Sarah Todd: How Leicester City have given hope to all underdogs

Leicester City's success has given hope to all.
Leicester City's success has given hope to all.
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THREE (awkward) cheers for the underdog. Football isn’t this correspondent’s thing, but reading about Leicester City’s shock 5,000-1 win of the Premier League stirred myriad emotions.

One of the first was, what a shame that author Sue Townsend and her teenage creation Adrian Mole weren’t around to enjoy the day.

A single mother-of-three, Townsend was born and died in her beloved Leicester. The secret diaries of her angst-ridden, hormone muddled Adrian – famously starting at age 13 and three-quarters – were full of frustration that “nothing” ever happens in Leicester. Well, it has now, Adrian.

The victory of such an unfashionable team over all the odds has such poignancy for us Mole fans.

Like the earth-burrowing creatures of the same name, Adrian would have come out of his bedroom and blinked in wonder. His mum and dad, Pauline and George, would have overdone it on the booze in their celebrations and caused him huge embarrassment.

But maybe, for just a cat’s whisker of a moment, Adrian would have felt real happiness. He may even have got that much dreamt-about first kiss with Pandora.

Don’t you just love it when the underdog has his day?

Nowadays people are so perfect – perfect teeth, perfect hair, perfect blooming everything – that these moments of triumph over adversity are getting rather rare.

Never mind all that fuss that’s been in the news about testing children; what parents should be striking about is getting the recently-released film about Eddie the Eagle on the National Curriculum. Everybody in the country should see it.

The only thing wrong about it is that ski-jump sensation Eddie Edwards was born in Cheltenham and not Leicester.

That was the only part of his amazing story that didn’t sit right; he should have been a Leicester lad. Taken his rightful place alongside Adrian. But apart from that it was brilliant.

Eddie triumphed over adversity. He had terrible eyesight, parents who didn’t have a bean to rub together – never mind ski lessons – and, more often than not, the most dreadful luck.

But what he did have was the pluckiness of the underdog. He stuck at it; determined to have his day at the Olympics.

Yes, he didn’t come home with a gold medal – or any medal for that matter – but what he did was much greater than that. He had a dream and followed it. He never strayed from the path of achieving that ambition. It didn’t matter that people laughed at him. Or that he didn’t have the right expensive equipment or fit in with the sexy-looking Europeans in their tight jumpsuits. He was Eddie; giving it his all.

We all walked taller as we came out of the cinema that night. For just a moment, there wasn’t one of us not thinking of all that could be achieved.

If we can give children nothing else, we must give them hope and individuality. Never mind boring lists of Kings and Queens, or algebra that they’ll never use in real life. We should be teaching the young about people like Sir Richard Branson, the dyslexic who became a billionaire.

Others to add to the list include the American chatshow host Oprah Winfrey, who went from working in a grocery store to become one of the wealthiest – and most influential – women in the world. Harry Potter author JK Rowling’s humble beginnings, writing in a café because she couldn’t afford to heat her council flat, are well-documented.

But the next generation need telling about them. Although he annoyed many, poking his nose into our relationship with Europe, there’s no getting away from Barack Obama’s determined rise from the kid with a job scooping ice-cream to president of the USA.

As somebody who couldn’t spell to save their life, there’s a bit of the underdog in this writer. Cheek secured, against all the odds as the compulsory spelling test had been failed, a job on the local newspaper.

But enough (hardbacked) dictionaries were flung across the newsroom and enough roastings given by angry brides – whose names had been spelt wrong in the wedding reports given to the useless new girl to write – that eventually it happened. It clicked. What dozens of teachers had failed to drum in, just happened. Not by magic, but because it was wanted enough.

It’s this, wanting something enough, that is interesting about Leicester’s success. Did the fact that players – and the city – 
were so hungry for it make it possible?

Have the mega-bucks players at the big clubs lost that determination, that extra edge, which struggle gives? It was so interesting to read about a team of “cast-offs” and “bargain buys”, led by a manager who had been sacked in five of his previous jobs.

Hang on, it sounds like a film. Pity Sue Townsend isn’t around to write the script.

Sarah Todd is a former editor of Yorkshire Life magazine. She is a farmer’s daughter, mother and journalist specialising in country life.