Graeme Cousins doesn’t know any other Leicester City fans in Northern Ireland so he’s had to breed his own. The content manager of belfastvibe talks about his love affair with the new Premier League champions.
I was never so proud as when I cradled my son Ben in his Leicester City babygrow. He’s now three and sings songs about Jamie Vardy when we’re watching Leicester on TV.
My four-year-old daughter Lucy, despite my best persuasions, says she’s sticking with Man City. But there’s signs she could yet become a Fox. She says her favourite player is Danny Drinkwater, though I reckon that could be more to do with his funny name.
My own love affair with Leicester City Football Club started in 1997. At school I had a soft spot for Liverpool and loved watching Barnes, Beardsley and Rush. When they moved on my interest waned and I needed a club that I could properly support, rather than casually observe.
Leicester ticked all the boxes for me. Their togetherness and fighting spirit was inspirational. I love a goalscoring centre half and Leicester had two in the shape of Steve Walsh and Matt Elliott. Other players I idolised were Steve Guppy, Emile Heskey and Muzzy Izzet. Back in my footballing days I got the nickname Cuzzy Izzet because of my affiliation.
There were strong Northern Ireland links to the team too. Martin O’Neill was the manager, Neil Lennon bossed the midfield and Gerry Taggart came on board in 1998.
The current crop of players is the best I’ve seen since that team. The way they handled the pressure of leading the league rubbishes any talk of experience. With the exception of Huth none of these players have ever won a top division title. Vardy and Mahrez have grabbed the headlines for obvious reasons, but my new favourite is N’Golo Kante – he’s worth about three players.
Ranieri has been an amazing appointment. I wasn’t convinced when we brought him in but he’s proved everyone wrong. He’s instilled a sense of calm and he never dwells on what might have been.
It’s starting to sink in that we’ve won the league. It’s the ultimate fairytale and something that I’m so proud to have been part of. Having been down as far as League One and the source of some ridicule it makes winning the title even sweeter.
I couldn’t get tickets for any of the games this season but myself and my dad (an honorary Leicester fan) went over to the King Power at the end of last season to watch us beat Southampton and help escape relegation. I was at the last game to be played at the old Wembley in 2000 to watch us win the Worthington Cup.
I know there’s other Leicester fans out there in Northern Ireland, though not maybe enough to start a supporters club. After this season we might get a few more. I’ve friends who are Spurs fans. I feel bad for them because they’ve been brilliant this year and we ended up pitted against each other. We’re not exactly historic rivals.
It’s been a great season for me on a personal level. I also support Northern Ireland and Glenavon. I was at Windsor Park to watch Northern Ireland qualify for the Euros and I’ll be there again this Saturday for the Irish Cup Final.