Leicester City: Champions to Championship

Image credit: The Times
Image credit: The Times

There are a few candidates, but Leicester City are one of the strongest shouts for a “feel good” team in football over the past decade or so. The Foxes won an unbelievable 5000-1 Premier League title in 2015-16 in what will go down as one of sport’s greatest underdog stories.

However, despite this, the good times appear to be over at the King Power Stadium, for now at least. Leicester were relegated to the second tier on the final day of the 2022-23 Premier League season and in some senses, it wasn’t surprising.

So, how did it happen? And where does the club for the East Midlands go from here?

Legendary Leicester

In England, there is a “Big six” that compete in the Premier League. These are the six clubs which usually dominate in both league results and domestic silverware. Although, there is a very valid argument to say that Leicester City should be a part of this top six rather than Tottenham Hotspur.

In the time since Tottenham last won a trophy (the 2008 League Cup), Leicester have won the Premier League, FA Cup and Community Shield. This really was the golden age for the Foxes and they were good value for their success.

Image credit: Premier League

Despite the departures of the likes of N’Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez, Leicester picked themselves back up after the sacking of Claudio Ranieri. Successive fifth-place finishes in 2019-20 and 2020-21 secured them more Europa football and saw them come within a whisker of a return to the Champions League.

It should be noted as well, that their Premier League and FA Cup triumphs are the Foxes’ only wins in those competitions in their history. Before that, the club’s only major silverware were a trio of League Cup wins, the most recent being in the year 2000.

What went wrong?

So, how did this go south so quickly for Leicester? Well, like anything in football, the answer isn’t an easy one, but there are some key moments. The tragic death of former chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in a helicopter crash in 2018 is commonly referred to, but, in truth, the decline started later than that.

The problems really started last season, where despite a Europa Conference League Semi-Final, the Foxes failed to qualify for European football for the 2022-23 season.

Image credit: LCFC

That meant that the budget for this season was always going to be smaller and Brendan Rodgers was unable to make any significant transfers during the Summer Transfer window. It was on the outs that really hit Leicester, though, as Kasper Schmeichel departed after over a decade at the King Power.

The Great Dane was sorely missed in goal all season, as Danny Ward wasn’t cut out for the job. Wesley Fofana also left in the Summer for a reported £70m, but this money simply wasn’t re-invested in the squad.

This negativity off the pitch carried into poor results on it, as Leicester lost six of their opening seven Premier League matches and it took until the eighth attempt to get all three points. There were periods that hinted at a renaissance, but Leicester were in the relegation zone for most of the season.

The board failed to back Rodgers in January, so it was no surprise that the club failed to consolidate a midtable place. The sacking of Rodgers and the appointment of Dean Smith sealed their fate, as Leicester were relegated on the final day of the season, despite a win against West Ham United.

Where do Leicester go from here?

Being in the second tier of English football isn’t an unusual situation for Leicester City fans. The Foxes have spent more time in the second level than the First Division/ Premier League. Leicester will definitely have to pick themselves up if they’re to return to the Premier League anytime soon, though.

They will be hoping for an immediate return to the Premier League, and with the right managerial appointment, that could happen. At the time of writing, Smith hasn’t received a P45 from Leicester but it would be surprising if he was kept for the new season.

Graham Potter is currently the bookies’ favourite to take over and this would be a great appointment in our opinions. Although, several Premier League clubs including Crystal Palace are also rumoured to be after the Englishman’s signature.

As for the players on the pitch, the likes of James Maddison, Jonny Evans, Youri Tielemans, Wilfred Ndidi, Nampalys Mendy, and perhaps Harvey Barnes are all likely to force a move back to the Premier League.

Jamie Vardy, while past his best in the top flight, should do a job for them in the Championship. Likewise, Patson Daka, Hamza Choudhury and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall are all likely to have good seasons in 2023-24.

Leicester fans will also be under no illusions that next campaign will be easy though, as the Championship is brutal and highly competitive from top-to-bottom. Big clubs such as Sunderland, Sheffield United, Wolverhampton Wanderers, and Leicester themselves have all spent time in the third tier in the not-too-distant past.

If we had to call it now though, we’d say that Leicester are the most likely to make an immediate Premier League return ahead of Leeds United and Southampton.

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