Football fans like me, and those less enamoured of the beautiful game, have been captivated by the Leicester City story over the last few months, as a team of outsiders outfoxed everybody to win the Premier League.
They have left in their wake innumerable memories and have seemingly changed the rules over success in football. One thing they have also changed is the English language.
Thankfully, I don’t mean regular use of the phrase ‘Dilly Ding, Dilly Dong’, the reference by their urbane manager Claudio Ranieri to the imaginary bell he rings in training sessions to get his players’ attention. That phrase has popped up in coverage and is I think adorning flags and clothing, but I don’t think it’s a stayer. Unlike a phrase used by everybody else, especially pundits. After all, they like nothing more than being able to ask: ‘Who will be the next team to do a Leicester?’
So what does ‘to do a Leicester’ actually mean? Does it mean to assemble a group of rejected and also-ran players, forge them together into an unstoppable force and then watch as they conquer all before them? Not really, but it could.
Does it mean resurrecting the career of a manager whose best days were thought behind him, giving him the platform to rebuild his reputation and into the bargain delivering him the big trophy had eluded him his entire career? Again, no.
Does it mean forcing pundits to eat humble pie because of their absolute certainty that this couldn’t be done and they would go on television in their underpants if it did? Sadly not.
Does it mean defying the bookmakers to such an extent that they will no longer offer such ludicrously long odds on something not impossible taking place? Again no.
Does it mean creating a team spirit so energising and a bond so great, a joy so profound that the whole country is carried along with the journey and is cheering with the diehard supporters when the trophy is finally lifted? Again no. But like all the examples above, it could.
And this goes to show that the Leicester story is unique, and to truly ‘do a Leicester’, all of the above would have to be in place. It is not what anybody means whey they use the phrase. They simply mean which unexpected team can break through the ranks next and win something, which average performer in any sport will suddenly have a breakthrough year and achieve what was previously thought impossible. Whoever now has an unexpected triumph will be said to be ‘doing a Leicester’.
But as the details of this story have shown us, there were so many elements which made up the Leicester fairytale that the only people capable of truly doing a Leicester are, well, Leicester.