Leicester City’s fans and players woke up from the greatest party of their lives this morning – and the celebrations are likely to continue for some time.
The Foxes pulled off one of sport’s greatest rags-to-riches tales on Monday night when Tottenham’s failure to beat Chelsea meant they turned from 5,000/1 outsiders into Premier League champions.
City’s players watched the game at striker Jamie Vardy’s house – bringing to life the popular ‘Jamie Vardy’s having a party’ chant – and thousands of fans stood outside the striker’s home to share the moment, all the more unbelievable considering how Leicester only just escaped relegation last season.
The title was secured when Eden Hazard’s goal earned Chelsea a 2-2 draw from 2-0 down, with defender Christian Fuchs tweeting a video which showed him and his team-mates celebrating wildly together.
The likes of Danny Drinkwater, Leo Ulloa, N’Golo Kante and captain Wes Morgan were all at Vardy’s Melton Mowbray home and amid the chaos, the players reacted to Leicester’s win.
“It’s the best feeling of my career and I couldn’t be prouder that it’s as part of this team,” Morgan said.
“Everyone’s worked so hard for this, nobody believed we could do it, but here we are, Premier League champions and deservedly so.
“I’ve never known a spirit like the one between these boys, we’re like brothers. People saw it last season when everyone expected us to be relegated, but we fought back to prove people wrong. This season’s been a continuation of that. We’ve built on the momentum, but I don’t think anyone believed it would come to this.”
Under manager Claudio Ranieri – himself written off when he was appointed last summer – Leicester have formed a seemingly unbreakable bond that has seen them lose just three times this season.
Former Chelsea boss Ranieri had said he would be flying home from a Roman lunch date with his 96-year-old mother during the match, but footage showed him leaving Italy earlier than expected.
Where he watched from remains unknown, but the 64-year-old was in no doubt as to where the praise for victory should be directed.
“I’m so proud. I’m happy for my players, for the chairman, for the staff at Leicester City, all our fans and the Leicester community. It’s an amazing feeling and I’m so happy for everyone,” he said.
“I never expected this when I arrived. I’m a pragmatic man, I just wanted to win match after match and help my players to improve week after week. Never did I think too much about where it would take us.
“The players have been fantastic. Their focus, their determination, their spirit has made this possible. Every game they fight for each other and I love to see this in my players. They deserve to be champions.”
The anointing of Leicester, who are the first new top-flight champions in 38 years, will come after Saturday’s clash against Everton at the King Power Stadium, and Vardy will return from suspension to feature.
The 29-year-old began his senior career at Stocksbridge Park Steels after being rejected by Sheffield Wednesday as a teenager and was playing non-league football for Fleetwood as recently as 2012.
He has gone on to score 24 goals for club and country this season and claimed the Football Writers’ Association player of the year award on Sunday – but the title has capped a fairytale campaign.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Vardy. “I’ve never known anything like it. We were scrapping to stay in the league last season and on Saturday we’ll be lifting the trophy.
“That gives you an idea of how much hard work has gone into this season from every single player and member of staff.
“It’s the biggest achievement in the history of a great club and we all feel privileged to be part of it.
“It’s even more special to have done it with these lads. Every minute of hard work we’ve put in on the training pitch has been worth it for this moment.”
City have gone to Manchester City and Tottenham and won, while an unbeaten run since mid-February proved beyond any doubt Ranieri’s side had the nerve to finish the job.
Midfielder Andy King, who has spent his entire career with Leicester, admits the size of the achievement could take some time to sink in.
“I thought I’d seen everything with this club, but I never thought I’d see this,” said the 27-year-old. “It’s difficult to put into words. The players deserve it, the gaffer and the staff deserve it, and the fans deserve it. It’s been an unbelievable season.”