sparklier bandwagons but he had fallen into a relationship he couldn’t explain. Even as we got older and reunions would get fewer and farther between, I would always ask him how things were at Filbert Street. He’d reply with the stoicism of a man who’d been married to the wrong woman for thirty years, ‘It’s not great, but it is what it is.’
Like with any football club, there have been good times. The cup wins under Martin O’Neill and two forays into Europe testify that there have been harvests in the East Midlands. But entering administration, a series of takeovers and new managers, falling out of the Championship in 2008 amidst a ten year absence from the top flight shows it has also been fallow. There must have been times at the club that seem a million miles from where they are now.
Their form at the moment is well documented. The whys and wherefores you will have to go elsewhere for. I’d like to cite some romantic ideal about team spirit or managerial genius but I have no idea. Perhaps a lot of it is luck. My learned friends in football commentary tell me that Leicester are treading a tightrope. An injury to two or three players would mean it all coming to an end. They talk like they almost want this freakshow over with. As if what is occuring is bad for football. And this is what is grabbing everyone’s footballing heart. This shouldn’t really be happening. Footballing upsets are so often confined to cup competitions. Leagues cannot be fluked. The cream will always rise to the top. How are Leicester still there?
Football has itself sorted out. The hierarchies and pecking orders dictated by money and TV deals are set. The Premier League can be divided into three; big clubs; clubs that want to be big clubs; and clubs happy to be in a league with big clubs. Those are the mini leagues the competition exists within. There are small adjustments every so often but that’s pretty much it. But not this year. The Foxes are in the hen house.
Perhaps like me, you’ve become a Leicester fan over the past few months; searched for their results, wished them luck, hoped they’d win. Weeks have turned into months and suddenly it’s February and they are still atop the table. Tuesday night’s victory against Liverpool seems to have been a checkpoint. Jamie Vardy’s wonder goal has almost acted as a pin prick reminder. As if we are all on some sort of uncharted mission and this was an agreed time to take stock. “Hey guys, are we really going to do this?”
And who wouldn’t want to? If you love sport then you’ll love what Leicester City are doing at the moment. It’s why you wandered on to the field in the first place. For the chance that something quite extraordinary might happen. Sport gives us many things but by far its most precious gift is hope. This story gives us that. I think of my cousin, now working out in the Middle East, trying to explain to people that this is what all those hard yards were for. This is the reason you pick a team like Leicester. I hope they can do it.
Vulpeculated. Look it up. It’s a great word. There aren’t going to be many times in your lifetime that you can use it. Maybe we all can come May.
Sam Roberts © 2016. (Text only). All Rights Reserved