Book Review: The Unbelievables
Published by De Coubertin Books
Longer term readers of The Two Unfortunates will recall David Bevan and his deservedly popular site, The Seventy Two which chronicled all things Football League for a few years earlier in the decade – indeed, you can access all the posts from the blog’s excellent history, including many from contributors who have gone on to greater fame and fortune at the link David very kindly provided us on temporarily hanging up his writing and editing boots.
Since then, it’s all gone a bit stratospheric for David’s beloved Leicester City and his latest project has been a brilliant chronicle of the club’s miracle year of 2015-16, released in book format as The Unbelievables. The book is available for order here while below, fellow Foxes fan Emily Kindleysides provides her thoughts on the volume. David can be followed on twitter at @Unbelievables_.
As the final months of Leicester City’s unlikely title campaign ticked down, publishers were rushing to commission books in the event of the impossible becoming possible. Many, such as Rob Tanner’s 5000-1, have been written by journalists, whilst more offbeat offerings have included King Power, purportedly by King Richard III himself. David Bevan’s The Unbelievables offers a fan’s eye view of the events of this most surprising of seasons.
I should preface this review by declaring my own lack of neutrality in proceedings, having been a season ticket holder in the Filbert Street Kop during the heady days of the Martin O’Neill era. Bevan also harks back to these glory days in his book, drawing comparisons between the title winning side and the spirit of Leicester’s legendary team of the late 90s. For most Leicester City fans, the O’Neill years were a magical time to be a fan, and Steve Claridge shinning it in at Wembley in the last minute of extra time seemed to be the headiest heights that the club would ever reach.
Set in this context, Bevan presents a game-by-game account of the title-winning season, in all its eccentric, pizza eating, earthquake inducing glory. He picks out key matches; the 3-1 victory over Manchester City (“Ninety minutes in Manchester changed everything”), the 2-2 draw against West Ham (“Most fans are incandescent with rage. Some are crying.”), and the 2-1 defeat to Arsenal (“gut-wrenching, pit-of-the-stomach anguish”). I watched the latter game with my dad and brother, and can confirm that Bevan captures the rigors of that day to perfection. The levels of stress were such that my dad reached for his blood pressure monitor and my brother turned puce in the face, threw his phone on the floor in despair and disappeared to the shower.
Bevan’s account weaves in all facets of the story, from the surprising ways in which other teams’ results seemed to fall in Leicester’s favour, to the more comical elements (the theories that the ghost of Richard III was protecting the team from defeat; blue sausages), to the fickleness and revisionist tendencies of the media, who were caught unawares by Leicester’s triumph over so many bigger and more expensively assembled teams.
However, no one was more surprised by events than the fans themselves. The book captures their conflicting feelings, caught between wanting each game to be over and knowing that “we have to enjoy this. We won’t ever experience it again”. He is able to convey what last season’s journey meant to the people of the city of Leicester, describing Claudio Ranieri’s emotional tribute to the fans’ dedication after the away victory over Sunderland (“they are dreaming and we want to continue to dream”), and unprecedented scenes in the city centre as Chelsea’s victory over Spurs sealed the title win. The final home game against Everton saw trains between Leicester and Loughborough grind to a halt under the weight of fan jubilation, with PA announcements telling passengers “if you don’t calm down, we ain’t going nowhere”.
Bevan intersperses his accounts of each game with context in the form of snippets about players, fans, and pivotal moments in the club’s previous history, including the club’s years in the doldrums after Martin O’Neill’s departure. The title victory brought this East Midlands club to the world’s attention, and an understanding of the depths to which the club sank in the early part of this century makes their triumph seem all the more hard to believe. A club that spent the 2008-9 season in League One could never have been expected to win the Premier League in a million years. As Bevan says in his final chapter, “Perhaps our achievement will never sink in”.