The famous royal blue. A faded Alliance & Leicester logo in the middle, with JJB (remember them?) on the chest. It’s been washed so often there’s nothing left of the label on the inside.
That football shirt, from the 2006-07 season, was the first my grandma bought me. It hangs at the top of my wardrobe.
I was weaned on Leicester City by my family. My grandma buying me replica shirts, my grandad regaling me with tales of the great City sides he saw.
He watched three of the four FA Cup finals Leicester City played in. He saw us lose all three, but his love for the club has never died. He’s one of many in a long line of Leicester fans going back decades. Him, my great-grandfather, grandma, mum, uncle, cousins – they all bleed blue.
Like many, my grandad couldn’t get a ticket this year. I couldn’t either. I thought I’d be watching at home with a pizza with my mate. Then DMU said they wanted two sports journalism students to cover it and I got the call. I’m honoured to be there. Not just to represent the university, but to represent my grandparents, mum, uncle, cousins, all my family who I know wanted to be there.
I have a lot to thank my grandparents for when it comes to Leicester City. Not long after she bought me my first kit, my grandma surprised me with my first ticket, too.
“I really, really want a ticket for the football,” I’d told her when she asked what was on my Christmas list. “I’d love to go and watch City play.”
My grandma’s eyes lit up. “Stay patient,” she said, gently. “You never know what will happen. Good things come to those who wait.”
I didn’t put two and two together back then, but she bought me my first match ticket shortly afterwards.
Every new fan remembers climbing the stairs from the concourse to the stands for the first time. The bright lights, the enormous pitch, the pre-match music, the chanting, the smell of pies in the air. It hooks us all in, doesn’t it?
It hooked me in, back in 2006. And they were different times, the 2006 vintage of Leicester City. Back then, nobody could have imagined us going on to win the Premier League or playing in the Champions League. But winning the FA Cup always felt possible. The upsets. The drama. The giant killings. The rise of the underdog. That is the magic of the FA Cup. It felt achievable, even for little old Leicester City. It was something we all dreamt of in the school playground growing up.
Heading into my last year at college, I couldn’t afford to renew my season ticket. My grandma knew what that meant to me. Luckily – very, very luckily – she lent me the money for my 2015-16 season ticket.
“Of course, I’ll pay you back, but it won’t be for a few months.” She was fine with that. She knew, after all, that good things happened to those who wait. It was one of her favourite sayings.
Little did either of us, or anyone else, know that we would win the Premier League that season. The greatest season in our club’s 137-year history. The underdogs had finally done it at those famous odds of 5000/1.
League Cups, League One, the Championship and now the Premier League. But there is still an FA Cup-shaped hole in our trophy cabinet, something Brendan and his men can put right this weekend.
My grandma, Sue Pawley, died in March of this year. She was 88 years old. A mum, a grandma, a Leicester City fan. A woman who didn’t just support her hometown club, she knew what they meant. She knew what they meant, too, to her skint 17-year-old grandson. I’ll always love her for so many things – but especially that.
Win, lose or draw, I’ll raise a toast to the heavens for my grandma on Saturday evening.
I wholeheartedly believe that Leicester City will lift the FA Cup for the first time in their history tomorrow evening. After all, as my grandma would say, good things come to those who wait.