|Some of the 94/95 boys|
All this talk of Leicester and how they are doing so well up there and how its unprecedented in the modern era has irked me slightly of late.
For one it forgets not only several sides who have done well in their first season back in the top flight after promotion (Sunderland, Ipswich both had very good post promotion seasons) but also our boys of 1994/95.
Now whats oft quoted is that Leicester haven’t spent a huge chunk on their team, the likes of Mahrez and Vardy were in the current context dirt cheap. That they rely on a great team spirit and great ethos around the squad to carry them above their station. Am not for one doing down Leicesters achievements this season, they have been magnificent and I hope they remain top 4 to reward them.
What bothers me is that the short term-ism in Football has forgotten a side in 1993/94 who upset the apple cart and finished 3rd. These days that’d mean Champions League football and a huge cash prize was on the cards. Those days it meant the UEFA Cup, which although still wonderful, was not a veritable money tree.
Nottingham Forests side of that era was a side largely put together from second tier also rans, a few players relegated with the side, and one international import who had something to prove. Bryan Roy had represented the Netherlands internationally but was in something of a Serie A black hole with Foggia. Oh and Stuart Pearce of course.
When you look at that side, the obvious names speak out, but at that time Collymore etc weren’t expected to be THAT good.
Crossley, Lyttle, Pearce, Cooper, Chettle, Phillips, Stone, Bohinen, Woan, Collymore, Roy. Gemmill, Lee, Haaland, McGregor, Howe, Tommy Wright.
Its weird to see that side, and realise we largely used around 14 players, with a few other names chipping in. And yet it was the highest position achieved by a newly promoted side in the Premier League era. Yet in all of this Leicester media loving, I’ve barely heard a mention for this side. Of course they mentioned the great Clough side of the 70’s, I mean they won the bloody thing, but that’s a different era of football.
And yet the 1994/95 lot are largely another era too. Back then the money was only just starting dominate. Money which would rip out the heart of that team. I doubt a newly promoted team spending £2.5mill on one import from a lower mid table Serie A team, who used a small squad, who relied on a player with little previous top flight experience (save for a few appearances as a youngster at Crystal Palace) to fire the goals in, a Norwegian mercurial midfielder signed from Switzerland, a winger with 3 broken legs behind him, another winger plucked from non-league obscurity, and a right back with no experience of life above the second flight. That’s without mentioning the grossly inexperienced Haaland, the very much mocked Jason Lee, and very much past it Neil Webb. Other squad names included Kingsley Black, Robert Rosario, Carl Tiler, Gary Bull, none of whom would ever strike fear into any ones hearts.
Mark Crossley and Steve Chettle started to blossom. Finally cementing themselves as Forest favourites, and later to achieve almost iconic status.
And yet for me as a teenager, it felt natural. Of course we were this good. Hadn’t anyone seen us in the previous season (in which we finished second and started very slowly). Admittedly we’d spent very well for a second tier side. £2.5 mill for Collymore, £2.5mill for Cooper. £400k for Lyttle, A similar sum for Bohinen. Phillips coming from Norwich, Lee from Southend, Haaland from Lyn, all for fees though measly looking now, would probably be the modern equivalent of chucking a million at a player on a punt. (for Lee, read Veldwijk, without the cult successes)
And yet in all the recent talking about over achievement, or surprising success, this lot barely get a mention. And I for one feel that is wrong. A newly promoted team qualifying for the Champions League wo
uld blow peoples mind. And we finished in a spot that would achieve that.