Saturday, 18 April 2009

Leicester City - Promotion

I don’t really regard myself as an ardent football fan anymore but I do keep an eye on the results and today was a special day because Leicester City were promoted back to the Championship.

About this time last year it was all a bit upsetting because then they were relegated to the third division for the first time in their one hundred and twenty four year history. Although they call it League One these days there is no getting away from the fact that it is really division three. Every day since dad passed away I have wished that he had still been here but I was actually pleased when he wasn’t around that day to see his beloved Leicester City being relegated to the third division. He would have been very happy today though when they went back up!

In the past he must have seen some football ups and downs because Leicester were always a club who were not quite good enough to stay in the first division (the Priemiership) and just a bit too good for the second division (the Championship) so they were up and down like a yo-yo. The year that I was born, 1954, was a good year, he must have been happy when City were promoted as second division champions in May just beating Everton to the title by .3 on goal difference. Their biggest win was 9-2 against Lincoln and their biggest crowd was 51,811, against Everton and I have often wondered if he was there?

The FA cup was always disappointing and I can remember how disappointed he was in 1961 when Leicester reached the FA cup final for the second time and were beaten 2-0 by Tottenham Hotspurs who did the league and cup double that year. Full back Len Chalmers broke his leg early on and they had to play most of the match with ten men because they didn’t have substitutes in those days. They reached the cup final again in 1963 and lost to Manchester United and again in 1969 and lost to Manchester City. They had been there before in 1949 and lost to Wolves and this means that they have the unenviable record of being the only team to reach four FA cup finals and lose them all.

There were some good times though, especially when they won the League Cup twice in the 1990s and the best moment of all when they beat Derby County at Wembley in 1994 with two Steve Walsh goals to get promotion to the Premiership. We went to Wembley for the match and he was really happy that day.

Football was always important to dad and from about the time I was seven years old he to take me to Filbert Street to watch Leicester City. The first game I saw was against Blackburn Rovers. I can recall quite clearly going to the matches because this always involved a long walk of about three miles there and three miles back. Very close to my grandparents house there was a bus stop with a direct service into the city but dad rather cunningly always started out for the match at a time that was certain not to coincide with the bus timetable. I never caught on to this little trick of course and he had a very brisk walking pace that required me to run along side him just to keep up as he strode out ahead. It turns out that dad just didn’t like paying bus fares which he considered to be an unnecessary item of expenditure.

Football grounds were totally different to the all seater stadiums that we are used to now and were predominantly standing affairs. I was only a little lad so it was important to go early to get a good spot on the wall just behind the goal. This required an early arrival and although matches didn’t start until three o’clock dad used to get us there for the opening of the gates at about one. This must have required massive amounts of patience on his part because two hours is a long time to wait for a football match to start standing on cold concrete terracing and I really didn’t appreciate at the time that all of this was done just for me. In the 1960s of course it was common to have pre-match entertainment when local marching bands would give a thirty minute medley of tunes up until kick off time so at least there was something to watch.

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