With Leicester City flying high towards the top of the Premier League, talk has turned as to whether the Foxes winning the title would better the achievements of their East Midlands rivals Nottingham Forest during the late 70’s and early 80s, when they won back-to-back European Cups.
Now first of all let me tell you, I am way too young to remember Forest winning the league and then going onto become champions of Europe two years running, so this isn’t a piece for me to wax lyrical about how the Reds used to be really good.
Brian Clough took Forest from 15th in the division to title winners and then embarked on a successful European campaign, not just once but twice, and this is where my point will become evident about Leicester’s success.
Should the Foxes go onto become the winners of the 2015/16 Premier League, I don’t dispute that it will be a superb achievement, I would say the best since the Premier League was formed in 1992, without any shadow of a doubt.
If you look at other surprise winners of competitions in the past the proof of whether a side is truly great is inevitably measured by their ability to retain the title the next time around.
Greece won the European Championships in 2004, yet in 2008 were eliminated at the group stages with a less than impressive zero points. During the same year FC Porto were crowned Champions League winners under Jose Mourinho, yet fluffed their lines at the first knockout round the following year.
It isn’t just football that this takes place either. Shaun Murphy was world snooker champion in 2005 but hasn’t won it since, Jim Furyk one of America’s finest golfers won the US Open in 2003 and hasn’t lifted another major since whilst Richard Krajicek won Wimbledon in 1996 and then seemingly fell from the earth’s surface.
The point I am making is that should Leicester win the Premier League it would be astonishing, frankly ridiculous given today’s money crazed culture that we see in football, but the real debate towards greatness will come during next season when they have the one prize that everyone wants firmly in their possession.
Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool will all be back bigger and better next season and will see Leicester as the team that they must ultimately topple to achieve their ultimate goals.
A league is won by being consistent on a regular basis, which would make Leicester’s title glory ridiculously good, but back in the day when Forest won the European Cup the competition was a straight knockout featuring only Europe’s elite teams, in other words, a competition just for the champions. If you lost you were out, no second chances, no round robin stage of six fixtures, just two matches with the winners progressing.
Nottingham Forest went to Europe, collected the trophy and then against all the odds, stepped back among the elite and conquered all once again despite harbouring the additional pressure of being the holders and that for me gives Forest the edge over their counterparts when we talk about a truly great achievement.