Foxes can secure Premier League at Old Trafford but many of their fans would miss out
29 April ~ Jamie Vardy, serving an additional one match ban, will hate watching from the sidelines this Sunday as his team-mates bid to seal the greatest moment in Leicester City’s history. Yet, with a win at Manchester United securing their first-ever English title, thousands of ticketless Leicester fans would give their right arm just to be inside Old Trafford.
At this time of any season suspensions and injuries create emotive storylines around players forced to miss cup finals, league clinchers and relegation deciders. But for fans who regularly attend their club’s matches, being forced to watch historic moments on the telly creates that same empty, side-lined feeling.
Nick Hornby didn’t have a ticket for Arsenal’s famous trip to Anfield on May 26, 1989. He watched them clinch their first League title in a generation live on ITV. In Fever Pitch he concludes: “After twenty-one years [supporting Arsenal] I no longer felt… that if I hadn’t been to the games I had no right to partake in the celebrations.” But he bought a new team shirt at Highbury that morning – “just because I felt I had to do something”.
Vardy’s 22 league goals are central to Leicester’s stunning 2015-16. Yet players of title-winning calibre want to be on the pitch, competing, when the League is officially secured. And most punters also want to be making their direct contribution – creating a winning atmosphere. Yes, the noise at the King Power stadium has been fantastic for months now. But when the title is clinched no one wants to be pointlessly emoting at a TV, radio or laptop.
This may be fandom’s equivalent of “first world problems”. Most Leicester fans simply hope their club retain their lead for the last three games of the Premier League season and would happily receive the news by telegram. But everyone imagines experiencing it more dramatically. And some Leicester season ticket holders will have already been through the most selfish of mental calculations: if we can draw on Sunday, then Spurs win on Monday, and we beat Everton at home… I’ll be there when we clinch the title.
Television has enabled every club’s entire support to share in their biggest modern triumphs. But in expanding the audience it has, often deliberately, diluted the worth of match attendance. A case in point is Martin Tyler’s frankly bland commentary on the 2012 Sergio Agüero goal which ensured Manchester City’s first English title in 44 years. Sky Sports would have you believe fans present at the Etihad that day missed the truly memorable aspect of securing the Premier League with the last kick of the season – a surname shouted down a microphone.
The only media angles on attending big games are arguments over cup final allocations, or “whacky” individuals missing weddings and cancelling holidays. However, the truly epic turmoil often occurs within the conscience of individual fans.
Jimmy Greaves, stern faced and suited at Wembley in 1966 as the England bench celebrates winning a World Cup he was dropped from; Roy Keane inspiring Manchester United’s comeback in the 1999 Champions League semi-final despite a booking ruling him out the final; players are always forgiven for experiencing that cognitive dissonance which pits collective glory against personal involvement.
So, despite most of Britain cheering on Leicester from the sofa this Sunday, we should forgive any of their fans who might prefer them to hang off for another week. Alex Anderson
Photo by Paul Thompson/WSC Photography: Outside Leicester City's King Power Stadium