Personal

For the love of the Foxes

It feels like the right time to explore the other half of the name for this blog. The Foxes. It’s no secret for those who know me, that one of my true loves in life is my football team; Leicester City. Outside of my family, it’s my longest love. A hobby, a passion and a huge part of me. I appreciate that to some, football seems pointless. You may never understand why a football team could bring me to tears, both through sadness and through happiness. That’s fine, there are many things other people love that I could never understand, or be interested in. But for me, my football team isn’t just a weekend hobby. It’s a sense of belonging, of escape (well, sometimes) and something that feels deeply in my blood now. So why, you ask? Well, where do I start.

Being from Grimsby, you could easily argue that Leicester isn’t the standard choice of teams. I owe that one to my Dad, born in Leicester. I grew up seeing him go to football, be angered or elated by football, take time out of a dream family holiday to accommodate football and when old enough to begin to ‘get it’, I wanted to go. So of course I never wanted to go to Grimsby. Not that I was to know how differently the two clubs’ favours would fair from that year on. For those not in the know, both teams were in the same league at the point of me starting my football supporting journey. Now, Leicester City sit in the Premier League, still in the mix of the Champions League. Grimsby, sit in League Two having endured their fair share of pain and relegation over the years, though having recently fought their way back into the league again. While a popular belief among some that I ‘chose the bigger club’, let’s be honest, as an eight-year-old, I didn’t purposefully do that.

Home games weren’t really home games. While most strolled out of their houses anywhere between 1pm and 2pm, we’d already made the two hour journey and parked up by this point. That same two hour journey on the return could feel particularly long after a defeat. Of which there were many for me before I saw a win. You wouldn’t have blamed my Dad had he decided to stop me taking me due to me seeming like a bad omen initially. You could also be fooled for thinking that I may have regretted my decision to ask to go these games. Except I never did. I still remember how it felt to walk into Filbert Street for the first time. It was a foreign experience to me, but I loved it. Every second of it. I guess I never really looked back, my passion didn’t drop and we attended more games where possible until I did see us pick up a win.

I suppose you could say traipsing around the country to watch them has always been a part of me, and why I did the stupidity that was Bristol, Plymouth and Blackpool away in the space of twelve days. A total of something like 22 hours worth of driving, not to mention it was during winter, so 6 hours of getting to our destination and then sitting out in the cold.  I thought home games were incredible, but then I discovered away games. It has to be to do with being the minority, having that siege mentality and often the effort/money you’ve put into getting there that makes them, often, one step better. There’s more chanting, you can often stand, goal celebrations are usually more wild and if your team does win, it feels like a bigger achievement. So many of my favourite moments and memories come from these days. Like a last-minute equaliser that saw me end up at the front of the stand with no recollection of how I got there. Or a diversion-filled trip on the way back from Cardiff that felt like we’d stepped onto the set of a horror film. Chants in motorway service stations, banter with opposition fans, pulling off the seemingly impossible at Manchester City and the huge grin on my face the whole way home. It’s quality time spent with friends, or family, in the name of something you love, even when it lets you down.

The ups and downs over the years have been big. It’ll be nine years in a month or so since they truly broke my heart, relegation to our lowest point, League One. I loved the season that followed as we built a team I grew to love more than many before. Highs generally followed, though I’d be lying if I ignored standing inside Cardiff’s stadium having lost a penalty shootout in the play-offs or that I didn’t spend a portion of that night crying. Then there’s the similar feeling that happened against Watford. It doesn’t outweigh the heights of seeing us lift the League One title, or finally securing our Premier League return. Then there’s last season.

Leicester City won the Premier League. Even now, ten months on, it feels strange to say that. We won it by ten points too, there can be no doubt that we deserved it. It’ll likely be the single biggest achievement, an unexpected one anyway, in football for a while. It was a season unlike any other and resulted in some of the happiest days of my life. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. I’ve never been prouder of my club and even though this season hasn’t exactly gone how we wanted, that shine can never be lost. A 5000-1 chance. I’ll never forget the moment I first truly allowed myself to dare to believe it was possible. The win away at Man City was magnificent. We were unplayable and I still get emotional just watching that Riyad Mahrez goal. I spent the whole drive home in a state of joy thinking ‘we could seriously do this!’. The weeks that follow moved from a feeling of being tense to almost losing that faith, to that penalty against West Brom and then to finally realising we couldn’t lose it. I’m not sure we’ll ever top that moment, and I’m ok with that. It made up for any pain in the past they’ve caused me.

I’ve been going to football for almost twenty years now. There was one brief spell I fell out of love with it, during a tough teenage year where I think I lost some of myself and I’m still not really sure why. I missed it though, more than I allowed myself to admit at first. My return was inevitable and sealed as I moved back to Leicester, back to feeling at home and more like myself again. I’ve not looked back since. Sure, I don’t go to every single away game anymore, being an adult sort of took over and I can’t justify spending £100 every other weekend on football anymore, but I’ll always be found watching, cheering on. Even when seemingly everybody else is against us, I love this club. Players and managers have come and gone. Sometimes it’s been more upsetting than others, but it’s inevitable. I’ll never forget Claudio Ranieri for example, for his part in delivering the happiest season of my life, but I still believe it had to be done for the club’s future.

My family will always be my number ones. So will Chris, my boyfriend, who suffers me getting ridiculously over-excited or incredibly frustrated and who knows that sometimes our weekends have to be planned or re-organised due to football. Leicester City were my first real love though, and it’s something I can’t imagine changing now. I met my best friend because of football, I’ve travelled the width and breadth of the country, gone through every possibly weather condition you can think of, or so it feels, in the name of Leicester and spent more money than I care to think about. It’s all been worth it though. I’ve had enough special moments watching this club to last a lifetime and there’s still a chance for more. Tuesday night marks one of the biggest nights for our club. It should be pretty special.

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