Great Football League Teams 6: Leicester City 1993-4
For the sixth in our burgeoning series of historic pieces, we are thrilled to welcome back David Bevan of the terrific football league website The Seventy Two. In the past few days alone, David’s site has provided a wealth of Christmas reading and I urge you to pay a visit. This is David’s second guest contribution to the Two Unfortunates after an analysis of Paulo Sousa’s early days as Leicester City boss back in August. Those days seem so long ago now that this new article hardly appears any more nostalgic. Enjoy.
Barcelona. Barcelona. Barcelona. Can anyone talk about anything else? They deserve it, admittedly. They are amazing and I love watching them play. But let’s not kid ourselves that this fluid exchange between three brilliant attackers is anything new. Pep Guardiola may have been busy in May 1994, having just helped Barca to their third successive La Liga title and played in a European Cup final against Fabio Capello’s AC Milan, but a small part of me likes to think he was watching my team play and taking notes.
I am joking, of course. My team is Leicester City and the three forwards we fielded for our 1994 Division One play-off final against Derby County were not Lionel Messi, David Villa and Pedro Rodriguez but instead Steve Walsh, Ian Ormondroyd and Iwan Roberts. Ah, where to begin with such happy memories? Walsh, the converted centre-half and bona fide Leicester City legend. Ormondroyd, who would go on to end his City career having struck seven glorious times in 77 games from the centre-forward position. Roberts, actually quite a decent striker. Not sure what he was doing there.
We beat Derby. I still don’t know how, to this day. They had Tommy Johnson and Paul Simpson for crying out loud. But we had mental and physical strength of frightening proportions. We came from behind to win under the Twin Towers, consigning one of our rivals to defeat and making it to the Premier League for the first time. Brian Little, who had taken over a club more accustomed to perennial relegation battles, was a hero.
My life has since taken on such a surreal slant that I ended up interviewing Ormondroyd on my lunch break at work last year. Big Iwan and Walshie are both on Twitter and have both responded to questions in the past too. Back then, they gave me a day of such unparalleled joy, the extent of which it is almost impossible to quantify. I’d grown up watching a terrible team on a regular basis. The highlight was seeing an aeroplane circle the ground trailing a banner that read “PLEAT OUT”. I was so young I’d barely ever seen a plane before, let alone one carrying a slogan in its wake. I thought it would be a regular occurrence. So naive.
The Premier League was still new and exciting in those days, especially to a 10-year-old. I’d watched such global superstars as Gica Popescu and Ilie Dumitrescu lighting up the 1994 World Cup and, suddenly, here they were walking out wide-eyed and wondrous onto the Filbert Street turf. The disbelief was palpable. The Pasadena Rose Bowl it wasn’t. And yes, we beat Spurs.
All of this was made possible by the team that Little moulded. There was such a giant leap of the imagination from the summer of 1991 when he took charge to that glorious day at Wembley three years later. We went there in 1992 and 1993 too, only to be denied by winners from the penalty spot on both occasions. I almost thought it was written into the Football Association rule book that Leicester City must play at Wembley every year. And that, surely, merits a bit of applause.