Football: 14 Leicester City nuggets to impress your football friends

Leicester City players celebrating at the end of their match against Tottenham Hotspur on Jan 13, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

When you meet family or friends for a cuppa or a beer this weekend, and they start to talk sport, try impressing them with the following conversation starters about the sensation of the current English Premier League football season - Leicester City. On Thursday morning, they beat Tottenham Hotspur to be level on points with Arsenal at the top of the English Premier League.

1. Pronounce it as Les-ter, not Lay-ches-ter

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Just blame it on the quirks of the English language despite the way the word is spelt. Like how one pronounces Clarke Quay as Clarke "Key". Leicester is one of the oldest cities in England, with a history going back over 2,000 years. It now has a population of about 330,000 and is the 10th largest city in the United Kingdom.

2. Call them the Foxes in your conversation; it's their nickname

The club was founded in 1884 as Leicester Fosse as it was founded in a shed in the garden in this house on Fosse Road. The founders of Leicester Fosse attended a Bible class at the long demolished Emanuel Chapel in New Park Street. Leicester City was adopted as its new club name in 1919, as the borough of Leicester had been given city status. The area around Leicester was very well-known then, for fox hunting too.

3. Know their colours if you catch a game

Don't expose yourself and wonder out loud first, who's playing from which end to end. At home, Leicester City play in blue shirts and socks with white shorts. But when they visit Aston Villa this Saturday, they should be wearing black tops.

4. Leicester's highest finish in English top-flight football?

The Foxes finished second in the old Division One - precursor to today's English Premier League (EPL) - way back in the 1928-29 season, according to Leicester City FC's official website. Currently, in the EPL - after 21 out of a total of 38 games to be played this season - Leicester share the same number of points with Arsenal (43) to lead the rest of the trailing pack, after they beat Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 on Thursday morning.

5. Who is Leicester's "Fandi Ahmad-like" legend?

One of Leicester's all-time favourite sons of football is Gary Lineker, who grew up and went on to become one of the world's best strikers in the 1980s, becoming the top scorer at the 1986 World Cup.

6. Why are they now the "Flying" Foxes?

Big-spending and more famous EPL teams are desperately trying to stay in touch with high-flying Leicester. Manchester City are the closest to Leicester in third (trailing by three points), while Man United are in sixth (nine points behind), with Liverpool in ninth (12 points behind). Reigning league champions Chelsea are huffing and puffing in 14th spot out of 20 teams (19 points behind Leicester), as the latest statistics from the EPL website show.

7. Know about Jamie Vardy the "Chaser"

Leicester's Jamie Vardy. PHOTO: REUTERS

If Spurs' Harry Kane was the sweetest youthful English find in last season's English Premier League, then Jamie Vardy is the new kid on the block who has swept everyone off their feet this season. In a nutshell, Vardy is a late bloomer at the age of 29. He battled his way out of non-league football having joined Leicester from Fleetwood for £1 million (S$2.07m) in May 2012 .

His style is relentless, chasing almost every ball and chance. Like his team's nickname, he is a true fox in the box. This work ethic makes him a darling with English fans as they clamour to see him feature strongly for England during Euro 2016. Because of his size, he is nicknamed the "Cannon" by his teammates.

8. Play the "Did You Know?" game

Jamie Vardy used to be a carbon fibre technician before going into football.

He told The Independent: "(After college) My job involved making splints for disabled people with drop-foot. We had to do a lot of lifting into hot ovens and continually lifting things hundreds of times a day was damaging my back. A friend got me playing again for his Sunday side. Sunday league is completely different. Refs let you get away with murder. It was two footed knee-high tackles coming in at you and to be honest you'd rather not be going near the ball."

9. Cheap and good policy works

Vardy and his 24-year-old Algerian teammate Riyad Mahrez have produced a bagful of goals. Mahrez joined Leicester from French second-tier side Le Havre for £500,000 (a pittance compared to the big-money transfers the EPL has become known for) according to Steve Walsh, Leicester's head of recruitment who revealed this to The Independent.

Together, they have stumbled upon an instant chemistry up front for Leicester. Mahrez is a winger but has proven to be intelligent and dynamic in the final third, showing his versatility to support Vardy, and also, crucially in the EPL, not to waste possession and score when he gets the chance.

10. Prolific partnership

Vardy has scored 15 goals while Mahrez has netted 13 goals. That accounts for 28 out of the 38 goals Leicester have scored in 21 EPL games so far. When a team has two frontmen so prolific, coupled with other bigger teams fumbling, it's no wonder Leicester are at the top.

11. Leicester's ex-Chelsea connection

Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri. PHOTO: AFP

Manager Claudio Ranieri actually laid the starting foundations to the great Chelsea team before Jose Mourinho took over from him in 2004 as they went on to dominate English football. At Leicester, he told The Independent that teaming up with ex-Chelsea colleague Steve Walsh (now head of Leicester's recruitment) is key to the gems they have polished in the current season.

12. Back-to-basics tactical approach

The standard line-up from Claudio Ranieri is in a relatively uncomplicated 4-4-2 formation. Kasper Schmeichel starts in goal. And Japanese striker Shinji Okazaki also combines with Mahrez to support Vardy up front.

13. Good goalkeeping genes

Leicester's Kasper Schmeichel. PHOTO: REUTERS

Leicester boast Kasper - the son of the great Man United and Danish goalkeeping legend Peter Schmeichel. Despite seeing their excellent goalscoring record cool off in recent weeks, Thursday morning's win over Spurs was Leicester's third clean sheet in a row, and showed that the Foxes are realistic title contenders.

In the coming weeks, there will be more focus on Leicester's defence and Schmeichel, 29, as a good defence is always key to a chance of snaring the EPL title. Leicester have conceded 25 goals in 21 games so they will have improve on that score, as eight teams in the top 10 have a better defensive record than them.

14. Can Leicester last the full distance?

The Straits Times columnist Richard Jolly wrote in December: "Their ruthlessly effective game approach seems a throwback. They do not believe in possession for possession's sake. They counter-attack at pace, aided by the season's great success story - Jamie Vardy.

"Vardy's journey from non-league to Premier League took little more than three years. There is a difference in resources and raw materials. Leicester spent £17 million last summer and are competing at the top of the table with the Manchester clubs, who spent £280 million between them.

"Sooner or later, injuries, suspensions or dips in form mean their squad will be tested. And, logically, footballing normality will be restored."

Once you've chosen your favourite nuggets from these pointers above, spit them out in front of your football friends to impress them.

But fair warning though, they will soon drift into moaning about their own favourite teams (especially if they are Man United, Liverpool or Chelsea fans).

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