The History Of Leicester City Football Club
Leicester Fosse Football Club was formed in the spring of 1884, by a group of Old Wyggestonians and members of the Bible class at the old Emanuel Church in New Parks Street. Football was beginning to establish itself in popularity across the country as the sport of the working classes and, in Leicestershire, would soon rival the fare on offer from the already established cricket and rugby clubs.
The club played their inaugural fixture in a private field near to Fosse Road, against another local team from the north end of the town, Syston Fosse. However, for the rest of the season, the usual venue was the Racecourse, more commonly known as Victoria Park. For their first seven years Fosse only played friendlies. The Football League itself was not formed until 1888, and a number of regional leagues sprang up to act as proving grounds for ambitious clubs throughout the land. During that period, the club experienced a nomadic existence, with the home turf varying from Victoria Park to Belgrave Road and on to Mill Lane. In 1888, Fosse showed their ambition by signing their first ever professional, Harry Webb from Stafford Rangers, who was paid the princely sum of 2s. 6d. (12 ½ p) per week.
Fosse's fixture list gradually expanded to encompass clubs from outside of the county, though the local rivalry that had quickly grown up between the town clubs and their North Leicestershire counterparts was soon focussed on the meetings between the two predominant teams of the period, Leicester Fosse and Loughborough Town. Both were eager to achieve Football League status and both took the same step towards that objective in 1891 by applying for, and being elected to, a place in the Midland League.
However, Fosse's ambitions were nearly scuppered when the Leicester Corporation closed the Mill Lane ground, claiming the land for building purposes. The County Cricket Club came to the immediate rescue, hiring out their Aylestone Road ground for the early part of the season, whilst Fosse moved quickly to secure the lease on a site close to the canal, bound on one side by Filbert Street.
A year earlier, Fosse had joined the F.A. and played their first ever English Cup tie at Mill Lane in October 1890. The move to Filbert Street came just 13 months later, after just three Midland League fixtures at Aylestone Road. Three years in the Midland League, culminating in a runners-up spot in 1894, were enough to satisfy Fosse that the time was right to apply for membership of the recently formed Division Two of the Football League. The lobbying done by the board must have been effective, as Fosse were elected in the summer of 1894, with a maximum 20 votes.
The first ever Football League game resulted in a 3-4 reverse at Grimsby, though the first victory was achieved a week later, at home to Rotherham Town. Fosse also recorded the club's record victory that season, defeating Notts Olympic 13-0 in an F A Cup Qualifying Round game.
Fosse soon became established as a Second Division club, whilst Filbert Street was also in demand, being used for one Test Match (to decide on promotion and relegation) in 1895, and two Amateur Cup Finals, in 1896 and 1900. Times were sometimes tough around the turn of the century, and Fosse actually had to apply for re-election in 1904. A better period followed, and a victory at Stoke in April 1908 secured promotion to the top flight, as runners-up to Bradford City. However, the harsh reality was that Fosse were not well enough equipped for the First Division and relegation was quick to follow. April 1909 was a time that would go down in the annals of the Football League, with Fosse involved in a game that resulted in a record scoreline. Sadly, it was Leicester on the wrong end as local rivals, Nottingham Forest ran out 12-0 winners. A subsequent enquiry into Fosse's poor show revealed that most of the players had been out the day before the game, celebrating the wedding of former team-mate "Leggy" Turner, who had joined Everton only weeks earlier.
Back in Division Two, in 1910, Fosse had their first real taste of the excitement of an F A Cup run, reaching the quarter-final before losing to eventual winners, Newcastle United at St James' Park. Then, in the summer of 1913, the club experienced their first ever overseas tour, playing five games in Sweden. However, finances were tight, and the club began to struggle in the league once more as the war clouds began to gather over Europe. As the league competition was suspended in 1915, Fosse's last act was to secure re-election once more, again topping the poll with 33 votes.
After four years of Regional fare during World War One, the financial problems that had beset the club came to a head and Leicester Fosse had to be wound up, with a new club being reconstructed to take their place in July 1919. With the old borough of Leicester being elevated to city status earlier that summer, the new club was appropriately christened Leicester City Football Club.
The inter-war years included a number of landmarks for the club, many of which came about through the drive of new manager Peter Hodge, a shrewd Scot, who signed some of City's finest players, including Johnny Duncan, Adam Black, who eventually set a club record of 528 league appearances, Ernie Hine, Arthur Lochhead and the incomparable goal machine, Arthur Chandler, who's 273 strikes for City is a mark that has never been bettered. Oddly, the first landmark was something of an unwanted one, as City were involved in the game that was recorded as having the lowest league attendance ever, just 13 spectators. In fact the fixture against Stockport County was played at Old Trafford due to the home club's own ground being closed and formed the second part of a double header, Manchester United playing Derby County earlier in the afternoon. The total of 13 represented the additional paying customers between the two games and an actual crowd estimated at around 2,000 were present to watch the game.
Hodge's team secured the Second Division title for the first time in 1925, playing in front of a new Main Stand, built in 1921, and with skipper John Duncan setting a new scoring record en route, hitting six goals in a 7-0 demolition of Port Vale on Christmas Day 1924. By September 1926, City actually topped Division One for the first time and were genuine championship contenders for a number of years. In the end, their best ever finish was to be runners-up to Sheffield Wednesday in 1929. That same season saw Arthur Chandler equal Duncan's scoring feat, hitting six in a 10-0 home win over Portsmouth, which still stands as the club's league record. A season earlier, Filbert Street had been full to the rafters, literally, for the F A Cup Fifth Round tie against Tottenham Hotspur, with a record attendance figure of 47,298 being recorded.
The 1930's saw the decline of City's finest team, though the club rallied to reach the F A Cup semi-final for the first time in 1934, before losing to Portsmouth at St Andrews. Relegation followed in 1935, but the club quickly rallied to capture the Second Division title again two years later, a feat achieved in no small way thanks to the goalscoring exploits of Jack Bowers who hit 33 goals in just 27 league games to fire City from the lower reaches of the table to the very pinnacle. As war loomed once more, so City's fortunes again slumped, and relegation in 1939 only just proceeded the abandonment of the Football League competition once again.
This time the break for Regional football was seven seasons, and City looked to be only a moderate Second Division outfit when the competition resumed. Indeed the club was struggling to avoid relegation in 1949 when they embarked on that historic first ever trip to Wembley. A wonderful semi-final performance, inspired by Don Revie, saw League Champions-elect, Portsmouth, defeated in the semi-final at Highbury, resulting in the club facing Wolves beneath the twin towers in April 1949. The 1-3 reverse could not dent the civic pride in the achievement, though just one week later, a vital draw in the final fixture at Cardiff was just enough to avoid the drop into Division Three.
The rebuilding took place slowly, with the key signing being that of another prince of marksmen, Arthur Rowley. His goals steered City to another Second Division crown in 1954 and, though instant relegation followed, the "Gunner" later topped the League charts with 44 goals in 1956-57 as City won a fourth Division Two championship with a club record number of points and goals. When Rowley left Leicester in 1958, he had notched up 265 goals for the Filberts and he would eventually set a league career record with 434 strikes in total.
Between 1957 and 1969, City enjoyed their longest ever unbroken spell in the top flight. Most of this period was spent under the guidance of manager Matt Gillies, another Scot and one of the sport's true gentlemen. That period also established the popularity of evening soccer in Leicester, with floodlights being installed at Filbert Street for the first time in the summer of 1957.
The swinging sixties saw City reach no less than five cup finals under Gillies' guidance. Trips to Wembley in the FA Cup in 1961, 1963 and 1969 all ended in disappointment. The first saw City defeated 0-2 on the afternoon that Tottenham became the first team to achieve the double this century, whilst the second was a huge let down as a struggling Manchester United team suddenly discovered their touch to win 3-1 against a Filberts' outfit that had topped Division One as late as Easter and had finally finished in fourth place. Both of these games saw Gordon Banks in goal for Leicester, and City's custodian would go on to represent the club as part of England's greatest ever line-up, winning the World Cup at Wembley in 1966. Another City hero of that time was defender Graham Cross, who would go on to set an overall appearance record for the club with 599 games.
City did capture their first ever silverware in 1964, beating Stoke City over two legs to win the Football League Cup, though they lost the final the following season, to a resurgent Chelsea outfit. The club also tasted European competition for the first time, entering the European Cup-Winners Cup in 1961-62, as Spurs were committed to the European Cup, though any dreams of glory were dashed in round two by a much more experienced Atletico Madrid team that eventually went on to win the trophy. City's most recent F A Cup Final appearance ended in a 0-1 defeat against Manchester City and, three weeks later, their final act of the decade was to suffer a return to the Second Division once more.
By that time Peter Shilton had replaced Banks between the sticks and he helped the club to another Division Two crown in 1971. The club celebrated by capturing the Charity Shield, defeating Liverpool 1-0 at Filbert Street to mark the arrival of another popular manager in Jimmy Bloomfield. The Londoner's team soon became renowned for their style and flair, with such names as Keith Weller, Alan Birchenall, Len Glover and the incomparable Frank Worthington in the line-up. Yet somehow, City always fell short of achieving greatness during that period; the nearest they came being an F A Cup semi-final appearance in 1974 that ended in a replay defeat by Liverpool, Kevin Keegan and all, at Villa Park. Relegation in 1978 signalled the start of a period of yo-yo years for City. Jock Wallace arrived to inspire a new crop of talented youngsters to a record sixth Second Division championship in 1980 and, though he suffered relegation a year later, another F A Cup semi-final in 1982. One such youngster to emerge under Wallace was a local lad named Gary Lineker, whose blistering speed and eye for goal would eventually take him to the very brink of an all-time scoring record for England.
Promotion was secured once more with a late run in 1983 but it was back to Division Two by 1987 and to the brink of relegation once more by the final game of the 1990-91 campaign. A famous 1-0 win over Oxford United, with Tony James grabbing the vital goal, proved enough to preserve the club's proud record of never having played outside of the top two divisions and the arrival of Brian Little at the helm during that summer would prove the catalyst for another revival.
Indeed, the nineties have actually surpassed the sixties with an incredible six trips to Wembley for the Blue Army of fans. The significant factor in this has been the introduction of the play-offs system to decide the final promotion place. It actually took Little three years to get the Foxes back into the top flight, but what thrills there were on the way. 1992 was the summer in which the Premier League came into existence, with the remaining Divisions being renumbered. City had their chance of reaching the new league after a stunning 5-0 thrashing of Cambridge took them back to the twin towers after a 23 year gap, to face Blackburn Rovers in the Play-Off Final. A penalty from City old boy Mike Newell, controversially awarded after David Speedie tangled with City skipper Steve Walsh, was enough to earn the Lancastrians promotion, but not before Carl Muggleton distinguished himself by saving a second Newell spotkick.
City were back at Wembley a year later, only to lose promotion to another debatable penalty award. This time Swindon Town were the victors, but not before the Foxes made their own mark on Wembley history by recovering from a 0-3 deficit to draw level during a stunning 12 minute period in the second half.
In 1994, Little took City to the Play-Off Final for the third successive season, and this time a brace from Steve Walsh was enough to deny local rivals, Derby County, 2-1 and enable the Foxes to finally record a victory at the home of football at the seventh attempt. By this time a gulf was beginning to emerge between the Premier League and the rest and City found it impossible to bridge the gap, suffering instant relegation once more.
Under new manager, Martin O'Neill, City rallied during the second half of 1995-96 to return to the Play-Off Final for the fourth time in five years. This time the Foxes turned in an outstanding display to overcome Crystal Palace 2-1 but not before the most dramatic of finishes. In the last minute of extra-time, with the scores level and the prospect of a penalty shoot-out looming, O'Neill removed goalkeeper Kevin Poole, to send on giant Australian Zeljko Kalac. Everyone was momentarily distracted and Palace were slow to react to City's free kick, enabling Steve Claridge to fire home an unlikely winner with just four seconds remaining.
Under O'Neill City have this time established themselves back in the Premier League, finishing in the top half in three successive seasons. In two of those the Foxes have also returned to Wembley in the League Cup in it's various guises. In 1997, City drew 1-1 with Middlesbrough, with Swedish defender Pontus Kaamark playing the key role by marking the dangerous Brazilian Juninho out of the game. In the replay, at Hillsborough, Kaamark again did his duty and Steve Claridge was on hand to rifle home an extra-time winner. Skipper Steve Walsh earned the Man of the Match award as a fitting tribute to many years as a cult hero on the Filbert Street terraces.
That victory earned City another trip to Europe in 1997-98, this time in the UEFA Cup, but incredibly, it was once again Atletico Madrid who ended the adventure, just as they had 36 years earlier. The spring of 1999 once again saw the Blue Army marching down Wembley way. Another League Cup Final appearance, this time against Tottenham Hotspur, but this time the end was heartbreaking for the Foxes as a last gasp injury time goal took the trophy to North London.
That disappointment was short-lived though, as Leicester went on to continue their remarkable success in the League Cup competition with victory over Tranmere Rovers to lift the trophy at Wembley. Further triumph was obtained in the Premiership with the fourth top ten finish in four years for the club.
Then manager Martin O'Neill decided it was time for a new challenge, with former England Under 21 boss Peter Taylor his replacement.
Taylor took City to the top of the Premiership in October 2001, but defeat against Wycombe Wanderers in the quarter finals of the FA Cup during the 2000-01 season started a downward spiral before he was sacked in October 2001 on the back of 14 defeats in 18 games.
A management team of Dave Bassett and Micky Adams took over following the departure of Taylor, bringing a new sense of optimism into the camp. Although the team failed to avoid relegation, Adams eventually took total charge of team affairs with four games of the season remaining - a spell that culminated in victory over Tottenham Hotspur in the final ever league game to be played at Filbert Street on the back of three draws.
The departure of midfielder Robbie Savage and defender Garry Rowett followed as the team prepared for life in Nationwide League Division One.
After a good start on the pitch, the club entered administration in October 2002. A traumatic four months followed, before a Gary Lineker led consortium bought the club in February 2003.
With a relative stability returned off the pitch, Adams continued to perform miracles on it - and with a small squad the Foxes managed to clinch the runners-up spot in the division with a 2-0 home victory over Brighton - ironically Adams' former club.
Adams prepared for the Premiership campaign by signing a new three-year contract with the club - and was also finally able to dip into the transfer market upon the lifting of an administration linked embargo.
Steve Howey (Manchester City), Ricky Scimeca (Nottingham Forest), Paul Brooker (Brighton), Danny Coyne (Grimsby), Keith Gillespie (Blackburn), Lilian Nalis (Chievo), Les Ferdinand (West Ham), Craig Hignett (Blackburn), Nicolas Priet (Lyon), Jon Curtis (Blackburn), Ben Thatcher (Tottenham) all joined up over the close season period, while Marcus Bent signed on a year long loan deal from Ipswich Town on deadline day.
Despite the best efforts of Micky Adams and his coaching squad the Foxes are unable to retain their Premiership status and are relegated to the newly named Coca Cola Championship. A total of 13 players are released as Adams looks to rebuild his squad for the new campaign. Leicester-born Dion Dublin is the big capture of the summer, with Gareth Williams (Nottingham Forest), Danny Tiatto (Manchester City), Jason Wilcox (Leeds United), Chris Makin (Ipswich Town), Nathan Blake (Wolves), Joey Gudjonsson (Real Betis), David Connolly (West Ham United), Martin Keown (Arsenal) and Kevin Pressman also joining the ranks.
Adams resigned as boss in October 2004 after collecting 16 points from the opening 12 games of the Championship campaign. Dave Bassett stepped in as caretaker boss and brought in former England manager Howard Wilkinson to assist him on a temporary basis.
Craig Levein took over the stewardship moving to the Walkers Stadium from Hearts, and brought in Rob Kelly (assistant manager) Peter Houston (coach) and Kenny Black (coach) to complete his backroom staff line up.
After just 14 months in charge, Levein left the club in January 2006 - with the club lodged in the Championship relegation places. The role was filled by Rob Kelly, who managed to steer the club away from relegation, with only two defeats over the remainder of the season. He was then rewarded with a one-year rolling contract.
Kelly made four captures during the summer - bringing Andy Johnson (WBA), Gareth McAuley (Lincoln), Josh Low (Northampton) and Darren Kenton (Southampton) into his squad. Free agent Danny Cadamarteri followed at the turn of the year, with Mark Yeates (Spurs), Geoff Horsfield (Sheffield United), Jason Jarrett (Preston) and Shaun Newton (West Ham) all joining the club on loan until the end of the 2006-07 campaign.
Former Portsmouth chairman Milan Mandaric formally became the new owner of the club following an EGM at the Walkers Stadium in March 2007.
The club were relegated to the third tier of English football for the first time in their history at the end of the 2007-08 campaign. Former Southampton manager Nigel Pearson was installed as boss during the summer for the assault on League One.
But the Foxes stay was short-lived as they secured an instant return to the Championship in April 2009 with a 2-0 victory at Southend United - the win also guaranteed Leicester City would return as Coca-Cola League One champions.