"We had a picture of Arsenal players celebrating in the dressing room as a nice reminder" – Leicester's title triumph, retold by the men who were there
Interviews: James Maw, Andrew Murray, Martin Mazur, Joe Brewin
- Mark Albrighton (winger)
- Christian Fuchs (defender)
- Andy King (midfielder)
- Leonardo Ulloa (striker)
- Jason Bourne (BBC Radio Leicester)
- Dave Bevan (fan and author of The Unbelievables)
- John Ledwidge (groundsman, King Power Stadium)
- Brad Varnham (PA announcer, King Power Stadium)
Mark Albrighton: Our only aim for the season was to stay up – that, and to finish higher than we had the year before. The way we had ended the previous season meant that we finished 14th, and it almost looked like we hadn’t even been in a relegation scrap at all. That gave us real confidence going into the 2015/16 campaign.
Christian Fuchs: I joined the club [on June 3, 2015] when Nigel Pearson was still manager. He sold it to me on the way that he wanted the team to play. He told me about ‘the great escape’ the year before, and the plans for the new season. So, of course, it was a bit of a strange start for me. I had signed to play under another manager, and in that situation you never know if you’re going to be in the new guy’s plans.
Andy King: We didn’t get told until maybe five minutes before Claudio Ranieri came into the room that he would be our new manager. Then we were working with him straightaway – it wasn’t just a case of him coming in a week’s time or something. I was actually a ball boy at Chelsea when he was the manager there [from 2000-04] – he wouldn't never remember me as I was just one of many academy players there at that time – but it’s weird how things came full circle.
We didn’t get told until maybe five minutes before Ranieri came into the room that he would be our new manager
MA: Our first game was at home to Sunderland. The first game of the season is always hard, as you can’t compare yourself against the other side because it’s hard to work out who has had the better pre-season. We ended up winning 4-2. I got a couple of assists and even managed to get forward myself and grab a goal, which was the perfect start to the new season for me.
Leonardo Ulloa: It was a very clear victory, not only in terms of the goals scored but also in terms of the difference shown on the pitch: we could see in every action that we were superior. We were more intense – something we’d see in most of the games over the course of the season.
AK: The first game was brilliant – it was important that we got off to a good start in the league. I don’t think anyone expected us to be 3-0 up at half-time and cruising, but we were. We came out of the blocks brilliantly. So there were three points on the board straightaway. We managed to carry that on: we beat West Ham away in the next game, and we were up and running. The momentum just built from there.
Jason Bourne (BBC Radio Leicester): In September there were a couple of games in quick succession where the team came back from 2-0 down: they won the first 3-2 against Aston Villa live on the telly, and drew the second 2-2 at Stoke. Those results showed the real fighting spirit, and momentum continued to build. Suddenly we were having thoughts of Leicester finishing in the top six and getting into Europe. You could already see they had that consistency in performance.
Dave Bevan (fan and author of The Unbelievables): At that early stage I still don’t think that any fan thought we would lose only three games all season! When you look back now, those were probably the games we didn’t lose that we looked most likely to.
John Ledwidge (groundsman, King Power Stadium): There was always the belief that the ability was in the squad – and that’s the whole club, from the players down to us on the staff. The lads play on our pitches every day of the week so you really feel like you’re doing your bit, not just with the stadium but the eight-and-a-half pitches at the training ground as well. If we contribute even one per cent to their success, then that’s a great achievement in itself.
Brad Varnham (PA announcer, King Power Stadium): I first thought that something special was starting to happen during the build-up to the Chelsea game in December. They were on the rocks and Jose Mourinho was really struggling. I bumped into the club secretary before the game and he said he’d take a draw. I said, “Chelsea are there for the taking.” We won the game 2-1 with Riyad Mahrez scoring an absolute belter, and suddenly I was thinking about the Europa League.
AK: Throughout the year we went through different stages. After 10 games we thought, ‘Right, we have had a really good start.’ Then we beat Chelsea and Everton in December, which put us top at Christmas [with 38 points]. Then we were thinking, ‘We really shouldn’t get relegated now, and we will get to 40 points’, which was still the main target at that stage despite being top – it was only our second season back in the Premier League, don’t forget. We were looking at teams like Stoke and Southampton, who had come up through the leagues and gradually got better and established themselves in the top flight.
LU: As the matches went on, it became strange, because the comments were still that we would eventually fall away, and yet we were doing it on merit: playing very well, winning at home, winning away. It wasn’t a matter of luck; we were marching on confidently, while all of the big clubs couldn’t take off, and yet the media focus was still on how long we would be able to hang on before we finally collapsed.
MA: Winning 1-0 away at Tottenham in January gave us a really good feeling, because we had done it by defending for our lives and then nicking a goal through Robert Huth’s header late on. Winning a game like that is sometimes the best way to do it. You feel amazing.
AK: People definitely underestimated us at the start of the season, and then as it went on, it was almost too late to stop us. Our momentum had built up. We grew in confidence and believed towards the end of the season that we could beat the top teams. We weren’t annoyed that people were underestimating us or not giving us enough credit – if anything, it played into our hands. The way people slacked off a little bit helped us.
MA: After we beat Liverpool [in February], I spoke to James Milner and he said, “Brilliant – go and win it now.” For someone who has won it before to say that meant a lot. It started to put the ideas in your head that it would be absolutely massive if we could win it.
After the great escape we just wanted to avoid relegation – and here we were, right at the top
BV: I’ve been a Leicester fan since I was eight and I have been working as DJ and stadium announcer for 20 years, including every year at the King Power since it opened in 2002, so from the relegation to League One, I’ve seen it all. After ‘the great escape’ we just wanted to avoid relegation – and here we were, right at the top. I don’t think a home game went by without fans singing, “We are staying up.” For the first time in my life, it was said with irony.
JB: A lot of people were complimentary about the team – I’d go into different press conferences and press rooms and speak to journalists covering the different clubs and they’d all say nice things – but I still don’t think many people were taking Leicester too seriously. I remember hearing on TV and radio that they would fall away at some point. Everybody was talking about the Manchester City and Arsenal games and how they would be the turning point.
CF: The game away at Man City was one of our best performances. It just showed the strength we were capable of. We had plenty of confidence before that game, but even after, I never thought that we would definitely win the title. We just focused on how we were going to play in the next game, and watching the opposition to see how we could overcome them.
MA: We played City off the park. It was a comfortable win in the end. I’d been there a few times with Villa and been on the wrong end of some big scorelines. I remember once being 5-0 down and the crowd were olé-ing – we couldn’t get anywhere near the ball that day. So to go there, be 3-0 up within an hour and then go off to a standing ovation from the whole stadium at full-time is something that’ll stick with me forever.