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LEICESTER, England – Leicester fans never expected to see their modest team have a shot at winning the Premier League this season.
A year ago, fans were enduring the anguish of seeing their team in a relegation scrap and were relieved to see them survive. Now, the anxiety is all about ensuring the Foxes don't throw away the astonishing position they find themselves in: Seven points clear at the top with five games remaining.
The Associated Press spoke to Leicester fans about its incredible transformation:
Kathleen Cooper has supported Leicester for more than 50 years and is finding the closing weeks of the season "nail-baiting" but enjoyable.
"I suffer with nerves," the 77-year-old Cooper said. "It's all we talk about. Everybody is on about it. It's brilliant. They are such a good team ... they all work together."
Jatin Tailor, a university student studying in Liverpool, has been following the ups and downs of the team for the last decade.
"We were stuck in a sort of rut and getting relegated (from the Premier League in 2004) sort of gave us a bit of momentum going back up ... getting to the Premier League (in 2014) was such a dream," the 22-year-old Tailor said. "Then the miracle of staying up last year has just continued on for this year. You could never have imagined this in your wildest dreams but it's all happening right now. It's a bit different now ... there's a lot more pressure on the team but they seem to be handling it pretty well."
Tokyo-born Yosuke Nakahara has lived in England for more than a year and started supporting Leicester this season after Japan forward Shinji Okazaki was signed.
"He's a hero in Japan," the 32-year-old Nakahara said. "He's very popular."
Phil Jastrzebski is amazed at how Leicester has soared up the standings while relying on players like Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, who collectively cost about $2 million.
"They've got some really cracking players," the 48-year-old Jastrzebski said. "They've picked them up at bargain basement prices but they are quick, skillful. I think the previous manager (Nigel Pearson) and the current manager (Claudio Ranieri) have really brought them on. They have got the best out of them, which is really good. They are playing as a unit as well."
Wayne Ormond usually supports Liverpool but the Reds haven't won the league since 1990. So the 31-year-old Irishman attended a recent Leicester game, admitting he was "jumping on the bandwagon."
"I hope they do it," Ormond said. "It's been interesting, a good season, very up and down. They are the real underdogs. It shows you don't need massive money like the (Manchester) Citys and the Chelseas to win the league."