Following their win on Saturday, there is no doubt that this has been the most extraordinary season of all time for Leicester City. We’re not talking the two short decades of the Premier League, we’re talking 130 years of history.
The club’s highest ever finish was second place in the old First Division – very old, it was in 1929. If they could win the league, I’ll have to write an article about if this is the biggest shock in English football league history. It will have competition, but I suspect it might be.
Of course, the spearhead of this remarkable form has been the exceptional Jamie Vardy. He has had a stellar supporting cast – Mahrez, Kante, Schmeichel, Albrighton and Huth stand out – but he is the poster boy, with his rise from the lower tiers, eye for the poacher’s finish, the Hollywood film purportedly in the works, his emergence as England’s number nine for Euro 2016, and history of racist remarks (actually scratch that last one).
It is the first of these that intrigue me. I heard this week that the biggest impact Leicester winning the title would have is that it would give every Premier League team hope that they could do the same. This is true; it is also correct that Vardy’s rise can give every Football League and National League striker hope that they can make their big break.
So let’s take a look at the big scorers in the third, fourth and fifth tiers and see who are the stand outs. In League One, Adam Armstrong leads the goalscoring charts with 17 for Coventry City. He is less of a Vardy figure as he is still very young – 18 – and is on loan from Newcastle, where the buzz is he will return to the club next year to lead the line whatever division they are in. One to watch though.
More interesting is the second highest L1 scorer, Barnsley’s Sam Winnall who has 15 and counting. He really is a possible Vardy MkII. Dumped by a large Midlands club as a youngster (Wolves for Winnall, Sheffield Wednesday for Vardy), he has rebuilt his reputation first at Scunthorpe, now with the Tykes. Two goalscoring campaigns in League One later, he is 25 – a similar age to Vardy when Leicester took their £1m punt. Perhaps a Norwich, Burnley or Derby could take an interest.
In League Two, the runaway top scorer is Jay Simpson, who has 22 thus far for Leyton Orient. Remember him? Flashes of brilliance while on loan from Arsenal turned into a faltering spell with Hull City, and he was in Thailand when Orient bought him in July 2014. He’s had his chance, and he wasn’t good enough at the top level. Still only 27 though.
Meanwhile in the Conference/National League/Blue Square Premier (whatever), there is the remarkable form of Kristian Dennis. The 25-year-old started his career at Macclesfield, but dropped into part-time football and wracked up the goals at an incredible rate as a forward for Woodley Sports and Curzon Ashton. He’s now at fallen giants Stockport, but is on loan at Macclesfield – where he has 24 goals in 33 games. If a Championship manager is ready to take the risk, in three years time we could have Kristian Dennis: The Movie on the big screen.