Former Leicester City favourite Paul Ramsey's in dreamland at Foxes triumph
PAUL Ramsey will be a misty-eyed spectator among 32,000 fans at the King Power Stadium tomorrow afternoon to watch the newly crowned Premiership champions, Leicester City, put the finishing touches to a fairytale season - scenes, he believes, may never be witnessed again!
The 53 year-old former ‘Foxes’ favourite spent 11 years at the midlands club, making 290 appearances between 1980 and 1991 and has maintained his links ever since, holding positions in youth coaching, match day corporate hospitality and representing the successful Leicester’s Legends team in recent years.
Ramsey was part of the team in 1983 which secured promotion to the top flight where the club remained for four consecutive years and, 26 years ago, when the club was at its lowest ebb and narrowly managed to stay in the old Second Division after a dramatic 1-0 win on the final day of the 1990-91 campaign - it was his last season with the club before he moved on to captain, Cardiff City.
Leicester have been the archetypal yo-yo club and Ramsey, like everyone else in football, never believed he would live to see them reach the heady heights of Premiership glory.
However, tomorrow the former N. Ireland international midfielder will be mixing it in the ‘Legends Lounge,’ soaking up the atmosphere as his old club celebrates a real football fantasy as City skipper, Wes Morgan, lifts aloft the famous trophy to replenish Ramsey’s faith in the sport which has changed so much since his days as a player.
“I’m going to the game on Saturday and that’s going to be something special,” said Paul. “I’ll probably stay at the ground a bit longer after the game and watch the celebrations to the finish and enjoy it because I’ll probably never see it again and it’s on my doorstep.
“It’s been unbelievable,” recalling Leicester’s remarkable climb to the top. “I was speaking to a few former players before Christmas, Gary McAllister, ‘Ally’ Mauchlen and Steve Walsh and they didn’t think they could do it, but I always thought they would go on and win it.
“I actually watched the team training one morning with the former N. Ireland kitman, Derek McKinley and I remember saying ‘look at them, they haven’t got a care in the world.’ They were having fun; there was no anxiety; they were just enjoying their football.
“The pressure never got to them at all. They’re obviously a solid bunch of lads and when you go and watch the games at the weekend they’re just so committed to each other, covering for each other and making tackles.
“If they lose the ball they get it back. There’s nobody flinging their arms up in the air or moaning. It was just so good to see.
“They all had something to prove as well. Jamie Vardy came a few years ago and started slowly, but he’s proved himself. Danny Drinkwater was the same and Morgan, Danny Simpson - they’ve all proved themselves.
“The club nearly went belly up in 2002 so it’s unbelievable. When you’re in the city you realise how incredible an achievement it really is. Once you feel the buzz it’s hard to explain. When I think about it my eyes glaze over.”
Ramsey’s love for the club is unquestioned despite having continued his career in Wales with Cardiff where he captained the club to the Welsh Cup and promotion from the Third Division. He currently lives close to the Northamptonshire/Leicestershire border and runs a catering company in Leicester city centre.
His allegiance with the city began when he first arrived in the Midlands as an impressionable 16 year-old boy in March, 1978, to strengthen Derry’s strong connection with the ‘Foxes.’
Ramsey was one of five trialists from Derry recommended by his Derry Athletic coach and Leicester City scout, the late Jim O’Hea.
In the ‘Derry Journal’ of March 1978, O’Hea explained that then Leicester manager, Frank McClintock was so impressed by the trialists - who included, Ramsey’s teammates, Damien Curran (15), Gerry McGowan (16) and Rory O’Boyle (Tristar) and Gerry Stewart (Foyle Harps) - he asked all five to return ‘as soon as they could’.
“The fact that all five impressed Leicester, said quite a lot for Derry,” said O’Hea at the time. “Leicester youth coach, George Dewis who discovered Peter Shilton and David Nish, was very impressed and so was senior coach, Ian McFarlane.”
Ramsey signed his first forms the following March and two months later an Apprentice Contract before making his league debut against Arsenal as a substitute in March 1981.
The city of Leicester isn’t known for being the most glamorous of cities but it has changed significantly since those days and he believes the success of the club will help attract further investment.
“When I first came over it was very much hard noses and lots of criminals about. In the last 10 or 15 years they’ve spent a lot of money in the city and with the King Richard discovery, they’ve done up the Cathedral and the grounds around it and the infrastructure of the roads. It’s a very diverse city with loads of different cultures.
“They reckon it will bring millions each year to the city with the success of the club. It’s taken off now.”
The Creggan man still feels very much a big part of the club and says he still gets ‘looked after’ with match tickets having played so many games for Leicester.
“This is the club, where my heart lies after all these years. I have a great fondness for the club and they’ve looked after me after all these years.”
Outside club legend, Gary Lineker’s corporate box at the King Power Stadium, there’s a large photograph of Paul, Lineker and fellow Derry man, John O’Neill prior to the 1986 World Cup, proudly displayed.
The ex-England striker also helped him organise his testimonial against Terry Venables’ full strength Tottenham Hotspur at Filbert Street on November, 1989, which featured established stars like Paul Gascoigne and Gary Mabbutt.
And he hopes he gets to renew acquaintances with some of his former teammates as they gather to celebrate Leicester’s fantastical achievement after the final home game of the season against Everton tomorrow.
“That photograph is outside Gary Lineker’s Lounge at the stadium,” he said. “They’ve enlarged it and put it up outside his lounge at the football stadium. It’s a nice big picture.
“Myself and Gary get on well. You never know who I might bump into at the ground this Saturday there could be all sorts of people there. It should be a fantastic day. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s incredible really.”
While he’s very much settled in the Midlands, Ramsey hasn’t forgotten his roots and regularly returns to visit his family and friends in Derry. And he plans on making the trip back to his Ramore Gardens home for his mum Lily’s 80th birthday celebrations on May 22nd.
But for now he’s excited about the celebrations at the home of the new Premiership champions.