Leicester battling to avoid same fate as Man City in 1938

06 February 2017 02:53

Leicester's dismal Premier League campaign has put them in danger of becoming only the second English champions to see their title defence end in relegation.

The Foxes still have time to escape the ignominy that befell Manchester City in 1938 but they should be wary there is precedent - albeit rare - for the mighty to fall with the heaviest of bumps.

For Leicester in 2016, see City in 1937. The Maine Road side had won the title for the first time and the outlook was bright.

"As champions, the Blues were expected to be the team to watch," wrote historian Gary James in his book 'Manchester - The City Years'. "They were supposed to be the ones who set the football world alight. Sadly, the new season was astounding for all the wrong reasons."

City lost three of their opening five games and found themselves battling regular criticism thereafter.

There were some obvious high points, notably convincing victories over Derby (6-1 and 7-1), West Brom (7-1), Middlesbrough (6-1) and Leeds (6-2) when they showed their champion qualities.

In fact, they rattled in 80 goals in the course of their 42 games, more than any other team in the division and finished with a positive goal difference.

On the negative side, however, came a run of four successive defeats in December and January and then a torrid sequence through February and March that saw them lose six and win none in eight.

By this stage they were heading for trouble. There are parallels with Leicester, who have shown fleeting glimpses of their old selves in the Champions League and in a routing of Manchester City in December, but lost their last four.

The table is tight, with just two points separating the bottom six teams, and a run of results could see Claudio Ranieri's men pull clear of danger.

But this was something that proved beyond City 79 years ago when the bottom end of the First Division was even tighter.

Going into the final round of games, even 12th-placed Blackpool were still in danger. City's fate was in their hands and they would have survived with a draw.

That might actually have seemed the perfect result given that opponents Huddersfield also needed a point to stay up, but the Terriers went all out for victory having been stung by FA Cup final defeat the previous week.

This is where luck completely deserted City. Their 1-0 defeat would not have been disastrous had any of Grimsby, Portsmouth, Birmingham or Stoke lost - but they all won.

City even felt they should have had a draw after claiming a 35-yard drive from Alec Herd struck the stanchion inside the net and rebounded into play. The referee viewed it had hit the crossbar.

To compound matters, Manchester United were promoted to take City's place in the top flight.

Things have not got so bad for Leicester just yet, but they will be wary of being sucked into such danger. Their position is likely to affect how they prioritise for the remainder of the season.

James reports that at one point in that 1937-38 campaign, City captain Sam Barkas wrote an article for the Manchester Evening Chronicle which he ended with "an admission that his ambition was not now to win the league but to win the FA Cup which, he called, the greatest prize in football".

That prize is still available to Leicester, as is the one now considered even greater, the Champions League, but avoiding the drop is likely to become their biggest battle.

Source: PA


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