Jamie Vardy starts Leicester party as win at Preston seals Championship title

Jamie Vardy starts Leicester party as win at Preston seals Championship title

Jamie Vardy led the celebrations on and off the pitch as Leicester secured the Championship title. The striker, the only player remaining from the Premier League triumph, scored twice to down Preston to confirm Leicester will return to the top-flight as champions.

The 37-year-old remains an ­influential figure in the dressing room but with his contract expiring at the end of the season, his future is up in the air. It was a case of the old and the new securing top spot as Vardy built the platform for victory before the academy graduate Kasey McAteer added the third.

“My feeling is he is going to stay. If it was my decision he will stay,” Enzo Maresca said of Vardy. “Jamie Vardy is Leicester, Jamie Vardy has always scored goals and even when he is 45 years old he will score goals. Goals are in his blood.”

Few were concerned that top spot would not be confirmed on the night. The party started long before ­kick-off in the Bill Shankly Kop. Blue and white balloons floated on to the pitch from the packed away end as the two teams emerged from the tunnel. There was a euphoric atmosphere for those travelling from the east ­Midlands. There was a brief delay as a few stragglers were popped and an errant beach ball was removed: Leicester were not on their holidays yet as the drizzle descended in Lancashire.

Vardy hosted the title party in 2016 and the port order was being prepped when he spun in the box and scuffed a shot that trickled into the corner beyond a confused Freddie ­Woodman, who could not understand how the striker struck it so poorly. Not that anyone in the away end cared as the pyrotechnics went off.

The celebrations were fortified when Wout Faes wandered into the box, showed dazzling feet to ­bamboozle Preston and fired against the base of the post. If Woodman thought he had got lucky, he soon realised he was ­mistaken as Vardy took great pleasure in trying to smash the ball through the net for his 18th league goal of the season before McAteer rounded things off.

Leicester had not needed to kick a ball to secure their return to the Premier League, the ­supposed ­promised land of VAR and profitability and ­sustainability rules. Leeds’ ­capitulation against QPR last ­Friday was enough to allow corks to be popped.

“I watched an under-11s session and had pizza too and then invited the coaching staff over after the Leeds game,” Maresca said. “The players arrived at my house at 2am so the party was a little bit longer. They have enjoyed the last two days, but I’ve told them they need to enjoy these moments in their careers because we work hard every day for this.”

The Leicester chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha and manager Enzo Maresca celebrate in front of the club’s fans at Deepdale.View image in fullscreen

It should have been won a long time ago, but a dip in form has led to Maresca’s side stumbling to the line. A team meeting was called after defeats to Plymouth and Millwall. It is a tough league to escape, especially given everyone else was desperate to stop a club that won the Premier League eight years ago.

They may be heading back but Maresca says he needs to sit down with the club’s hierarchy to get clarity on financial matters. The club have received a profitability and ­sustainability charge.

“I am the most happy man in the world at this moment but because I am in charge of this club as ­manager, I need things to work well,” Maresca said. “Things happened this season that I didn’t like and I need clarity.”

Maybe the sense of euphoria will wear off sooner than some expect.

Source: theguardian.com