Friday 06 May 2016, 08:33

Fan favourites reflect on Leicester's incredible season

They may have been ranked 5000/1 outsiders to finish top of the table at the beginning of the campaign, but Leicester City will lift the English Premier League trophy on Saturday. The image of the title being paraded around the King Power Stadium is still sinking in for two fan favourites: Ian Marshall and Conrad Logan.

Both share a special connection with the Foxes. Frontman Marshall was part of Martin O’Neill’s League Cup-winning side of 2000, widely regarded as the club’s ‘glory days’, where people thought this was as good as it would get for Leicester before 2016’s remarkable title triumph. Goalkeeper Logan, on the other hand, witnessed Leicester’s fall from Premier League to the third-tier and the subsequent rise back to the top-flight, as well as holding the accolade of being the club’s longest-serving player before leaving in 2015.

While both are synonymous with very different eras at the club, they share one thing in common: they never dreamed that Premier League glory would ever grace the city of Leicester. They also agree that the team spirit shown by Claudio Ranieri’s men has been a fundamental element behind their fairy-tale success.

“As a unit of players they’ve been absolutely fantastic, pulling for each other, playing for each other,” said Marshall, speaking exclusively “I think the way they’ve worked as a team is a massive, massive factor."

“A lot of the lads have been there now for a good couple of years and they’re a young enough group of lads, they get on really well together,” agreed Logan, who first joined Leicester's academy in 2001. “They showed a lot of character last year to stay up in the Premier League. It’s probably now come to the forefront because of their achievement, the team spirit, but that hasn’t surprised me because they are a tight-knit group.”

Dreams becoming a reality Claudio Ranieri’s side started the campaign as relegation contenders, before ending it as champions – and Marshall and Logan watched in awe as their former club pulled off the seemingly impossible to claim their first-ever top flight title. While the Foxes returned to the top of the table in the middle of January and continued to maintain their lead, it wasn’t until going seven points clear with six games remaining that Marshall believed the impossible could be achieved.

“I know there are a lot of points to play with but I was just thinking: ‘They’ve only lost three all season. They are not going to lose four in the next six games,'” he said. “If they were only three points ahead, then things could have got really dicey, but because they were so far ahead, I just thought they have to keep themselves clear and go into games just trying to pick up three points, where they’re not worrying about anyone behind them because they were so far forward."

Team effort One of the many instrumental players for the Foxes this campaign was leading talisman Jamie Vardy. The 29-year-old scored in 11 consecutive Premier League matches to break Ruud van Nistelrooij's previous record of ten straight games, inspiring his side to many victories over the course of the season.

“I think he’s been a phenomenon,” said Marshall, a striker and scorer of memorable goals himself during his playing days - having netted against Atletico Madrid in 1997 in one of Leicester's rare European sojourns. “The thing I like about him is his work-rate. He chases people down, a bit like old-school footballers. Players don’t seem to do that anymore. What he’s achieved is amazing and good luck to him. I hope his next four or five years in the Premier League are a success.”

While Logan shared a dressing with many of Leicester’s Premier League-winning side, there’s one player he worked particularly close with during his time at the Foxes: fellow goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

“Every single player has been fantastic this year, but Kasper particularly has been solid and reliable – not just this season, but the four years he’s been at Leicester,” said Logan. “He probably had more saves to make in Championship games where it’s been a bit more helter-skelter and he’s had fantastic seasons previous to this. He’s one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League and always been destined to be there, his ability is second to none."

For the fans A respected figure among the Foxes’ faithful, Logan, now at Scottish side Hibernian, joined Leicester as a 15-year-old before going on to spend 14 years at the club. In that time, he witnessed many changes, including promotions, relegations and 11 different managers, but was ever-present through it all. Like Logan, the fans have stuck by the club through difficult times – and the Irishman is delighted, above all else, to see the supporters witness the Premier League trophy being lifted at the King Power Stadium this weekend.

“I spent pretty much half my life at Leicester City, coming over as a teenager, it’ll always be a club that’s close to my heart,” said Logan, who served as a matchday commentator at the King Power Stadium before making the move north of the border in April.

“The fans have had hard times – it’s not all been as good as this. Administration, relegation to the third-tier – the fans have been through it all during the time I was there. It’s pleasing to see the fans enjoy this moment.”