LEICESTER, April 28- A large, topless, heavily tattooed figure pounding a drum has become iconic at Leicester football matches as the underdog club closes in on the Premier League title.
Shaven-headed Lee Jobber’s back is covered with a large inked crest of Leicester City and his ample stomach bears the words “wide load”.
Come wind, rain or snow, he can be found at the back of the stand beating his large drum.
As he spoke to AFP outside the King Power Stadium, motorists honked their horns in recognition at the club’s official drummer, who is something of a gentle giant despite his fearsome appearance.
Away fans unfamiliar with Jobber initially took him to be a hooligan, but the superfan stressed he was anything but.
The Foxes need just one more win to take the Premier League — an improbable coup for the club that started the season as bookmakers’ 5,000-1 outsiders and one of the favourites for relegation.
The meteoric rise of the club has won national and international attention.
For Jobber, it is a fairy tale, having had a season ticket for 32 of his 36 years.
Away from the stadium, Jobber is a mentor for troubled young people, helping them with their studies and taking them on trips to the countryside to see goats and cows.
But he never misses a home game and says he has missed around six away games in 25 years.
His loyalty is reflected in his 150 tattoos, which cover his arms and much of his upper body — including one of fictional nanny Mary Poppins wearing a Leicester supporters’ scarf.
– ‘Crazy’ –
Jobber is still getting to grips with the remarkable turnaround of the club.
“How do I feel? I don’t know,” he told AFP. “I could never prepare myself, there was no plan for me to feel like this.
“The minute I find what it is I’m going to ring the dictionary up and get that word put in the dictionary.”
To be a Leicester supporter is to know suffering, having endured relegation to the third tier of English football less than 10 years ago and only narrowly avoiding relegation from the Premier League last season.
Jobber’s brightest memory before this season was a last-minute victory over Tottenham Hotspur in the third round of the FA Cup in 2006.
“Never in my life would I have even expected to be anywhere near the top 10 of the Premier League, let alone to be guaranteed a finish in the top two,” he said.
“Where has it all come from? I think it’s the unity of this team, and the passion and the pride, you can’t buy that,” he added.
Jobber’s passion for Leicester began when he was a boy, when he was a devout attendee of the old stadium Filbert Street.
“I can’t remember much of the game, of the players at the time but I remember how it made me feel,” he said of his first match.
“I remember feeling part of something and it became part of my life”.
In 2003, a club official called to ask if he would be interested in playing the bass drum. His initial reluctance gave way and he tried it out. It was a revelation.
“I came down and hit the drum and I was like ‘Wow!’. Next thing there were 35,000 sets of eyes on me. I’ve done it ever since.”