Leicester City

What Leicester City will bring to the Premier League

Leicester City have finally returned to the pinnacle of the English league ladder. It’s been a decade of ups and mainly downs for the Foxes, in their quest to make it back in to the elite twenty. In such time, the club has had a complete makeover, so here is what fans of the Premier League can expect from the East Midlands’ new boys next term.

An abundance of young talent and players with a point to prove

The saying goes that “you can’t win anything with kids”. City disproved that among many other clichés last season when their young squad led them to Championship glory with 102 points. Whilst, Leicester have benefited from the experience of older players such as Gary Taylor-Fletcher, Marcin Wasilewski and club captain, Wes Morgan, several of City’s key players of last term were under the age of 24.

In defence, academy graduates Liam Moore and Jeff Schlupp, both 21 have asserted themselves as major players with the former attracting interest from top Premier League clubs and the latter being named amongst Ghana’s provisional World Cup squad after adapting to a new position last term.

However, it’s Leicester’s midfield that boasts the greatest plethora of young talent. Centre midfield maestros, player of the season Danny Drinkwater, 24 and young player of the season Matty James, 22 have formed an impenetrable partnership in midfield, building on their synergy whilst youngsters at Manchester United. City can also boast continental flair on the wings in the form of  terrace hero Anthony Knockaert, 22 and Algerian international Riyad Mahrez, 23 who are both capable of producing flashes of brilliance. Both will surely make the step up in to the classier surroundings of the top flight.

City also possess a crowd of players with points to prove in the top-flight. Fierce competitor Kasper Schmeichel will be hoping to shake his father’s reputation and establish himself in his own right whist showing he’s worthy of being linked with the likes of Milan and Real Madrid. David Nugent and Paul Konchesky each will be eager to demonstrate that they’re still good enough for top level football whilst top-flight débutant Wes Morgan would love to show he can make the step up having twice been named in the Championship team of the Season. But most of all, ex-Fleetwood Town striker Jamie Vardy will be desperate to complete his remarkable journey from the Conference to the Premier League in just three short years. The Sheffield-born striker’s lightning pace and eye for a finish will certainly only propel his unfathomably meteoric rise through the divisions.

Star…Danny Drinkwater was the 2013-14 Player of the Season at just 24 [Picture: Getty Images]

A ‘boring’ but prudent manager with super staff

Despite what Sean Dyche may have told you, Nigel Pearson has worked wonders to transform a team full of Sven’s high-earning flops in to a hungry side ready for the Premier League. Having spent next to nothing this season, Pearson’s desire to stick largely with the same side that fell agonisingly short the season prior has clearly paid off.

In truth, when Pearson and his head of recruitment Steve Walsh (no, not the City legend) do pull off a wonder signing, it is usually on the cheap for an unknown talent like the aforementioned Knockaert and Mahrez. In fact, expect any Summer City signings to impress – Steve Walsh was the man that recommended Chelsea legend Didier Drogba to Jose Mourinho.

The Foxes also boast a rigorous and meticulous work ethic among their backroom staff as documented on Late Kick Off. Pearson’s staff’s attention to detail as well as their genuine talent to manage the game with precision in all areas will be crucial if the Foxes are to stay up next year.

Champion…LMA Championship Manager of the Year Nigel Pearson may surprise the Premier League [Image: Getty]

A desire to win

Make no mistake, Nigel Pearson does not implement a negative philosophy in to his sides playing style, no matter what the now thoroughly entertaining Hull City tell you *rolls eyes*. Actually, City’s current leader has the two highest win rates of any of Leicester’s permanent managers, both at over 50%.

Leicester  managed to salvage a remarkable 21 points from losing positions during the last campaign. The Foxes also managed to pick up 47 points on the road including wins at promotion rivals Burnley, Derby County and Queens Park Rangers. In total, City managed to win thirty-one of their league games last season, drawing just nine.

The  philosophy of playing to win against the sides around you, even away from home, is one that Pearson has expressed an unwillingness to change in the Premier League, so expect Leicester to play to their strengths at the likes of Selhurst Park and The Hawthorns next season.

Promotion…Knockaert celebrates his crucial winner against Sheffield Wednesday [Photo: Getty Images]

Foreign owners who aren’t egomaniacs

Thankfully, Leicester seem to possess owners with their heads screwed on. Despite the initially wrong approach adopted in 2011, the Srivaddhanaprabhas have been a blessing for the club. Both Vichai, the chairman and his son, vice chairman Aiyawatt, have implemented the practices of patience and progress in their bid to restore Leicester’s lost stature.

In fact, just today in a press conference in Thailand, Vichai outlined his commitment to re-establishing Leicester in the Premier League by pledging to spend up to £180m in order for the club to reach Europe, not that the shrewd Nigel Pearson will spend anywhere near that amount. However, their aims have remained somewhat realistic albeit ambitious by acknowledging the need to consolidate for three seasons before Leicester launch a surge for intercontinental competition.

Since their arrival, the billionaires from Thailand have bought the stadium, introduced state of the art training and playing facilities and effectively written off £100m worth of debt. It’s safe to say, despite some incorrect portrayals, the club are in safe hands with Srivaddhanaprabhas. In fact, in an interview with a national newspaper Top (as Aiyawatt likes to be known) assured fans that he would not follow in the footsteps of Cardiff’s Vincent Tan or Hull’s Assem Allam, saying; “we respect our history and culture so we do the same here. We don’t want to change the history or the culture of the club…we appreciate history. We respect that this place didn’t belong to us before. We come from outside the country and we are here to make the team successful.”

Respectful… Nigel Pearson with Chairman, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha

I’m probably a little biased when I say that Leicester City will enhance the Premier League next season.  A proud, well supported, traditional club with the funds and facilities to make a real go of things next season. Maybe it’s because of the reasons above or the fact that no side has ever gone down after winning promotion with 100+ points or maybe it’s just blind loyalty. But I just cannot see Leicester City relinquishing their coveted place in the top flight next season. I say this with the great risk of looking a total arse in twelve months time but Leicester City are in the Premier League and they are here to stay.

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The Leicester City Alternative End of Season Awards for 2013-14

The Claridge Shin ‘Scenes of the Season’ Award

Scenes… Kasper spares Leicester’s blushes

After a flurry of late goals this campaign there are plenty of contenders for ‘scenes of the season’. Contenders included Dyer’s late strikes to take ties against Bolton Wanderers and Fulham to 4–3, Danny Drinkwater’s stunning late equaliser against Watford and Andy King’s rocket at Bloomfield Road. But this year’s recipient is Kasper Schmeichel’s ‘goal’ against Yeovil.

Of course, the records state that Chris Wood was the man that netted City’s dramatic last-gasp leveller at home to the Glovers this March but those there, know the truth of how The Foxes keeper headed the ball on to the cross bar and over the line before the Kiwi made it count. As the goals hit the net or fell visibly over the line, whichever you prefer, the King Power Stadium erupted as the unbeaten run was kept alive. It may have ‘only’ been against Yeovil but the Glovers’ spoiling tactics were providing the Foxes with a real test that only a Great Dane had the answer to.

The Dennis Wise ‘Twunt of the Year’ Award

 

No photos… Billy Davies unfinished business of making Forest completely crap was finally completed.

After some intense deliberation (inside my own head), there were only a few stand-out candidates for this award. Harry Redknapp and Joey Barton’s futile attempts to unsettle City’s promotion bid weren’t successful enough for either to scoop the award. Yet another trophy to elude Rangers this season. The Football League could too take a roasting for their inability to correct the aforementioned goal farce against Yeovil Town and Pavel Pogrebnyak made a late charge for the dong with his amateur dramatics on Monday night. But the winner simply has to be the head of Britain’s biggest bottling job 30 miles north of Filbert Way, Billy Davies.

Injuries, injuries, bad referees. Baggy-eyed Billy Davies is an odious little prick. Let’s not beat around the bush, nobody likes him. In the rare event of a disappointing result, Foxes fans have found solace in the circus taking place at Nottingham Forest this year, who failed once more to ‘show us how to win the league’. Billy’s bottlers lie just 31 points behind their local non-rivals and of course that’s the referee’s fault for allowing 10-man Leicester to deservedly leave the City Ground with a point. Nae comment.

The Filbert Fox ‘Foxiest Fox Of The Year’ Award

Thumbs up… Kasper gets fans’ tails up

This award is strictly for the ladies and gays or indeed any admirer of the male form. Plenty lay a claim to the award this season, David Nugent remains ever popular as does the unfathomable cuteness of Anthony Knockaert. But neither did enough to take first place. In fact, not even the emerging beauty of pretty-boy Matty James is enough to take the gong from Belvoir Drive’s resident stud, Kasper Schmeichel.

Is this a surprise? Probably not, he’s always been a strapping man, and with the addition of facial hair well… well… there’s not much more to say at all. Just take 30 seconds or minutes to stare and take the full beauty of this Nordic God in.

 

The Frank Sinclair ‘Comedy Goal of the Year’ Award

Bullet… Wood’s stunner won worldwide acclaim.

The own-goal for City against Derby, Nugent’s first against Derby at home, blah blah blah. Now, the other ‘contenders’ are out of the way we can swiftly award this prestigious title to Chris Wood.

Ironically, the New Zealand international’s goal at Burnley would go down as one of the actual best of the season but was it better than his crunching header at Watford from all of 18 yards? I don’t think so. Manuel Almunia provided a stunning assist to allow Wood to expertly adjust his position and plunge his head forward in the space of milliseconds. Unfathomable skill, I’m sure you agree.

The Yann Kermorgant ‘Stupid Decision of the Year’ Award

For fox sake… Kasper makes an uncharacteristic error.

I know we’ve had very little to moan about this season (long may it continue) but that doesn’t mean our blue and white heroes haven’t been prone to the odd head-scratching error. Jamie Vardy’s reluctance to punish Yeovil whilst one-on-one with the keeper, mistaking himself as offside had fans slamming their heads in to their hands as if Sol Bamba was back and on one of his infamous midfield runs. But the winning moment is Schmeichel’s punch at Blackpool.

In truth, Kasper’s dropping the ball in to his own net at Donny, as if he’d been juggling butter and Durex play before the match could too have scooped the prize. However, it wasn’t quite as bad as Schmeichel’s ill-advised decision to lay the smack down on a Blackpool player in the 90th minute, costing City a penalty and ultimately two points. It also tarnished some pretty scenic scenes after King’s wonder strike 15 minutes before. Bloody hell, Kasper. You’re lucky you’re so gorgeous.

The Aman Verma ‘Signing of the Season’ Award

Algerian ace… Mahrez has been a bright spark since January.

As always with Pearson at the helm, his right-hand man Steve Walsh has produced some stunning signings for the Foxes. Despite their deceptive appearances silver foxes Gary Taylor-Fletcher and Kevin Phillips have possessed the attacking intelligence to win points. Polish brute Marcin Wasilewski has possessed the elbows defensive presence to force Liam Moore out of the starting XI and Dean Hammond too has contributed well when needed but this year’s recipient is silky Algerian, Riyad Mahrez.

Leicester have been missing FLAIR and PASHUUNNNN since Danns left to join Bolton on loan (I’m being totally facetious) but Riyad Mahrez fills the gap nicely. Mahrez’s pace, attacking vision and his capability to score goals like ‘that one’ against Blackpool have earned him many admirers in just a few short weeks.

The Alan Birchenall & Tony Currie ‘Romantic Moment of the Season’ Award

Don’t Sell Knockaert… Tony K sends Leicester up.

The romance of Kasper’s goal against Yeovil Town pales in to insignificance against two classic Tony K moments. It’s hard to pick between his goal at Watford and his goal against Sheffield Wednesday but the latter just pips the other to the post.

It was overwhelmingly satisfying to see Leicester’s favourite Frenchman vanquish his demons as Knockaert scored the second goal of Leicester’s rout at Vicarage Road. The cute little bastard stormed over to the away end celebrating, surrounded by every single outfield team mate. As they returned to the pitch, Knockaert looked up once more at the travelling City fans and kissed the shirt’s famous badge. Knockaert’s goal against Sheffield Wednesday was typically even more poetic of football. Having not scored in a fair old while, it seemed only right that the same man who had inadvertently caused so much heartbreak the year before was the one that had given the Foxes their return to the top flight. Majestic stuff.

The Andy King ‘We Forgot That You Were Here’ Award

Cakewalk… The Foxes win promotion with 6 games to spare.

In truth this award should justly go to the noisy swarms of Watford, Forest and Derby fans after May 12th last year. However, I am going to go ahead and award this to every single club in the league.

Let’s be honest, it’s been a relatively comfortable season for Leicester ever since Boxing Day and even the most ungracious of fans would struggle to ignore our dominance in the second half of the campaign. So thanks to all the other 23 clubs for propping us up this season. I hope not to see any of you any time soon.

We are Premier League!

Bottles are strewn everywhere, party streamers litter the floor and thirty thousand headaches are felt across Leicestershire as Jamie Vardy’s party started three days earlier than planned.

Results on Saturday, accompanied by a 2–1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday saw Leicester City end their painful decade of exile from the top-flight. It wasn’t how we wanted to go up but how could we complain? Almost a year after what can only be described as the cruelest play-off defeat in football history, the Foxes sewed up promotion with an incredible six games to spare. Fans around the country went berzerk. The players took to the city to get intoxicated and Pearson, well, Pearson probably did the same in some sleepy Shropshire village.

Move over, Ellen... The squad celebrate promotion with a selfie

Move over, Ellen… The squad celebrate promotion with a selfie

To many, City’s inevitable return to the top flight will not be a big deal. Some will say it had been merely a formality for City to go up, that other clubs have spent longer trying to get back to the promised land. But in truth, Leicester’s jubilation was not measured in time last night rather the pain that had foregone this memorable day. Since City’s last relegation in 2004, the Foxes sunk lower and lower in the second tier before finally being relegated to League One for the first time in their history. City are known for being ‘bridesmaids of football’ – we’ve never won the FA Cup, we’ve never won the league, we’ve come as close as you can get but we’ve never done it. It was a badge of pride for us that City had never left the top two divisions, a club now restricted to just eight sides, so to lose that was a big deal – the club’s lowest ever point. Manager chopping Mandaric astutely brought in Nigel Pearson and ironically, Leicester’s lowest ebb produced one of the club’s best seasons for years. Champions with 96 points.

Despair… Foxes fans see the club at its lowest

The next season too was a dream for the Foxes. Whilst not the best squad on paper, Pearson’s ability to instill character in to his sides helped City along the way to securing an unlikely play-off place. Leicester played out an enthralling play-off semi-final against Cardiff that ended 3-3 on aggregate after two legs and after extra time. Penalties awaited and things were all square until Yann Kermorgant, a player who had featured very little in the rest of the season, arrogantly chipped the ball, for it to be easily swatted away. City went on to lose. A stunning comeback for Leicester ended in the cruelest fashion. Signs were good for the Foxes, who were now backed by current owners, the Srivdhannaprabbhas. The owners were willing to ring the changes and spend to get the Foxes back to the top. Leicester City were bombarded with media talk for the next two seasons about how promotion would be merely a cakewalk with the new investment. However both Paulo Sousa and ex-England boss Sven Goran Eriksson failed to deliver, and too left City in a poor financial state.

The Srivdhannaprabbhas looked once more to Nigel Pearson to lead the Foxes out of a tough patch. Pearson up sticks and left the better-placed Hull City for a romantic return to Filbert Way. Pearson lead Leicester to 9th in the remainder of the 2011–12 season. His first full year back in charge saw City reach 6th, having been in poll position for automatic promotion as late as February. Pearson led City to a memorable 3–2 win at local rivals Nottingham Forest on the last day of the season, their first league triumph at the City Ground since 1972. As a result, Leicester nicked the last play-off spot at the expense of both Forest and Bolton Wanderers. In the first leg of the semi-final against Watford, Nugent scored a header to give Leicester the advantage. However, it was the second leg that would be the more memorable. The aggregate score was 2–2 going in to the 90th minute, Anthony Knockaert was judged to have been fouled, giving Leicester a penalty and a chance to get to Wembley. The Frenchman stepped up and saw his penalty saved, allowing Watford to counter and Deeney score the sucker punch that sparked a pitch invasion from the Watford fans. Leicester players and fans collapsed to the ground in pure despair. Many saw that as Leicester’s best chance to return to the top flight with money looking tight and Financial Fair Play rearing its ugly head. But few envisaged City using this heartache as the catalyst for a record breaking 2013–14 (I did…sort of).

Allez les bleus… Knockaert was Leicester’s hero once more.

This season has been a blast. Leicester have taken the league by the scruff of their neck. From the get go, Leicester have looked to rid the monkeys on their back starting with Middlesbrough away on the opening day, it was a crucial for City to recover from a play-off hangover as quickly as possible and they did with a scintillating second half comeback. The Foxes too went back to Vicarage Road and exorcised their demons with a 3–0 drubbing, complete with a stunning volley from Anthony Knockaert. The character from the squad is, for me, the reason why Leicester find themselves promoted with a month of the league campaign to spare. Late points won against Birmingham, Bolton, Leeds, Forest, Blackpool, Yeovil, Wigan and Watford (ha) have gone a long way to sewing up promotion – proving the mantra “Foxes never Quit!” to be nothing but true.

This season has been a dream come true. Foxes of this generation, myself included have had so little to shout about. It was only fitting that Anthony Knockaert was the man to send the Foxes up after his shortcomings at Watford last season. His character was rewarded as he took to Twitter to boast about “the best day in his life”, the day Leicester made it back to the big time. And with a manager as successful as Nigel Pearson, a young, hungry squad likely to improve and owners willing to do all they can, there is no reason why the Foxes can’t establish themselves. So maybe we haven’t had to wait as long as for this as say Wednesday or Forest but we have been through the mill these last 10 years and yesterday, all of a sudden the pain we felt at Stoke, Cardiff and Watford was worth it for this moment. So let’s pack Filbert Way on Tuesday night. Get out the blue and white, turn up the Status Quo and pour a Singha beer because Jamie Vardy’s having a party – and you’re all invited!

Romance is Dead: The Goal That Never Was

Leicester City grabbed a point from the defiant claws of Yeovil Town on Tuesday night in a pulsating final five minutes at the King Power Stadium. However, a romantic tale of Leicester’s adored keeper Kasper Schmeichel rightly claiming his first and probably last league goal was quashed hours later as the Football League swung it’s unjust hammer of incontestability.

Late Delight… Leicester’s goal scorers embrace. [Photo: Leicester City FC]

In truth, it was a thoroughly frustrating night for the Foxes and their 26,000 strong home support. City had been undone by a perfectly executed game plan by the Glovers. Unsurprisingly, Yeovil came and parked the bus, looked to spoil the league leaders’ game and hopefully escape with a point. Town’s 300 travelling fans (not a bad turnout by the way) couldn’t believe their luck when they snatched the lead from a set piece. The goal came against the run of play and there was a shared feeling that Leicester’s unusually tired side could not pass their way back to three points. In truth, Leicester had had much of the game despite Yeovil’s successful curbing tactics. However, the Foxes were unable to force one of their thirty-one attempts across the line until the 92nd minute, when two came along at once. Danny Drinkwater fashioned a super cross in to the box that the out of position Schmeichel thumped with his head to force it against the crossbar and over the line. As the Danish international wheeled away in celebration, substitute Chris Wood bundled the ball in to the net to ensure the goal stood as the home crowd went ballistic for the late drama. Everyone was seemingly confused with both players thinking they had scored and the stadium announcer rewarding Wood and then Schmeichel with the goal.

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know how I personally feel about Schmeichel but even disregarding that, it seems simply irrefutable that the late goal was his. Video and photo evidence is conclusive in its verdict that the goalkeeper’s bullet header was at least a foot over the line. Whilst Chris Wood’s indispensable contribution was needed in order for the officials to award City with the goal, the Football League and referee should have reached a unanimous decision that in hindsight, Schmeichel had already scored the equaliser before Wood’s ‘goal’. However, The Football League reached the exact opposite conclusion to the amazement of the Foxes faithful.

While many Leicester fans, myself included, are disappointed and annoyed at the governing body’s ruling many are apathetic and maybe rightly so that the goal was given to Chris Wood instead of Kasper Schmeichel, as Schmeichel himself tweeted ” At the end of the day, as long as we got the goal. All that matters.” in response to the verdict. However, the ruling does beg the question; what is the point in retrospective panels if they maintain their incorrect decisions even when presented with irrefutable evidence to the contrary? Surely these reviewing committees were founded in the view to correct mistakes made in the game, namely the Dubious Goals Panel which was not officially consulted as it is only available in the Premier League much like goal-line technology.

I posed this question to both the Football League and the FA. The latter unsurprisingly has not replied but the Football League stated that “based on information submitted to The Football League from this fixture, all parties (the club and match official) were in agreement that the goal be awarded to Chris Wood.” It is likely that the referee is merely sticking to his guns to avoid a surefire punishment for his team’s ineptitude. The club’s agreement to concur with their decision is too unsurprising given the backlash they may receive for contesting an official’s verdict. Regardless, Assistant Manager Craig Shakespeare reiterated that the club were not bothered by who was credit and were more concerned with the astonishing character of the squad once again coming through when it mattered. Outside the training ground the debate still rages on with some Leicester fans launching a campaign for the decision to be overturned with as many as 98% voted that the goal should be awarded to Schmeichel in one poll.

Daylight... Kasper's header comfortably clears the goal line

Daylight… Kasper’s header comfortably clears the goal line

Maybe it doesn’t matter who scored. Maybe it doesn’t matter that the romance of football has fallen victim to Andy Madeley and his assistant’s inability to admit they got it wrong. Maybe it doesn’t matter that the Football League’s retrospective committees are nothing but a sham. In principle, I will do everything I can, which granted isn’t a lot, to ensure the goal goes to the right man and hopefully rectify yet more shortcomings from England’s impenetrable footballing institution. But in reality, regardless of the outcome, the dedicated hoards who stayed with Leicester until the final whistle on Tuesday night will long remember the night that Schmeichel saved our skin, this time at the other end of the pitch.

Ten reasons why Leicester City’s Vichai and Aiyawatt are better owners than Fawaz of Nottingham Forest

After what can only be described as a comedy post in today’s Metro (http://metro.co.uk/2014/02/03/ten-reasons-why-nottingham-forests-fawaz-al-hasawi-is-the-best-owner-in-football-4288747/), I’ve decided to offer a truthful endorsement of the better football owners down the road…

1. They’ve always been welcome

Unlike our friendly red friends up north, the Srivaddhanaprabhas have always been welcomed at Leicester City Football Club, certainly seeing as manager chopping maniac Milan Mandaric was their predecessor. In fact, the Foxes fanbase has never had a problem with foreign ownership unlike Forest fans. You remember those “you used to be English, you’re not anymore!” chants a few years ago? They were about ownership, right?

2. They’re fans of the club too

Leicester’s official owner, Aiyawatt has been a fan of the boys in blue ever since Steve Claridge dragged the ball in to the back of the net to win the 1997 League Cup at Middlesbrough. In fact, it was the first game that the Thai had seen in England. Fawaz knew Forest won something in the 70s.

3. They sign who they want

The Thais certainly have a frivolous past at Leicester City. We all know what happened in the summer of 2011 during Sven’s mega spending spree, well they actually do get all the players they want. Unlike Fawaz, who can be so frugal at times he even blames poor vision for an uncompleted signing. Classic.

Reward… Leicester’s owners gifted 1,000 Leicester fans a free scarf, drink and pie for travelling to Cardiff on a Tuesday night during last season’s collapse in form.

4. They have proven us right

There’s no questioning that the Srivaddhanaprabhas certainly got it wrong at first but they did begin to champion managerial stability and sustainable growth long before Fawaz invented it at Forest. Fawaz continues to ignore the Financial Fair Play Rules too. ‘Big-spending’ Leicester have made massive strides to fall in line with the new regulations, spending a net total of just £400,000 on transfers this season. Leicester actually accumulated £103m worth of debt from the 2011 transfer debacle but our owners wiped that clear in December. £103m just like that. But Fawaz signed Jack Hobbs, well the second time, he lied the first, I suppose that’s the same. Oh, and we certainly never doubted the authenticity of their credentials unlike the Tricky Trees. (http://www.forestfans.net/index.php?/topic/19294-wonder-if-fawaz-al-hasawi-has-the-money/page-3)

5. They listen to the right fans

It’s fantastic that Fawaz Al-Hasawi blindly follows the whims of the Nottingham Forest faithful. It’s certainly a much better idea than Vichai and Aiyawatt ignoring the Sven supporters and removing a man who wrongly or rightly thought he could spend the Foxes in to oblivion and the 50% of Leicester fans that wanted Nigel Pearson gone this summer.

6. They BACK their manager

The reason I capitalised ‘back’ is because making out that Fawaz Al-Hasawi is the greatest supporter of under-fire managers is simply ludicrous and entirely untrue. Vichai and Top (as Aiyawatt likes to be known) got rid of the feckless Paulo Sousa and careless Sven-Goran Eriksson and have since stuck by Nigel Pearson, who was in charge during Leicester’s dramatic collapse last season. Fawaz, on the other hand? He sacked one perfectly good manager, didn’t give another one a chance, brought back an old one and gets the plaudits for sticking with a manager that saved their season. What a pioneer!

7. They have their name on their shirts

I’m not sure why this is one of the ten best things about Fawaz Al-Hasawi but still, the Srivaddhanaprabhas do it better. Fawaz took the bold step of slapping his name on Forest’s shirt. The Thais did the same but trump the Kuwaiti by subsequently naming Leicester’s stadium after their business and opening a Leicester City merchandise section inside their duty free stores.

Committed… The Thai owners have invested heavily in to Leicester’s King Power Stadium and their Belvoir Drive training ground.

8. They have worldwide appeal

Credit to Fawaz for signing a deal to put every single one of Nottingham Forest’s home matches on Al Jazeera. Even our home matches aren’t always televised; most of them are, by Sky actually but that’s a different topic. The Srivaddhanaprabhas are pretty influential themselves, having been gifted with a new surname by the King of Thailand. They even claim that Thai football fans follow the Foxes as much as the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool. That’s certainly feasible if we were to look back on the pandemonium when Leicester played the Thai national team in 2010, winning 2-0. But then again, I suppose Nottingham Forest are already ‘world famous’, so it doesn’t matter does it?

9. They give more back to our fans

Fawaz takes pictures with the fans, tweets them and put a big old screen in the City Ground to broadcast an endless loop of King Billy’s unfinished business propaganda. The Thais have merely redeveloped the stadium, introduced a state of the art pitch, two giant screen TVs and an extravagant upgrade for the club’s training facilities, putting them up there with the best in the country. They’ve also regularly provided fans with freebies such as shirts, scarves, hot drinks, pies and season review DVDs. Oh, and who can forget the glamour friendly they arranged back in 2011 with Real Madrid to reward the fans for their loyal support. Forest got Aston Villa.

10. They don’t need the attention

The Thais are happy to sit in the shadows while Nigel Pearson’s Foxes strut their stuff. They don’t need a Twitter account to tease the City fanbase with empty promises and they certainly don’t need to impose a media blackout to prevent any bad press coming their way, and most importantly of all, we don’t need Natalie Jackson hanging around our boss like a bad smell.

So hat’s off to Fawaz and his gullible public, the Leicester City fans don’t need to label our owners ‘the best in football’ or dedicate a whole day to them in a bid to suit the cult of personality Fawaz has displayed at Forest. In fact, we know how lucky we are and the owners know how much they’re appreciated for the good things they actually do.

Flying Foxes

Well, who would have thought it? We’re midway through January and the mighty Leicester City are leading the way in the Sky Bet Championship after drubbing local non-rivals, Derby 4-1 at the King Power Stadium. Okay, I suppose the result against Derby is perfectly believable – some things never change. Regardless, last Friday the Foxes produced their best performance of the season to date, against genuine promotion contenders in the Rams, who would probably agree that the three-goal winning margin more than flattered the away side.

Silence of the Rams… The unplayable Foxes produced yet another instalment to Steve Walsh’s saga last Friday night.

The mood around the King Power Stadium right now is one of confidence and optimism, following last season’s unspeakably cruel end, the blue army, myself included had expected little more than another play-off foray this campaign. An air of disingenuous optimism surrounded the camp, with many predicting that our young squad wasn’t capable of bettering the end of last season’s dip in form, especially considering how little Nigel Pearson had to spend thanks to our frivolous cash flashing back in 2011. Fortunately for us blues, Nigel Pearson and his backroom staff have harnessed last season’s Vicarage Road heart ache and turned it to our advantage. The side is a year older, a year wiser and a year more experienced and it’s shown on the pitch. As of the 11th January 2014, the Foxes have notched up an unprecedented 54 points from the opening 25 league games. You would have to go back to Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2008 to find a larger haul at this stage of the Championship season. In fact, City have already amassed a gap of 10 points to 4th place, County, 13 points to the orgulous Nottingham Forest and a massive 16 points to 7th place.

Believe it or not, the Foxes have churned out top-notch performances and results all season and haven’t simply found themselves top due to their ability to con the referee in to a spot-kick. Seriously, go back and watch them all, there is possibly one contentious decision out of the lot. Opposing fans don’t seem to realise that the pace of Dyer, Vardy and de Laet cutting in to the box causes defenders to stick a leg out, hope for the best, and usually get the worst.  I suppose there should be a limit on how many times a team can get tripped up in the box, eh? Moving on, the team’s successes have been inspired by the ever brilliant performances of Danny Drinkwater and Lloyd Dyer, who feels like a new signing this season despite having joined the club five years ago. Jamie Vardy has also come in to his own in the opening act of this campaign, producing far better displays than he did last term, as he made the step up of three divisions. In all honesty, I could ramble on for hours praising the improvement of nearly all of Leicester’s regular starters – they really have been that good so far. And yes, I know, I keep using the term ‘so far’, I’m going somewhere with it…just not yet.

Improved… Lloyd Dyer has been one of the season’s starlets.

Lurking in the background of Leicester City’s promotion charge is the dreaded talk of finance. Many Foxes were worried that Financial Fair Play would stifle us this season, thankfully it hasn’t and thankfully, our wonderful owners, Vichai and Aiyawatt have seemingly wiped the club of £103m worth of debt. However, as a consequence, they have been less than reluctant to renew the contracts of several City starlets presumably on Premier League wages. This July, eleven players  including Kasper Schmeichel, Wes Morgan, Paul Konchesky, Lloyd Dyer and David Nugent are set to become free agents unless contracts are assured. The club have stated that the issue will be addressed at the end of the season, once our place in either the top or second tier is confirmed, which given the financial backing we’ve already had, is understandable. However, more recently Nigel Pearson, who himself is out of contract in Summer, has stated that negotiations are making ‘some progress’. I really do think this is a topic savoured by the doom and gloom merchants that attach themselves to Leicester City Football Club. I can’t see for an instant why any of these players would want to leave us whilst we’re in the position we’re in and I can’t say Pearson will readily let any of them go should any offers come in. The situation is far from ideal but we need to trust the club on this and hope it’s not as catastrophic as some ‘fans’ would have you believe because it probably isn’t.

Broken record… The fans’ mentality can have an impact on the season’s outcome.

Another thing nagging at the back of the minds of many Leicester fans is the end of last season collapse the Foxes faced in 2012-13. City picked up just 15 points out of 51 from February to May last year. However, given the steeliness we’ve seen from the side this term and their ability to come back from losing positions and grind out results when they haven’t played their best, there is no reason for the blue army to be too fearful of another implosion in that respect. It’s hard not to start dreaming of the Premier League, particularly after performances like last Friday’s, even I, as anxious and cautious as I am about premature celebrations, have started to dream of what now seems like the surreal concept of a Leicester City promotion to the top flight. In fact, in my ten short years following the club, I can’t remember a more positive feeling around the club, so as a fan base lets approach this with some cautious optimism, the job is nowhere near done and with Queens Park Rangers and Burnley snagging at our coat tails, any misplaced arrogance could see us slide in to the play-offs but as we’re in the poll position right now, there is no reason we can’t be celebrating in May. To fit the old cliché, the remaining twenty-one games are cup finals – starting with Leeds away on Saturday. Keep the faith – this may just be our year.

Pictures: Leicester Mercury / This is Leicestershire

Head Strong: Why Mentality is The Key to Leicester City’s season

On the brink of football’s busiest time of the season, Leicester City stand on the cusp of the top two with an impressive 38 points from 19 games played, promotion form, as the pundits like to call it. However, The Foxes fans’ morale has sunken following two defeats last week to lowly Sheffield Wednesday and Brighton & Hove Albion. Ahead, of a huge week for Leicester City in which they face both of the top two as well as Premier League giants, Manchester City, this new form and indeed attitude seems like a less than desirable way to tackle it.

Crucial... The high-flying Foxes face Burnely, Man City and QPR next week.

Crucial… The high-flying Foxes face Burnely, Man City and QPR next week.

From an outside perspective, a fan seeming discontented in third place following two defeats, which haven’t proven very costly would seem absolutely laughable. And I’d tend to agree with those who take that view. The Foxes despite deserving to lose at both Hillsborough and the AMEX Stadium have put in plenty of positives prior to last week to get them in to the lofty position that they’re in. Many fans are worried that this is the start of yet another downturn in form, like the one that scuppered any chance of automatic promotion last season.  Many believe that City’s young squad lacked the mental strength to overcome adversity last season but Nigel Pearson’s squad seem suited for recovery following last season’s cruel ending at Vicarage Road.

Emulation… Leicester’s record mirrors champions, Cardiff’s.

There’s no surprise that City fans fear the worst, after last week given 2013’s downward spiral and the club’s reputation of ‘bottling’ good positions and being a ‘nearly club’. But one thing Leicester fans mustn’t forget to apply when assessing the club’s position is perspective. Leicester remain just one point of the top spot, four ahead of fourth place Derby and seven points clear of the play-off’s chasing pack. The Foxes are 5 points better off than at this stage last season and 9 better off than the 2011–12 campaign. As a matter of fact, last season’s champions, Cardiff City held the exact same record of 12–2–5 at this stage last season as the Foxes do now. As well as this, the mental strength of the squad seems to have improved with the Foxes already managing to salvage 10 points from losing positions this season. The side even managed a 3-0 thumping of Watford, at the very ground where their promotion hopes were callously dashed in May.

Support… Lessened expectation could be City’s catalyst.

In my opinion, the fans have been excellent this season, managing to support the club through numbers and noise on the road and at home. But now we’ve hit a rough patch, expectation is once again rearing it’s ugly head. We failed in 2011–12 when we all expected City to get promoted and we failed last season too. Now, Leicester are expected to go on a calamitous downturn in form that will ultimately end our season. It’s probably safe to assume that half a fanbase expecting and translating negativity will only suit to confound our recent blip, if you can even call it that. Instead of expecting us to thrash all of our opponents or slump in to mid-table obscurity, let’s support the team through adversity. We all know well enough how crazy this league and indeed supporting Leicester City is and I think we can all see that our club doesn’t thrive under pressure – let’s do our bit and hope the players and manager respond. Keep the faith and all that.

P.S. Enjoy this fanmade tribute to Anthony Knockaert and that penalty save –

Leicester City’s Greatest Goals : The Top 10

Without further ado, here are the top 10 Leicester City goals, as voted for by the Foxes faithful.

10. Andy Peake (vs. Liverpool, 1980)

Thousands crammed in to Filbert Street to see a young Leicester City side take on league champions two years running in Liverpool. Foxes manager, Jock Wallace had boasted of City’s credentials before the match and after two defeats to start the season, The Foxes ran out 2-0 winners over a side that would go on to be crowned European Champions at the end of the campaign. And, it was 18-year-old Andy Peake who set the ball rolling by blasting home from 30 yards. Interestingly enough, City went on to complete a league double over the Kopites, ending Liverpool’s 85 game unbeaten run at Anfield.

9. Keith Weller (vs. Luton Town, 1974)

Leicester City took to Kenilworth Road in 1974 to inflict a ruthless 4-0 demolition of the Hatters in the FA Cup. Leicester cruised to  a three-goal lead in front of 25,000 in Bedfordshire before the infamous tight-clad, Weller coasted past four players took the ball upon his left foot and drilled it in to the top left corner from 18 yards. City went on to the semi-finals of the competition, eventually losing out to winners, Liverpool.

8. Steve Walsh (vs. Arsenal, 1997)

I imagine this is as high as it is in the rankings due to the nature of the goal, rather than the quality of it. Leicester had maintained an impressive unbeaten record at Filbert Street and welcomed a titanous Arsenal side who took the game to city for 85 minutes by which point Dennis Bergkamp had gifted the Gunners a 2-0 lead. Heskey bumbled the ball over the line in the 84th minute to give the Foxes hope of a comeback, which was completed in the third of three allocated minutes of added time when Matt Elliott blasted home from the edge of the box. Filbert Street was rocking with delirium at the impressive comeback only for Dennis Bergkamp to break forward again and score a simply sublime goal to once again put the Gunners ahead in the 94th minute. Clearly aggrieved by the second late twist, the Foxes immediately pushed forward and forced a corner. Garry Parker delivered the ball in to the area and after a forray of headers, captain fantastic Steve Walsh nodded the ball hopelessly past David Seaman, sparking some of the wildest celebrations Filbert Street had ever seen.

7. Steve Howard (vs. Leeds United, 2009)

Again, in terms of quality there are many more goals that could have and should have been ranked ahead of this one. But for the momentous occasion and goal it was, it is worthy of its place. Leicester City had been partaking in their first ever season in the third tier of English football, and had been doing exceptionally well. The Foxes led the table since November and with four games to go, were in poll position for an immediate return to the second tier. Backed by a crowd of 27,000 in front of Sky’s cameras, Steve Howard wrote the history in a rugged, even affair between the two clubs heading home from a corner in the very last minute, sending Leicester City back to the Championship and on their way to their first domestic league title since 1980.

6. Joey Gudjonsson (vs. Hull City, 2006)

Not many would have envisaged a player from the 2005-08 era scoring one of the Foxes greatest goals but it would be hard to ignore Joey Gudjonsson’s claim to the title. In a mid-table Championship clash between the Foxes and the Tigers, the latter managed by City villiain, Peter Taylor, Leicester ran out 3-2 winners at the then Walkers Stadium. Leicester had taken the lead in the first half through Iain Hume, only for Hull to equalise 5 minutes later, leaving the score level at the break. The Foxes pressured in the second half and were rewarded when the Icelandic Gudjonsson spotted Boaz Myhill off his line and launched a shot from the half-way line that expertly flew in to the back of the net. Hull had the cheek to level the tie ten minutes later only for Gudjonsson to win the tie with another strike; this one a tap-in from 25 yards.

5. Muzzy Izzet (vs. Tottenham Hotspur, 1998)

Fear was rife at Filbert Street with the national media reporting that club legend, Martin O’Neill was being swayed to take a job at Leeds United, whom the Foxes had beaten two weeks earlier. Local paper, the Leicester Mercury had organised the ‘Don’t Go Martin’ campaign, by making signs for fans to hold up for the Premier League game between City and Spurs. The fans took part wholeheartedly and City went on to win the game, coming from behind to win 2-1, courtesy of an 85th minute wonder-volley from Turkish international, Muzzy Izzet. Martin O’Neill decided to stay and the rest is history.

4. Anthony Knockaert (vs. Nottingham Forest, 2013)

May 4th 2013 was the stuff of dreams for the Foxes faithful. A run of mixed form had seen the Blues surrender a top six place, leaving them to battle Bolton in 6th and hosts Forest in 7th for the last spot on the final day of the season. Bolton were held to a 2-2 draw at home to Blackpool, in a shock result, meaning the winner of the East Midlands derby at the City Ground would reach the top 6. Simon Cox fired the Reds ahead inside three minutes before Leicester hit back with goals from Matty James and Andy King. The Foxes were poised for the top 6 at the break but Forest levelled the tie on 50 minutes through Elliott Ward. It was a tense affair from then on with both sides knowing one goal would be enough. In the 92nd minute the ball landed at the feet of Jeff Schlupp who picked out a pass to Anthony Knockaert, a one-two with Chris Wood ended with the Frenchman side-footing home ten yards in front of the cut allocation of away fans. The City faithful in the ground and around the country went ballistic as The Foxes recorded their first league win at the City Ground since 1972 to slide in to the top six. It was made even sweeter by the fact it was at the expense of bitter rivals Nottingham Forest.

3. Lilian Nalis (vs. Leeds United, 2003)

Leicester picked up their first league win of the 2003-04 season at home to Leeds United in September 2003 and in fine fashion indeed. Some ten years ago, Leeds were considered a genuine force in English football and for Leicester to thrash them 4-0 at home was quite a result. Sky cameras caught the demolition on camera, in a night that would be game remembered for hilarious Fanzone commentary, a marker for what City hoped to achieve in the top-flight that season and more importantly that goal from Lilian Nalis.

2. Steve Claridge (vs. Crystal Palace, 1996)

Journeyman Steve Claridge comes in as runner-up with this shinned effort at Wembley in 1996. Leicester City had embarked on a remarkable up-turn in form under Martin O’Neill to navigate in to the play-offs and through them to reach the final. But things weren’t going well for the Foxes on the day, falling behind to a 14th minute goal from Crystal Palace’s Andy Roberts. Leicester rallied in the second half and forced a penalty that granted them an equaliser in the 76th minute. The Foxes and the Eagles couldn’t be separated for the next fourteen minutes of normal time and indeed the thirty minutes of extra time. With seconds to go, Martin O’Neill substituted goalkeeper, Kevin Poole for Željko Kalac, who was considered to stand a better chance of saving penalties in the impending shoot-out. Following the switch, a Leicester free-kick was only partially cleared, leaving Steve Claridge to swing his leg and see the ball fly off his shin in to the net in front of a stunned and then suddenly rapturous, Leicester crowd. Having experienced plenty of play-off heartbreak in the 1990s, Leicester City got a phenomenal reward that started them on the path of a wondrous Premier League adventure.

1. Muzzy Izzet (vs. Grimsby Town, 2002)

It wasn’t even close. Leicester City legend, Muzzy Izzet has won all the plaudits for his wonder strike at Blundell Park all those years ago and rightly so! The Foxes were in the midst of a mammoth push for a return to the top-flight when they met the Mariners on Humberside. James Scowcroft gave the Foxes the lead, only for Grimsby to level in the 54th minute. Leicester, who were down to ten men then broke down the wing, with Andy Impey charging past a full-back and expertly crafting a precise cross in to the area for Muzzy Izzet to fly backwards in to the air and scissor kick the ball past the Grimsby keeper, in front of the travelling supporters. Who would have thought that City’s best goal would come in such an unglamorous, non-spectacle of a game like a Tuesday night Division One game at Blundell Park but it did and it was a peach and then some. Leicester fans will tell you that Izzet’s miracle strike was better than the similar effort scored by Wayne Rooney against Manchester City… and they’re probably right.

My Story as a Football Fan

I didn’t always like football. Actually, when I was little I didn’t see the point. As a seven-year-old boy, I didn’t understand why kicking a sphere of air in to a net brought such joy to people – I was really all about Star Wars. One day circa 2002, my sister was playing football outside with my Dad while me and my two cousins re-enacted Yoda and Count Dooku’s lightsaber duel with my Lego… I know. They soon got bored and went outside to join them, apparently people don’t appreciate being told that they’re not recreating an intricate fight scene with toys correctly. I didn’t want to be a loner so I went outside and played too and I loved it. I never expected to but I really did. From that point on, I was a football fan. I didn’t know anything about the English game, except that my family’s club, Leicester City were on the brink of relegation from the Premiership; a concept I simply didn’t understand.

Glorious… Filbert Street’s infamous double decker stand.

Something, I’ve never tweeted nor mentioned in any blog is that initially, I was Manchester United fan. Truthfully, they were the only team other than Leicester that I knew and I think I thought Leicester ceased to exist whilst they weren’t in the Premier League.  My ‘support’ of Man U didn’t last long. I soon decided to support my local club (still Leicester) and it came about in a very special way. The 2001–02 season marked Leicester’s last in the Premiership and their last at their historic home, Filbert Street.  On the day prior to its demolition, the ground was open to fans to have a kick about. Me and my family went down and had a game and I ended up scoring the winning goal against my Uncle Paul. To our knowledge, the ground closed when we left, meaning we were the last people to play a game of football on that historic pitch. I was the last person to score a ‘goal’ at Filbert Street, as the family legend goes. Not a bad way to start off your following of a club, eh?

From then on, my support for the Foxes ebbed and flowed, I went to my first game in 2002/03 after I won a pair of tickets from a football course at my primary school. We drew 1–1 at home to Sheffield Wednesday. The next season, following our promotion back to the top-flight my Dad caught the City bug again and bought us season tickets. Sometimes, me and my sister and my cousins who also went loved it and sometimes we didn’t. We used to take a small ball and play downstairs on the concourse. I still remember every result from that season and most from every one that has followed. We’ve renewed our season tickets every season since but I truly fell in love with Leicester again in 2008, after years of mediocrity, our club had been relegated to its lowest ever position – the third tier of English football. From then on, I’ve been hooked, resonating City’s triumphs with my own and their defeats likewise. I’ve always been proud of my hometown. In fact, I was always infamous at school for being from Leicester, because I never stopped banging on about it.

As you can tell if you follow me on Twitter, I’m very much infatuated with Leicester City Football Club. Which is weird when you really think about it, especially when you know how skeptical and cynical I am about these sorts of things. Being a Leicester fan and a football fan unites my family and my community. Some of my best memories are from football. We all want to feel apart of something bigger than ourselves and football offers us that. That’s why we refer to our favourite team as ‘we’ when we have nothing to do with the actual playing of the game. To be honest, I don’t know why I’m writing this. I was inspired by Kyle Andrews’ post on Charlton Athletic and MK Dons which I’ll link at the bottom of this post. He talked about feeling a sense of belonging around his club and although, we admire the fans of Germany, Spain, South America etc., following a club is a unique experience in this country. Where else do you see 7,000 fans in the fifth tier of the domestic league turning up every game like they do at Kenilworth Road for Luton Town and better yet, where else do 1,500 fans pile in on a cold Tuesday night to back Darlington 1883 in the 8th tier? This dedication, to me explains why English football fans nearly always put club before country. Football is our game, it’s part of our culture and we don’t like to share it. We’re more bothered about being the best on these shores than globally because our clubs have a real sense of belonging. It sounds corny, I’m sure I’ll read this back and cringe myself but it’s true as far as I can see. You often see people refute claims that football is ‘just a game’. But it is. Football is merely a game, nothing more, nothing less. The problem is, the people that chose what was allowed to encompass a ‘game’. Passion, drive, community, dictation of mood, anything you want can be part of this game. But really, football is just a game. It’s also just a very special one.