About 20 minutes after I woke up this morning, I was on the verge of tears – not because of the current dystopian situation I hasten to add.
Not because I haven’t seen my siblings, best mates, the pub, a football pitch or my girlfriend for seven weeks either. And not because a sponsored post advertising a certain 90min editor’s book popped up on my timeline for the second time this week.
Nope. The reason for my early morning emotional breakdown was a video, three minutes and 18 seconds in length, posted by the Sky Sports Twitter account.
In the video, a man who a year and a half prior has just led Greece to a Euro 2016 qualifying defeat to the Faroe Island, stands next to one of the most renowned opera singers in human history, a few hours before receiving English football’s greatest prize.
Yes, the reason for my early morning bottom lip wobbling was that today marks four years since my beloved Leicester City lifted the Premier League trophy.
That’s quite a long time, isn’t it? Apparently still not quite long enough for me to watch back the footage without being reduced to a blubbering mess though.
I must have listened to Andrea Bocelli belt out Nessun Dorma and Con Te Partirò about 500 times at this point but it’s still hard to believe that something so absurd, so brilliant and so spectacular could have happened.
Bocelli’s personal story only added to the emotion pulsating around an already charged King Power Stadium. The Italian tenor became blind following a footballing accident at the age of 12 but remained fiercely passionate about the game throughout his life – following Inter since his years at college.
It wasn’t just his pre-match serenade that would go down in footballing folklore. The entirety of Leicester’s curtain-drawing final game against Everton – when they were presented with the Premier League trophy – was dreamlike from start to finish.
Following Bocelli’s serenade, the 90 minutes of on field action raced by at a frantic pace. Spurred on by the feverish King Power crowd, each Foxes player darted around like a greyhound. Even Jamie Vardy, who had already spent the season on an unstoppable scoring run fuelled by Poundland Red Bull and pre-game shots of port, somehow managed to find another gear.
Vardy would score Leicester’s first and third goal in their 3-1 win, but it would be Leicester’s second scorer who garnered the most raucous reaction of the game. Ghosting onto the end of Riyad Mahrez cut back, Foxes legend Andy King – who remarkably is still on the club’s books today – slotted the ball home calmly.
It was a textbook King strike, one that I witnessed him replicate many times when getting up early on Sunday morning to watch a 15 seconds highlight package on Championship Goals, during the Foxes’ time in League One. Here he was seven years later, a Premier League champion. Just one of thousands of pinch yourself moments during a ridiculously ridiculous day and season.
I would happily sit here all day and reminisce about more of these moments. For instance, Claudio Ranieri having the best character arc since the redemption of Jamie Lannister, the Foxes stumbling across the best centre-midfielder in the world in N’Golo Kanté or the often forgotten Nathan Dyer managing to sneak his way to the front of every photo. Cheeky bugger.
But as this would probably take hours, perhaps it’s better to reflect on what this day represented as a whole. Was this a turning point in English footballing history? Surely it must have meant something more widely, if it reduced me to tears (nearly)?
In short, no.
However, Leicester City lifting the Premier League title was the sport at its most beautiful and its most pure.
In a globalised, often sterile and money-obsessed footballing landscape, aspiration for clubs outside of the upper echelons of the game was slowly turning into a thing of the past in 2015. This remarkable title win put a fleeting halt to that slide, proving that anyone could, in theory, go toe-to-toe with the big boys.
It did not last long though.
Leicester’s title win sparked fresh negotiations about creating a breakaway European Super League and the gap between the super rich and the rest is now as big as it has ever been.
So it had little impact on the pitch but maybe the win marked a turning point for the relationship between club and community?
There can be no denying that Leicester’s triumph ushered in a brief return of the concept of civic pride to top level football. Back in the day, clubs acted as a genuine heartbeat of their communities but the increasing disconnect between players and supporters since the 1990s had eroded these links.
Not in this case though. This title win wasn’t just for the squad, it was for Leicester as whole. A rare win for an overlooked but warm, diverse and welcoming city.
Again, this feeling of unity has seldom been replicated a the top level. The current crisis has starkly reminded us of the contempt that many elite clubs hold towards the fans, with several top-flight sides forced to backtrack on their scandalous decision to furlough their staff despite turning mouthwatering profits.
Overall then, the long-term impact of the title win that was used as a rallying call against the excesses of modern football, has been negligible.
To be honest though, I don’t really care. Football is at its core escapism, and every time that video of Bocelli pops up on my timeline I’m transported to another realm where everything is rosy and impossible things – like Jeffrey Schlupp winning a Premier League medal – can happen.