Barleythorpe man proud to fly the flag for Oakham at Leicester City's historic FA Cup win at Wembley against Chelsea
A Barleythorpe man says he was proud to represent Rutland at Wembley as Leicester City won the FA Cup final tonight (Saturday, May 15).
Simon Blanchard has been a Foxes fan for nearly 40 years and made the flag, which is emblazoned with the word 'Oakham' about two years ago. While his beloved club have been playing all their games behind closed doors because of the pandemic, Simon's flag has been hanging up in the Kop end of the King Power Stadium and he has spotted it many times while watching the team on TV.
But for his first live game in more than a year - and Leicester's first FA Cup final since 1969 - Simon was determined to make sure he was flying the flag.
"It's just great to give Oakham a bit of a shout out, it's a really special place," Simon said. "Loads of my mates have been texting asking 'is that you with the flag?'
Speaking from one of the 50 coaches currently bringing the 6,000 supporters back to Enderby from Leicester, Simon was delighted with the 1-0 win against Chelsea.
He said: "I am absolutely ecstatic. I can't believe it really, it's an absolutely amazing win for Leicester.
"The first half was a bit subdued, we were really being taken to the cleaners. But in the second half, they came back fighting and when the goal went in, it was incredible. People were going crazy. The atmosphere was electric."
The game could have ended very differently. A goal from Chelsea that would have seen them equalise was ruled out by VAR (video assistant referee).
"I'm not usually a big fan of VAR but it was alright today," laughed Simon.
Simon, a 54-year-old financial advisor, has been a season ticket holder for more than 25 years. He usually takes his 13-year-old son Harry to the games but due to strict rules as a result of the pandemic, Harry had to stay at home with mum Jan and watch the game on television with family and friends.
The owners of Leicester City are known for their generosity, leaving gifts for fans, and each fan at Wembley today took home a goody bag which included a scarf and a rosette. Simon plans to gift his bag to his son to make up for him not being able to go.
Each fan attending the game also had to have a coronavirus test and prove they were negative. Simon had his test at Oakham Enterprise Park yesterday and praised staff for their efficiency.
He said: "Everyone in the queue was a Leicester City fan so it was a good atmosphere there as well. It was really well organised and although there were a few hurdles to get here, I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
"I think I would feel the same even if they had lost but I'm glad they didn't!"
Because Simon will have to drive back to Barleythorpe from Enderby when the coach drops him off at about 10.30pm, he hasn't had chance yet to have a drink and celebrate but he said he would when he got home.
And he'll be watching Leicester City's last home game of the Premier League against Tottenham Hotspurs from the comfort of his home with his son. Those at Wembley today were not eligible to apply for tickets for the game at the King Power Stadium.