Leicester’s land of hope and (now) glory

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

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So dreams really do come true. Even the impossible ones.

It’s a triumph against seemingly insurmountable odds, arguably the greatest upset in the history of team sport.

We’re talking, of course, about Leicester City Football Club’s (the Foxes) stunning, stirring, stupendous success in winning the English Premier League last night.

Gianni Infantino, President of football governing body FIFA, described it as a “beautiful story”, and a “fairy tale”.

It is both. But it is also so very much more. It is a tale of nearly men become heroes. Of journeymen turned superstars. Of rejects rendered champions.

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It is a tale of a 64 year old Italian football manager, seemingly stepping softly into the twilight of a long, modestly successful career, one that had seen him come close time and again to a defining championship title without quite getting over the line.  A gentle and good man of whom The Guardian newspaper wrote at the start of this season: “If Leicester wanted someone nice, they’ve got him. If they wanted someone to keep them in the Premier league, they may have gone for the wrong guy.”  A man whose appointment prompted ex-Leicester and England star turned TV pundit Gary Linker to sneer “Claudio Ranieri? Really?” Nobody is sneering now.

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It is also, importantly, a tale of humility, belief and sensible investment. That investment has come, of course, from King Power International Group of Companies, the Thai travel retailer whose Chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha (above) made the big decision to invest in the ultra-competitive English football world back in 2010.

Vichai is a modest, shy man, a devout Buddhist who lets his deeds rather than his words do the talking and eschews the public limelight. But boy, can he run a business. In Susan Whelan, his Senior Executive Vice President, Khun Vichai knew he had a no-nonsense, thoroughly grounded, wholly reliable and innately resilient individual who would run the club in the right way as CEO. Despite being one of the very few women in the top echelons of the game, Susan too has seldom been in the media glare, preferring to focus on the business while somehow juggling a lifestyle commuting between Bangkok, London and Leicester.

And finally, of course, it is a tale of supporters’ wildest, most impossible yearnings become reality. Of ordinary men and women from an understated city in the English Midlands town who supported their team year in and year out with never-ending hope but precious little glory. Today as they wake from their slumbers, many no doubt much the worse for wear after celebrations that will have run long into the night, they can pinch themselves and know that last night’s dreams were indeed real.

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[Free of duty at the King Power stadium as Leicester City close in on sporting immortality: Susan Whelan with (left to right) her husband Robbie Gill, Owner of The Design Solution; Rodger Craig, Director of Inflight Initiatives and ardent Foxes fan; and Martin Moodie]

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