A year ago Tuesday, Leicester City were celebrating a historic title triumph, but Saturday’s victory at West Brom that effectively ensured Premier League survival felt hugely important, too.
Jamie Vardy’s winner takes the Foxes on 40 points, a sixth victory in nine matches a far cry from the wretched form which cost championship mastermind Claudio Ranieri his job in February.
Vardy and keeper Kasper Schmeichel gave their shirts to Foxes fans at the Hawthorns in gleeful scenes at the end of a match that took the champions up to 11th in the table with four games to go.
Danny Drinkwater believes a mid-table finish, on the back of a thrilling run to the quarter-finals in their first ever crack at the Champions League will represent a successful campaign.
The midfielder said: “We’re in different places after last year, but as long as we hit the targets we set out at the start of the season then we won’t complain.
May 2, 2016 — Tottenham’s draw with Chelsea makes Leicester champions:
- HMRC visit Newcastle’s St James’s Park0:35
- Timeline of Joey Barton’s most controversial mome2:30
- Russian hooligans fight in the woods1:02
- Kevin de Bruyne brilliantly pulls off basketball 0:30
- Five Liverpool stars who loved playing against Ev1:23
- Paul Ince calls Jacqui Oatley ‘darling’ on ITV0:35
- Bastian Schweinsteiger mobbed by fans as he arriv0:44
- Gabbiadini shows off his finishing ability2:48
- Police appeal after Wolves vs Birmingham violence2:32
Leicester players celebrate at Jamie Vardy’s house
“If somebody said we would go to the quarter-finals of the Champions League and finish 10th [Leicester are a point behind 10th-placed Bournemouth, but have played a game less], then a lot of people would have been snapping hands off for that.
“If we can carry on winning a few more games then hopefully there won’t be any complaints. As a team and individually we know our strengths and weaknesses, and it was more a matter of playing to our strengths.”
Vardy’s 14th goal this term came just before half-time — it was the England international’s ninth in 12 games since The Tinkerman left amid player dissent.
His individual turnaround has been as dramatic as the team’s since they reverted to last season’s title-winning formation.
It seems just a matter of time until Ranieri’s successor Craig Shakespeare, officially only in charge until the end of the season, is appointed permanent manager.
He has restored Leicester’s belief and lofty ambitions, which Drinkwater says will see them target Europe next term.
Drinkwater added: “We’re all behind Shakes if he gets the job, definitely. I think that’s something that will get sorted out sooner rather than later, hopefully. It’s up to the owners but as long as we’re safe, the staff can look after that side of it and we can look after things on the pitch.
“We’re a good, tight-knit squad. We just need to hopefully regroup, recruit well and push on again.
“The targets will differ depending on who is in charge but I think we’ll definitely have no doubts about getting into the European spots. The experience of the Champions League has been immense, so hopefully we can push on and take that into next season.”
West Brom, aiming for a club-record Premier League points tally of 50, have now failed to score in five consecutive games for the first time in their history, losing the last four.
It saw Baggies boss Tony Pulis kop flak from some fans who booed the team off.
With striker Salomon Rondon continuing to misfire, centre-back Gareth McAuley — their second-highest scorer in the league with six goals — admitted: “We just can’t buy a goal at the moment.
“It’s now five games without a goal and it’s starting to play on our minds. We just need a goal to break that duck and get us out of that rut. We need a goal to get that off our backs and move on.”