One year on after making Premier League history, Leicester now set their focus on return to reality

After an extraordinary two years of football, Leicester return to reality with the challenge of adjusting to all that has passed - so just what exactly is to come from the club?

Samuel Lovett
Tuesday 29 August 2017 14:59
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Leicester's quarter-final encounter with Atletico Madrid will live long in the memory
Leicester's quarter-final encounter with Atletico Madrid will live long in the memory

One Premier League title, a summer of extravagant celebrations, a run-in with the relegation zone, allegations of changing room mutiny, the sacking of manager Claudio Ranieri, two Champions League quarter-final legs and, finally, 40 points on the board to all-but guarantee top-flight status.

It was one year to the day that Leicester first made history to crown themselves as ‘Champions of England’ - and what a year it has been. Fearless at times, lifeless at others. Unpredictable, remarkable and enigmatic; Leicester’s exploits over the last 12 months have unravelled with a baffling curiosity that has kept observers guessing.

From the lows of The Den, where defeat to Millwall in the FA Cup would cost Ranieri his job, to the magnificent highs of those closing minutes in Europe as Leicester gave chase to Atletico Madrid.

Defeat that day brought the curtain down on the Foxes’ fairy-tale - “The ride is over,” Wes Morgan admitted after the game – but, as the one-year anniversary passes, the only focus for the club now is the road that lies ahead.

Indeed, it was telling that Leicester chose not to celebrate today. The memories may be still be fresh in the minds of many in the East Midlands but the time for reflection has long since passed.

"The here and now is the important thing," Craig Shakespeare said after the recent win at West Brom. "It was a year ago. It is over. It is gone.

“We're looking to the future.”

So what exactly does that mean, then? Consolidation is now key, one source told The Independent. The club is by no means looking to catapult itself into the upper echelons of footballing stardom – such an objective is unrealistic, something the owners are aware of.

Leicester's players celebrate after the recent win at West Brom

Instead, it’s very much a case of ‘softly-softly’ and taking each step as it comes. This means nurturing that holistic, unassuming ethos which underpinned the Foxes’ title-winning mentality last season - both on and off the pitch. From training ground routines to Leicester’s unique recruitment policy, the club will be sticking to what it knows best. And when it comes to high-profile transfers, those in power will be sure to exercise caution, especially given the limited success of their summer signings.

In light of the refusal to get ahead of themselves, then, that’s why this season hasn’t been written off as a disaster – even in spite of their mid-season scare. Speaking after the win at the Hawthorns, Danny Drinkwater echoed a sentiment that resonates throughout the club and its fans. "If somebody said we'd get to the quarter-finals of the Champions League and finish 10th then a lot of people would have been snapping people's hands off for that,” he said. "So hopefully if we can carry on winning a few more games then hopefully there won't be any complaints at the end of the season."

Still, this hasn’t stopped the Foxes adjusting their expectations. The sense at the club is that European football is very much a tangible target for the years to come. In light of the numerous permutations at play, Leicester could still finish this season in eighth - a respectable position by all accounts and one that puts them in reaching distance of the Europa League.

Leicester's players have said they want to return to European football

Then there’s the matter of expansion. The Leicester brand has taken off, with the club capturing new audiences in Asia, while the side’s title-winning season brought in a club-record income worth £129m – a 24 per cent increase on the £104m made the previous season. Leicester have been turning away fans away in their 1000s this year but, yet, it’s ultimately unclear if such interest will last. Now that the side have become yesterday’s news, there’s no doubt many will have already departed the metaphorical bandwagon.

The question, then, is whether the unprecedented growth of the club's profile and finances continues or plateaus. Such an outcome could well determine the course taken by the Srivaddhanaprabha family with regards to a stadium extension. It’s understood that this is very much seen as a possibility among the corridors of power at the King Power, but it’s a matter dependent on whether Leicester continues to grow as a club.

Can Leicester redefine themselves as a club?

In terms of the coming transfer window, Leicester will fight to keep hold of their star players. The likes of Kasper Schmeichel and Wilfred Ndidi have shined for the Foxes this season and, as a result, amassed interest from numerous clubs across the league. But with others waiting in the wings, such as Ben Chilwell and Demarai Gray, the future continues to look bright. If the side can hold on to this young talent, Ndidi included, Leicester’s prospects for the coming seasons bode well.

After an extraordinary two years of football, Leicester now return to reality with the challenge of adjusting to all that has passed. The club have the chance to redefine themselves as more than just perennial underdogs but, if these past 12 months are anything to go by, it certainly won’t be easy. It’s been a remarkable rise, but will it be a meteoric one?

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