Leicester's remarkable rise in the past two seasons

If you rewind 12 months ago to this day, this hour and this minute, Leicester City would be rooted to the bottom of the Premier League. Now in a stunning turn of events, they have one hand on the title.

Leicester City

Source: Getty Images

Last season, Leicester City were condemned to relegation to the Championship by football experts and pundits alike.

Fortunately, a remarkable 10-game haul saw them finish the season in 14th, and six points above the drop zone, as they proved all doubters wrong. 

But, if you said to that group of players they would be in the driving seat to claim the Premier League title the very next season, there is no chance they would have believed you. Nobody would have believed you.

Now, imagine saying this to the team 24 months ago, when the majority of the starting XI were playing their trade in the French Ligue 2, the Championship or had just been released and deemed surplus to requirements by their current employer.

Let’s take a look at the Leicester team that overcame Newcastle 1-0 today, and where they were in their footballing careers 24 months ago.

Goalkeeper: Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester, Championship)

Schmeichel was in his third season at the Foxes and going strong, with several big clubs from the Premier League and across Europe rumoured to have been keeping a close eye on his progress. However, there were no concrete bidders and no-one was sure the son of famous Denmark stopper Peter Schmeichel could be consistent at the top level.

Full back: Danny Simpson (QPR, Championship)

It must have been a difficult time in Simpson’s career as he had recently been released by Premier League club Newcastle, who didn’t believe he was up to the division's standards. Needless to say, he started to re-build his reputation at QPR.

Centre back: Robert Huth (Stoke City, Premier League)

Although Huth is the only player in the team who was already plying his trade in the Premier League, he wasn’t a regular starter. A knee injury had restricted him to half a season of football and then-manager Tony Pulis decided he wasn’t needed by the end of the season.

Centre back: Wes Morgan (Leicester, Championship)

Morgan had established himself as one of the best Championship defenders around and was a big hit at the King Power Stadium after his move from Nottingham Forest. But, 29 at the time, who knew he would continue to develop after making the leap into the Premier League.

Full back: Christian Fuchs (Shalke, Bundesliga)

Another player one year from hitting 30, Fuchs’ career appeared to be winding down. He made 99 appearances for Schalke and was a reliable Bundesliga full-back, yet the German club didn’t see him worthy enough of a new contract when the season came to a close.

Winger: Riyad Mahrez  (Le Harve, Ligue 2)

The most remarkable of developments over two seasons is the story of tricky winger Mahrez. Having worked his way up from the reserve team, the pacey Algerian was making decent progress in Ligue 2 without ever really catching alight.

Six goals in 60 games was his record, and nobody wanted to take a gamble on taking his career to the next level because amid fears about his lack of physicality.

Midfielder: N'Golo Kanté (Caen, Ligue 2)

Also playing in France's second division, Kante was a little more well-known in France and had already been touted as a rising star. But, with young foreign players needing time to adapt to English football, nobody could have anticipated his rise to Premier League stardom within a couple of seasons.

Midfielder: Danny Drinkwater (Leicester, Championship)

Drinkwater was one of the best Championship players hungry for his shot at the Premier League after an unsuccessful development spell from the Manchester United youth team. The hunger and determination was evident, it was the technical side of his game that raised questions.

Winger: Marc Albrighton (Wigan Athletic, Championship)

Albrighton was truly in a rut having fell out of place at Aston Villa and cast out on-loan to Wigan to gain first team experience. His potential had shone in patchy glimpses when given the chance in the Premier League, but if current bottom-of-the-league side Villa couldn’t see his credibility, why did Leicester.

Forward: Jamie Vardy (Leicester, Championship)

Vardy’s sensational rise from non-league football had already ran its cause but that didn’t mean he was a born Premier League striker.  He finished the season with 16 goals and a bag full of confidence, but few forwards in the history of English football have proved themselves  as prolific scorers across the divisions as Vardy has gone on to do.

Forward: Shinji Okazaki (Mainz, Bundesliga)

If there was one player in the squad Leicester may have pinned their hopes on being a Premier League hit, it would have been Okazaki. With 15 goals across the 2013/2014 season, and by 24 September, he was the Bundesliga’s most prolific Japanese scorer in history with a tally of 28.


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5 min read
Published 15 March 2016 at 1:10pm
By Liam Curtis