After years of upheaval, Leicester City Football Club currently play in the Football League Championship, the second tier of English Football. Under Martin O’Neill the club reached the dizzy heights of European football back in the 97/98 and 01/02 seasons, having won two League Cups in the space of five years. However, since then, managerial changes and huge influential players departing have left the club amongst the second tier of English football.
The Early Years
The year of 1884 marked the date of birth for the team that was originally named Leicester Fosse because they use to play on a field near Fosse Road. Little over seven years later, in 1891, the club relocated to Filbert Street where they played for 111 years before moving to the Walkers Stadium (formerly ‘Bowl’) back in 2002.
The club joined the Football Association in 1890 and ended up playing at five different grounds including Victoria Park, before moving to Filbert Street in 1891. After joining the Football Association, Leicester’s first ever Football League game was a 4-3 defeat at Grimsby, but it would only take seven days for the team to repair the damage, registering their first league win against Rotherham at Filbert Street in 1894.
During that season, the Foxes also managed to secure their largest win to date, a 13-0 victory over Notts Olympic in an FA Cup qualifying game. In 1907-08 the club finished as Second Division runners-up, gaining promotion to the First Division. However, the Foxes were immediately relegated the following season, with a 12-0 loss to arch-rivals Nottingham Forest a particular disaster.
Club Name Change
After the First World War, in 1919 the team was re-born Leicester City Football Club after Leicester Fosse ceased trading. At the time, this was particularly appropriate because the city had only recently been given city status.
During that season under the management of Peter Hodge the newly named club managed to achieve moderate success in the 1920’s with record goalscorer, Arthur Chandler in the side. In 1924-25 they won the Division Two title and four years later in 1928-29 they gained their highest league finish ending up runners up to Sheffield Wednesday.
Desperate Times And Revival
Despite this successful period in the club’s history, the 1930s saw a change in fortune for the Foxes, with the club suffering relegation in 1934-35. Despite being promoted in 1936-37, history repeated itself in 1938-39 and Leicester finished the decade in Division Two.
The turnaround took place towards the end of the 1940s, as the club reached the FA Cup final for the first time in their history in 1949. Although they would lose to West Midlands rivals Wolves 3-1 that day, the club were celebrating a week later when a draw on the final day of the season secured their survival in Division Two.
The revival continued and, in 1954, with the help of one of the club’s most prolific goal scorers, Arthur Rowley, Leicester won the Division Two championship. Although the Foxes were related from Division One the next season they returned in 1957 with Rowley scoring a club record 44 goals in one season. Leicester City would remain in Division One until 1969, this would be their longest period ever in the top flight.
Cup success also came under one of the clubs most successful managers, Matt Gillies, as Leicester City would reach the FA Cup final two more times in 1961 and 1963. Again though, the matches both ended in disappointment. In 1961 they were on the losing side to double winners Tottenham, and were consequentially England’s representatives in the 1961-62 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup.
The club achieved its best post war finish when, in 1963, they took fourth place in the First Division, having at one time been first. During that year, Gillies and the club collected their first piece of silverware when Leicester beat Stoke 4-3 on aggregate to win the League Cup.
The following year, Leicester City replicated the feat by reaching the final but they lost to Chelsea. Then, after a bad start to the season, Matt Gillies resigned in November 1968. Despite his successor taking the club to the FA Cup final in 1969 for the last time to date, in which they eventually lost to Manchester City, Frank O’Farrell could not prevent the club being relegated.
Leicester were promoted back into Division One in 1971 and that year won the Charity Shield for the only time against Liverpool. Unusually, due to Division One champions Arsenal’s commitments in European competition, Division Two winners Leicester were invited to play FA Cup winners Liverpool, beating them 1-0.
For the new season, Jimmy Bloomfield was appointed and his team remained in the First Division while he was in charge. Since then no period has seen the club remain in the top division for so long. This stability in the league was married by cup success, as Leicester reached the FA Cup semi-final in 1974.
In 1977, Jimmy Bloomfield was succeeded as manager by Frank McLintock, a player noted as part of the successful Leicester squad between the late Fifties to the mid Sixties. However due to City’s relegation at the end of the 1977-78 season McLintock was sacked.
Rise of the Scots and the Birth of a Star
Scot Jock Wallace took over the reigns of the Foxes in 1980 and had an instantaneous impact on the squad, steering them to the Division Two championship in 1980. Unfortunately, Wallace was unable to keep Leicester City in Division One, but in 1982 the squad were to reach the FA Cup semi-final.
During this period, one of Leicester’s finest and most recognisable stars, home-grown player Gary Lineker emerged in the first team squad under Wallace. In 1983, Leicester’s next manager Gordon Milne would achieve promotion that year, with Lineker helping the following season to maintain their place in the First Division before being sold to Everton in 1985.
Trials and Tribulations
Having failed to find a suitable striker to replace Lineker the Leicester squad went down two years later. Indeed, in 1987, David Pleat replaced Milne and he would oversee one of the club’s most unsuccessful periods in its history. After a defeat that left the club fourth from bottom, he was sacked in January 1991.
With Gordon Lee in charge for the remainder of the season, Leicester avoided relegation after winning their final game of the campaign, preventing them from falling into the depths of the third tier of the football league.
As a club with aspirations for more, Brian Little took over in 1991 and by the end of that season Leicester City would make the play off final for a chance to play in the new FA Premiership. Unfortunately, on the day former Leicester player Mike Newell would dash the Leicester dream by slotting home the winning penalty to take Blackburn Rovers into the new top flight of English football.
Dabbling in the Premiership
The heartache would continue a year later, this time losing to Swindon Town 4-3 after coming back from 3-0. But it was to be third time lucky in 1994 when club captain Steve Walsh slotted home in a 2-1 victory over local rivals Derby County at Wembley.
In November 1994, Brian Little quit his post at Leicester City to take charge at local West Midlands rivals Aston Villa, leaving Mark McGhee to take over for the remainder of the 1994/95 season, which was to end in relegation back to the first division for the Foxes. By December 2005, McGhee had decided to take the opportunity to manage Wolverhampton Wanderers, despite guiding his Leicester team to the top of Division One at Christmas.
The O’Neill era
The man who would fill the Scots boots at the time was just up and coming, but for many across England he is now a prime candidate for the England post after the team’s failure to qualify for Euro 2008 – Martin O’Neill. Under his guidance, Leicester City side managed to squeeze into the play offs on the last day of the 95/96 season with a victory over Ipswich and other results going the Foxes’ way.
At Wembley, with the scores level after 90 minutes against Crystal Palace in the play off final, Steve Claridge rifled the ball into the net from a Julian Watts knock down to send the Leicester faithful wild. With the game finishing 2-1, Claridge’s strike signaled an immediate return to the top flight for Leicester City.
Over the next four years Leicester City consolidated, becoming known as a hard working, difficult team to break down while also gaining four consecutive top ten finishes.
Cup final wins guarantees European adventures
Martin O’Neill was the first manager to bring silverware back to Leicester in twenty six years, winning the League Cup in 1997 and 2000 and finishing runners up to a last minute Tottenham goal in 1999.
With a guaranteed place in Europe, O’Neill became hot property and, after refusing the position at Leeds United in 1999, he took up a position with Celtic in June 2000. O’Neill’s rewards on the pitch have left him with the recognition of being one of the most successful managers in the club’s history.
After leaving the club, the search went out far and wide for a replacement and the task was ultimately given to England under-21 coach Peter Taylor. Many of the familiar faces that O’Neill brought into the squad left over the course of Taylor’s time in charge and, after little more than a season in charge, a lack of success saw him replaced by the management partnership of Dave Bassett and Micky Adams. Sadly, despite their best efforts, they could not prevent the club being relegated in their final season at Filbert Street.
In the 2002-03 season, Leicester City moved into their new home, the 32,000 seater Walkers Stadium. Unfortunately, around that same period, in October 2002, Leicester entered some of their darkest days after being placed in administration.
During the following season, with the £37 million cost of the new stadium just one of the reasons behind the club being in such a huge amount of debt, Mickey Adams was prevented from going into the transfer market until the club was taken over by a consortium led by former Leicester player Gary Lineker.
Amassing a total of 90 points Adams took Leicester to runners up spot in Division One, gaining promotion back to the Premiership at the first attempt. Unfortunately, the Foxes were relegated after only one season back in the ‘big time’ to the newly named Championship, formerly known as Division One.
Little over two months into the new season and Adams resigned, leaving Craig Levein to take over the position as Leicester’s City new boss. However a little over 15 months after he took charge at the Foxes, poor results and the threat of relegation meant he was sacked. To see out the remainder of the season, Rob Kelly took over as caretaker manager and, after eventually guiding the team to safety, he was given the manager’s job on a permanent basis in April 2006.
Leicester’s shining light
In October 2006, ex-Portsmouth chairman Milan Mandaric was quoted as saying he was interested in buying the club and that at the time there stood a 50/50 chance before the beginning of the New Year. After many talks and discussions, a deal was eventually struck with the millionaire on the 13th Feburary 2007.
It didn’t take long for Mandaric to make his mark on the club, sacking manager Rob Kelly and replacing him with Nigel Worthington as caretaker manager until the end of the season in an attempt to steer Leicester City away from the relegation zone.
Managerial in’s and out’s
Former Norwich City manager Worthington did what was required and saved Leicester from relegation but his tenure only lasted a few months as Mandaric decided that he was not the man to take Leicester City forward.
By the end of May 2007, the former MK Dons manager Martin Allen was announced as the new manager signing a three year contract. However, after taking charge for little over four games into the season, the relationship between Mandaric and Allen became strained and Allen duly left by mutual consent on 29th August 2007.
Little over two weeks later, Leicester City chairman Milan Mandaric announced that the next person to take over the managerial hot seat at the club would be former West Bromwich Albion manager Gary Megson. However, after instilling a defensive mentality into the squad that made Leicester City hard to break down, he would leave the team after only six weeks in charge on 24th October 2007 to take over at Bolton Wanderers.
While Mandaric searched for yet another manager, the third in six months, Frank Burrows and Gerry Taggart were put in temporary charge. Under their stewardship, a stirring performance against Chelsea almost guaranteed a replay before they scored twice in the closing minutes to seal a 4-3 win at Stamford Bridge.
Man for the future
Now after much searching, former Plymouth manager Ian Holloway has been given the position as manager to mark Leicester’s push for promotion and, based on his first victory against high flying Bristol City, there could be more stable and better times be ahead for the Leicester faithful.
- First Division (now the Premiership) – Runners-up (1928-29)
- Second Division – Winners (1924-25,
- FA Cup – Finalists (1949, 1961, 1963
- League Cup – Winners (1964, 1997, 2000), Finalists (1999)
- Charity Shield – Winners (1971)