Posted: 15.05.21 at 10:16 by Tom Walker (long-sufering Foxes fan)
It's the FA Cup final as Leicester City take on Chelsea at Wembley Stadium later today.
For a passionate, long-serving Foxes supporter from Hitchin, the day will be bittersweet, as due to Covid protocols, only a small amount of fans will be able to attend.
However, passionate City fan Tom Walker will still be kicking every ball this afternoon, albeit from his front room in north Herts, as he watches the game on TV.
So, ahead of the showpiece event, read on for Tom's reflections on a lifetime of loyal support for the Foxes.
Wembley Stadium might only be 40 miles away from Hitchin, where I currently sit writing this, but today it feels much further away than that.
See, after following Leicester City for 35 years, the club I love has finally made it to the FA Cup final. Due to a combination of a pandemic and not having a season ticket, however, I can’t go.
Instead, I will be stuck at home, watching it on the box.
Going down the pub and enjoying the moment with fellow fans isn’t an option either. Unless, of course, there is a group of Leicester fans in Hitchin who have kept themselves hidden from sight for the past 18 years that I’ve lived in the area.
To be honest, I wouldn’t blame them. Being a Leicester fan often makes you feel like hiding.
But not today.
It was always my dream to witness this day – City at Wembley in May, playing for the FA Cup.
Partly because, growing up, I saw it as the only way Leicester could ever win a “real” trophy. Let’s face it, the League Cup simply isn’t the same, while being able to finish at the top of Division 1 (or, Premier League, as it is now called) wasn’t even a consideration for me. How could it?
Forget our relatively successful recent history.
The past five years are not an accurate reflection of what being a Leicester fan entails.
From the late 1970s to early 90s, Leicester was a yo-yo club – promotion to the top table of English football would inevitably be followed by relegation back to the second tier. “Back where we belong”, was the traditional take of the characteristically dour and downcast City fan – including mine.
While this is the first time Leicester are appearing in the FA Cup final during my lifetime, my wait – ironically – hasn’t been that long.
Many have suffered for much longer. The mighty Foxes’ last appearance in what used to be the end-of-season showpiece was back in 1969.
To put that in context, the last time the Foxes appeared in the final, humans hadn’t even visited the moon yet.
This isn’t to say that we haven’t got pedigree in the tournament.
In fact, we hold a unique record in the FA Cup. Having made it to the final four times (1949, 1961, 1963 and 1969), we have the proud honour of being the team making the most appearances in the final without actually ever winning the cup.
Yep, we lost the lot. Every single one. That, for Leicester fans, sums our club up.
I don’t much fancy our chances today either, against a strong Chelsea side reinvigorated by the tactical and strategic genius of Thomas Tuchel.
So, at least when/if we lose, we have something to console ourselves with – extending that record of losing finals to five, making it even harder for anyone to beat.
So when the clock strikes 5.15pm today (I still think the FA Cup Final should always kick off at 3pm, by the way), spare a thought for little old me.
I’ll be consigned watching what could be a once-in-a-lifetime event at home, on a TV. I’m only 40 miles away from Wembley, where Leicester could take one small step to glory – but I might as well be on the moon.
And for all you Chelsea fans out there, good luck. Not that you’ll need it.
In fact, any chance of letting us have this one? In return, I’ll promise to back you in the Champions League final against that Manchester team!
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