Leicester City have won the league - but will it help the struggling city itself?

Many parts of Leicester are a depressing place to go really because of the sense of something being lost

Sean O'Grady
Monday 02 May 2016 23:02
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People queuing to see the remains of Richard III - but what else does Leicester have to offer?
People queuing to see the remains of Richard III - but what else does Leicester have to offer?

And so it came to pass. After weeks of waiting for the wheels to come off, the Foxes did the unthinkable.

If 'Premier League champions' is a title that can only mean good things for the club, what can the city itself hope for now?

It has known harder times in recent years as once vibrant industries have died. Once upon a time there was a very high probability that the socks and shoes on your feet and your knickers would be made not in china but in Leicester. Not glamorous, like the cars they made in Coventry or even the bikes they rolled out in Nottingham, but enough to keep the overlockers at Corahs and the countermen at Pex in well paid work and able to pay the mortgage (with the Leicester Permanent Building Society).

I grew up on a vast estate of terraced housing built over a century ago to house the workers at the Co-operative Wholesale Society's shoe factory, the biggest, when completed before the first world war, in the world. That too went east. One can only hope the Thai owners of City put some investment into the city. It needs it. Big employers have long since gone. Walk down Woodgate where there were once engineering works, the big Nabisco factory and mills provided thousands of jobs. Now there's rubble and Lidl.

Leicester players celebrate winning the Premier League

Or, indeed, take a stroll from the King Power Stadium down to the old Filbert Street ground and see some symbolic urban dereliction on "Prime" sites in the city such as the old police HQ and the fine Edwardian era banks in the city centre have lain unoccupied for many years. Or the "Magazine" Gateway, dating back to 1410 and totally neglected - one of the few buildings the last Plantegenet himself might have known. It seems the council and de Montfort University are just waiting for it to fall down.

Most of the council's and mayor's efforts seem to have been spent on prettifying a few select "quarters" and leaving the rest of the place to look like Chernobyl. The Disneyfication of the area around the modest Cathedral where Richard III eventually found a parking spot is symbolic of some very poor priorities.

A careless and complacent local authority, thoughtless development and powerful economic forces have pushed Leicester's economy downhill as rapidly as Leicester's sporting prowess - Leicester Tigers rugby, and a succession of snooker stars as well as soccer - have propelled it onto the world stage.

Where will all the football money go? How much will help regenerate Leicester. The Leicester Mercury said the other day that Leicester was the second worst place to have bought a property since 2000, which doesn't surprise anyone who lives there. Will Jamie Vardy being a superstar help Leicester become prosperous again and boost house prices on Melton Road?

After all, Liverpool's long term success on the pitch never translated into industrial revival. On other hand, Leeds and Wolves still aren't the football forces they once were, but they are seeing jobs and activity come back.

I think most of the population of Leicester, of many and all backgrounds, proud as they rightly are of their teams and their town, might trade all that in for a return to the days when no-one much had heard or cared about Leicester, they were permanently in a football relegation zone, but the economy wasn't, and at least there were some decent (free) state grammar schools, some civic pride and you could get a job. Another member of the Blue Army remarked as they strolled down Raw Dykes Way, on the way to that emotionally draining draw with West Ham the other day, “the city’s on the up”. I hope so. About time, anyway.

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