In a new series of articles brought to you by Sportsweek, we are interviewing fans of teams across the footballing spectrum, giving them a platform to give their thoughts and opinions to matters pertaining to their own team and the worlds favourite sport – and giving you, the reader, opportunity to discuss and comment on the insights of the most passionate fans around.
Today, we talk with Mark Ridgway (front centre above), an ardent Leicester City fan, who gives his answers to the questions posed to him by Sportsweek.
- Name : Mark Ridgway
- Age : 45
- Location : Burton on Trent, Staffordshire
- Team : Leicester City
- All time favourite club player : N’Golo Kante
Sportsweek: Can you give us all some insight into how long you’ve been a Leicester fan and how your journey has been to where the Club are today – plenty of highs and lows along the way – any individual games that stick out in the memory?
MR: I was 14 years old so some 31 years ago. My first ever game was Aug 1988 at Filbert Street. We lost 1-0 to Shrewsbury in the old Division 2. The game will be best remembered for Leicester hard man Steve Walsh breaking David Geddes jaw and receiving a 9 game ban. Obviously this game being my first sticks long in the memory.
Beating Man City 3-1 Feb 2016 at The Etihad during our PL winning season was one of my top L.C.F.C moments. We went 3-0 up and I couldn’t celebrate as I could not believe what has happening. I stood motionless amongst 3000 other manic Foxes fans with my hands on my head.
Ultimate moment though was seeing Leicester lifting the PL trophy on the final day of the season May 2016. I may never see this again but I certainly will not forget that day (even after having 10pints pre match!).
There have been plenty of highs and lows during my 31 years as a fan. Plenty of promotions and relegations. Administration also but the lowest point by far was the tragedy involving our legendary Chairman Vichai. It was only after this event that the football world realised what a generous human being he was.
Sportsweek: Theres no doubting that Leicester’s sensational Premier League winning campaign of the 2015/16 season was one of the biggest ever Sporting achievements. How was it from your perspective? When did you truly believe it would happen?
MR: The Man City game as mentioned above back in the February. My hands on head moment was really a ‘we are gonna win the PL’ moment. Being a season ticket holder we go all home games and a fair few away games also do not many games missed and plenty were on TV also. Leicester took their form from the previous season of ‘The Great Escape’ into the new season. At 5000-1 it was thought impossible but the whole squad were unbelievable from start to finish. Relentless in their work rate – but also having the class of bargain buy Riyad Mahrez to make things happen. We were scared of no team and once the carrot was dangled of the PL trophy ( along with free pizza from Ranieri) there was only going to be one outcome as the players performances never dropped. It was a season the whole footballing world will remember not just us fortunate Leicester fans.
Sportsweek: What do you believe was the real turning point for Leicester? When did they stop being something of a yoyo club between the Premier League and Champioship to a club that won the Premier League and now appear to be part of the top flight for seasons to come?
MR: 2010 when Vichai and his family bought our club. They took on a lot of debt and highlighted their own ambitions. Plenty of Foxes fans were wary as foreign owners were not always the best owners – but from the off though they made decisions that would benefit the club.. Would always back the manager in the transfer market. They helped stabilise us but with a vision also. A vision that is still developing as we have a new training facility that will be in a par with any in Europe to be finished next summer (2020). Ground expansion is also in the pipeline along with a fan zone around the stadium on a match to enhance the fans match day experience.
Hopefully our yo-yo days are over. It was no fun watching us lose the famous playoff semi final against Watford where Knockaert misses the penalty and Watford go straight down the other end to score the winner. Since our Premier League win though we are now not only established in the PL but in the top 10 of the PL and a club that can be pushing for European places.
Sportsweek: Mahrez to Manchester City, Kante to Chelsea, Maguire to Manchester United – at what point can Leicester keep hold of their ‘stars’ and stop losing them to bigger clubs? Or is that part of Leicester’s relative success?
MR: We have seemed to lose a star player a season since our PL win.. Victims of our own success perhaps. The players we have lost though cost us peanuts and we sold them for vast profits. Truth is, we don’t need the money and don’t need to sell. Put it down though to the ambitions of the players though why they left. Sure we won the PL but we couldn’t sustain that year on year.. Kante and Mahrez both won the PL again the seasons after they left… Will Maguire follow that trend ?
Sportsweek: Of the three names above, which player do you still wish was a Leicester City player?
MR: All 3 are very different players… Kante though transformed Leicester. A tiny 5ft 6 midfielder that came on as a sub when we were 2-0 down v Aston Villa… 20 mins later we had won 3-2. He’s a freak of a player for the ground he covers , tackles he wins without going to ground and he can turn defence into attack in an instant. He is my favourite Leicester player of all time…
That all said, I think in our current team Mahrez would be the player we miss for that flair and creativity..
Sportsweek: Much has been made of the Premier League ‘Top 6’ and the apparent gap between them and the rest of the Premier League teams…do you agree with this? What needs to happen for this gap to be addressed? Can Leicester be the team to crack this group?
MR: Midway through the transfer window I thought ourselves , Everton and Wolves had a real chance of a top 6 finish this season; however, late – good – business from Arsenal and Man Utd has changed my opinion slightly. Chelsea I would say are the team at risk of losing that top 6 status. Losing Hazard crucial to this along with the transfer ban they have and a young unproven manager in Lampard. Hopefully we can be that team to break into the top 6 this season…I want another European tour! We have made good additions in Tielemans and Perez and in Brendan Rodgers we have a great manager. But we need consistent European football to keep the top clubs from taking our best players.
Sportsweek: VAR….yes or no?
MR: No (but after our opening game goal reversal for Wolves , Yes!)
Sportsweek: What’s more likely to happen next for Leicester….relegation or Champions League football?
MR: Hmmmmm tricky…hopefully Champions League football but knowing Leicester and our history more likely to be relegation!
Lastly, some quickfire fun questions to answer :
Which team do you enjoy seeing lose the most? – Liverpool
Which team outside the Premier League do you follow? – Burton Albion
What’s been the best away ground you’ve been to? – Atletico Madrid – but West Ham’s new ground very impressive. Best overall away experience though is Stoke City.
Better Leicester striker – Lineker or Vardy? – Jamie Vardy
Would you rather England win the WC or Leicester win the Prem? – Leicester – it’s that feeling of week in week out results. Cannot be matched
Who’s the GOAT – Ronaldo or Messi? – Lionel Messi
Some highly interesting comments there from Mark – who truly has been put through the mill with his club, who suffered some torrid times despite some relative highs also – but then was able to enjoy the ultimate season that every fan dreams about – especially those who support clubs like Leicester City, who showed what is possible, however unlikely it was and maybe still is.
There is no doubting that Leicester City are now a very stable club and despite the loss of some star players, remain upward looking and have a clear vision and progress in mind. They must be the blueprint for all other teams to reciprocate when reaching the Premier League. But it will be very interesting to see whether they can actually fend off the bigger clubs who look to take their better players – and make that next step into the top 6.
A massive thank you to Mark for taking the time to share his insights and opinions with us – we wish him and his team every luck and success for the future.
Please feel free to discuss and comment on this article and share your thoughts of Leicester City and the points raised.