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Football Tributes: Andy King
In case you haven’t heard (spoiler alert; you have), Leicester City has won the English Premier League Championship in what might amount to the greatest upset in the history of both football and sports altogether. And that’s only the half of it; truly the Foxes triumph is the story that keeps on giving, what with the charismatic star players, the lovable manager, the against all odds nature of their accomplishment and so on and so forth. And yet, there’s a story related to Leicester’s impossible dream that beats them all. It doesn’t involve Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, Claudio Ranieri, Danny Drinkwater or any other top level talent Leicester has; rather it’s the story of a role player of Leicester’s who has gone from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs, a man who in the Foxes darkest hours led the way and helped them get to the point they are now even as he saw his role reduced. Above all else this story, one that will sadly be seldom told in years to come, is a testament to how loyalty, hard work and perseverance can lead to memorable moments like the one the sports world has seen this week. So take a seat everyone and get comfortable; I present to you hear a football tribute to the heart and soul of Leicester City, their unsung hero and the man whose career parallels the Foxes rise to the top, the one and only Andy King.
What You Already Know
Since this is a column directed at neutrals and sports fans that have only started paying attention to Leicester City’s run recently, I’m going to work under the assumption that the knowledge of Andy King’s career is minimal. As such, the only thing most people know about Andy is that he’s a member of Leicester. And hey, that’s a pretty damn good thing to be known for right now considering every player on the squad will be remembered forever (yes, even Gokhan Inler). Thus Andy King would still be pretty damn notable even if his story wasn’t as awesome as it is.
What You Didn’t Know
Born October 28th, 1988 in Barnstaple, England, Andy King was what many would call a football phenom. How do we know this? Because at the ripe old age of nine years old King signed with the English powerhouse Chelsea and became part of their youth squad. You know you’re good when a club like that signs you at an age that young. In a recent interview with BBC King recalled carrying the Chelsea flag out onto the pitch before Champions League games, the closest till now that he would ever come to playing in the top echelon of football. It was also the closest he would ever get to playing for Chelsea’s professional squad. After spending six years with Chelsea’s youth squad King found himself released by the Blues. Once a highly sought after nine year old, the now ancient fifteen year old King was in search of a fresh start. He got just that when he signed with Leicester City’s youth squad in 2004, short after Chelsea cut him. He would spend two years with Leicester’s youth academy before finally being given a squad number during the 2006-07 season (coincidentally, that was the same year he led his academy squad to the top of Group B in the FA Premier League). A brief trial run with York City later and King was officially signed to a professional contract to begin the 2007-08 Leicester campaign.
Now this is where the story gets good, if for some reason you didn’t think it was already. Most footballers tend to not stay put long; either they become really good and move from club to club as their value increases or they are sent out on loan for a year due to a variety of reasons. Very few players ever stick with one club. Andy King is one of those few; since turning down a possible loan move right before the 07-08 campaign he has never suited up for another club besides Leicester. As such King had the unique perspective of being a part of some unbelievable lows; he is the only member of the current Leicester City squad to have been with the club when they were relegated to the third tier of English football, coincidentally the same year King made his professional debut. Talk about going from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs right?
But while everyone will remember the highs of this season and the heroics of Vardy, Mahrez, Kante, Ranieri and others, all of it likely wouldn’t have been possible if King hadn’t led the Foxes back from rock bottom. A close look at Leicester’s journey to now since 2007 will show that King was the best, most consistent player the club had to offer. No modern day player for Leicester has appeared in more games than King, who has tallied an impressive 293 caps since his debut, a feat good enough to put him eighteenth all time in games played for the club. More impressively was his ability to put the ball in the back of the net. King’s 52 goals are the most ever from a Leicester midfielder and have served as a key component to Leicester’s rise from the third tier all the way to the top of English football. His best season to date would come in the 2010-11 campaign, where he led the club with 16 goals and finished second in appearances with 50 (only fellow midfielder Richie Wellens had more caps with 51). His performance turned Leicester’s season around, taking them from the bottom of the FL Championship (and possible relegation back to the third tier) to a borderline chance of promotion.
Since then King’s career has slowed down. An injury limited him a year after his career season and aside from a solid 2012-13 campaign King has seen his appearances and goals decline (an average of 40 caps per season his first six years has dropped to an average of 29 the past three). Even still King has proven to be a valuable contributor and most recently served as an important substitute in Leicester’s 3-0 win over Swansea City (where he helped set up a Mark Albrighton goal) and again in their 1-1 tie with Manchester United. All in all King appeared in 27 games during Leicester’s title run, contributed two goals and for the first time in his Leicester tenure served as team captain for two games. Best of all, Leicester’s championship allowed King to make history on his own; he is the only footballer in the modern era to have won the third tier, second tier and first tier championships in English football, all with Foxes. If that doesn’t prove to you how loyal and how important Andy King was to the rise of Leicester from the bottom to the top, nothing will.
Amazingly that’s not all though as King has proven to be a pretty reliable international player as well, and not for England. Thanks to the Welsh heritage of his grandfather, King qualified to become a member of Wales’ national team, making his first team debut for the squad in 2009. He’s been a mainstay since, appearing in 33 games and tallying 2 goals and serving as one of the squad’s top players alongside Gareth Bale. Though he’s currently not on the roster, it’s expected that King will be appearing for Wales in the 2016 UEFA Euro this summer, the first ever appearance for the country in the famous competition. In short, life is pretty damn good for Andy King right now is it not?
…I mean what else could it be aside from Leicester’s championship victory? Obviously it would be really easy to pull up a great goal King scored and all that but I’m sure he’d tell you that nothing in his career, aside from whatever Wales does this summer, comes close to what he and the rest of the Foxes accomplished this year. Thus the best moment is Leicester winning the title. That said you’ve all seen the video of King and his teammates celebrating at Jamie Vardy’s house a thousand times, so in addition to that I will also show you a brief video of King highlights set to some pretty terrible rap music. At least the guy who made the video meant well!
It goes without saying that every member of this Leicester City squad had to go through several trials and tribulations on the road to the miracle they just pulled off. But no one has been a more constant presence on this squad than Andy King. He was there when Leicester fell to England’s third tier. He was on the pitch when Troy Deeney broke Leicester’s heart in 2013 with a stoppage time goal after poor Anthony Knockaert missed a game sealing penalty. Many of his teammates had to endure the latter but only he had to endure both. That he remained with Leicester all this time, that he played such a key role in the team’s rise from the bottom of English football to the top is a testament to his loyalty to Leicester and his leadership. It’s why in the end there was no one I was happier for than Andy King when Leicester was officially pronounced champions Monday night. Without his talent and consistency during the last decade this moment so many sports fans have come to embrace wouldn’t be possible. Without him, there is no Leicester City as the 2015-16 Premier League Champions. So congrats to you Andy King. What a story you have lived.
That’ll do it peeps. Hope you enjoyed this really incredible story. I’ll be back tomorrow with a CMLL preview for those of you who enjoy both football and soccer. Till then, how about an Andy King pic? I mean it is a column about him after all.