LEICESTER last night found themselves back in the Premier League without kicking a ball as both QPR and Derby County lost.
And it left their jubilant players and fans to say to themselves – what a difference a year makes!
This time 12 months ago, Leicester had tumbled from the summit of the Championship and looked set to blow even a place in the play-offs.
They made it – just – only to suffer last-minute heartbreak at Vicarage Road as Anthony Knockaert missed an injury time penalty before Troy Deeney sent Watford to Wembley.
It was a result that came within a whisker of costing manager Nigel Pearson his job, with Leicester’s Thai owners thinking long and hard before easing their fingers off the trigger.
Now, of course, we know it was the best decision they ever made. Quite simply, the Foxes have been untouchable, the best side in the Championship by a million miles.
And for that, the manager must take huge credit. Had someone else walked through the door in June, he’d have torn the place to pieces. But Pearson knew he had a good side. He knew they were all uber-motivated by last year’s failure.
Above all, he was convinced that he could get more from those who hadn’t performed. And he has. Danny Drinkwater – nominated for player of the year – has gone from a jobbing Championship midfielder to the finest box-to-box player in the division.
Liam Moore from raw rookie to potential international. Anthony Knockaert from flash show pony to diligent winger. Even David Nugent has broken the 20-goal barrier for the first time.
Best of all, though, is Jamie Vardy. The former Non-League man was persuaded by Pearson not to quit the club in the summer after a dire first season. He has responded by scoring 15 goals and becoming a cult hero.
Every player has done his bit, turning the Foxes into a side shot through with pace, both strong at the back and lethal on the counter. Technically, they went up yesterday. In reality, the deal was sealed months ago.
In fact, it was probably set in motion in early November, when Leicester returned to Vicarage Road and won 3-0 with a performance oozing authority and class, exorcising the ghosts of last season.
“We were very disappointed last season but from the first day back in pre-season, everybody had the mentality of ‘Right, let’s do it this time’, said Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel.
“You could sense it in everybody. There was an attitude of ‘We will get to the Premier League’.”
Now they have, it’s time to give Pearson the contract that has so far been withheld. He’s certainly earned it.