Leicester City's Premiership: a miracle with the help of Saint James

Xesús Fraga


Julian Barnes, pictured in Santiago in 2015
Julian Barnes, pictured in Santiago in 2015 SANDRA ALONSO

Writer Julian Barnes, a life long supporter of the Foxes, embraced the figure of the Apostle in Santiago last year: his wish for them was to avoid relegation, but they've won the Championship

04 may 2016 . Actualizado a las 08:38 h.

Writer Julian Barnes (Leicester, 1947) hasn't always been a supporter of Leicester City. He can remember a time, when hadn't learnt to read or tune a radio, when he still had no knowledge of what he calls a mixture of «mild hopefulness and draining dissapointment». Leicester promoted to the Premiership on a regular basis, but that also meant that they got relegated. They reached the finals of the FA Cup four times, only to be beaten in all four of them. 

So Barnes does what all other supporters do when results don't accompany: he dreams awake. His book A History of the World in 10 ½ chapters begins with a peculiar depiction of Noah's Ark and closes with a chapter titled The Dream. The narrator, who awakens in Heaven, reads in the newspaper that Leicester City have won the Premiership. To make his happiness go even further, England's manager recruits all of Leicester's players.

It's not the only biblical reference in Barnes' work. He dedicated a book to the idea of death and how religion has dealt with the afterlife. Nothing to be afraid of starts with one of the author's most celebrated lines: «I don't believe in God, but I miss him». This attitude also revealed itself during his stay in Santiago de Compostela to receive the San Clemente prize for Arthur & George. After walking around the interior of the cathedral to admire its architecture, the author went up the steps that take you to a bust of Saint James, where the faithful embrace the Apostle and ask for a wish to be fulfilled with his intercession. He listened, smiling, to this explanation, but didn't move. «The Spanish national team comes here before the Eurocup and the World Championship and ask for victory. That's how they won», I said, the first anecdote I could remember. And then, he embraced the figure. «Let's see if he can help Leicester avoid relegation», he said, and we all laughed.

At the time, the Foxes were firm candidates to relegation. That same day, March the 4th, 2015, they lost 2-0 to Manchester City, as if divine providence was laughing at Barnes' wish. The next two matches they managed a draw and another loss. But then everything changed: they summed seven victories and not only they did escape relegation, they also finished near mid-table.

Those who accompanied Barnes in his visit to Santiago's cathedral didn't know what he had thought after the embrace with the Apostle: «If you can do that, I might have to believe in you». He felt a «certain moral queasiness» when the Championship ended and his prayers had been answered. The next season no one expected Leicester could win the title. Barnes thinks they have «zero» chanced of winning again next year. But in the meantime, they've got the Champions' League to think about. The author's thoughts are again with Saint James and a hypothetical win of his team. «Then I'd really believe in you».