premier league

Leicester City’s Top 10 Greatest Managers

It’s one of the classic debates had between fans of every football club the nation over. Yes, we all know who’s going to win this ranking but let’s at least revel in his nine runners-up before we once again bask in the greatness of City’s greatest ever manger as chosen by the fans.

 10. David Halliday

Average rating: 5.21/10
Win rate: 64-27-54 (44.14%)
Tenure: 1955–8

Accolades: 1956–7 Second Division Champions

In truth, Halliday’s reign at Leicester City wasn’t too eventful. Whilst he did guide the Foxes to their fourth of a record seven second tier titles in 1957 following a successful spell as manager of Aberdeen. During his stint at Filbert Street, Halliday got the Foxes firing presiding over the career of legend Arthur Rowley in a championship winning season that saw the Foxes set a club record 109 goals. But perhaps, despite a solid but unremarkable record at the Foxes, his lasting legacy will be laying the foundations for what would be Leicester’s longest stint in the top-flight. In fact, Filbert Street would be Halliday’s final footballing destination. Following his exit from the manager’s role in 1958, he retired from football management and passed away some twelve years later.

 9. Frank O’Farrell

Average rating: 5.9/10
Win rate: 51-28-35 (44.74%)
Tenure: 1968–71

Accolades: 1970–71 Second Division Champions, 1969 FA Cup finalists

Frank O’Farrell’s tenure was all too typical of Leicester City’s history overall. Under the Irishmen’s tutelage, City experienced relegation, winning the second tier and of course FA Cup final defeat. Of course, those three eventualities seem to define City’s existence but O’Farrell can take great pleasure in being the only manager to lead the Foxes to all three before swanning off to emerging European giants Manchester United in 1972.

8. Jock Wallace

Average rating: 6.46/10
Win rate: 69-51-69 (36.51%)
Tenure: 1978–82

Accolades: 1979–80 Second Division Champions

Whilst widely regarded as one of Rangers’ best ever managers, Wallace’s City career was slightly less glamorous. The Scot was famous for the brutal, in your face style of management he employed, scaring the wits out of Gary Lineker during his tenure. Wallace led City to yet another second tier title and a famous double over European Champions Liverpool, who had gone 85 games unbeaten at Anfield at the time, despite this feat City were relegated that season but not without pulling off what would be the biggest transfer in the club’s history; an audacious bid for Johan Cryuff.

7. Brian Little

Average rating: 6.51/10
Win rate: 76-58-54 (42.70%)
Tenure: 1991–94

Accolades: Promotion to the Premier League 1993–94

Brian Little never brought any real hardware to Filbert Way. But he did set up the Leicester City pitch at Wembley that would last throughout the 1990s, meaning only England played at the famous ground more in that decade. Little transformed the hapless Foxes from a side waiting for their first relegation to the third tier in to play-off finalists three years running. The memories of heartbreaking near misses against Blackburn Rovers and Swindon Town were all made worth it, when Brian Little’s side silenced the Rams in 1994, giving Leicester their first ever promotion to the newly found Premier League.

6. Peter Hodge

Average rating: 6.69/10
Win rate: 159-110-141 (38.78%)
Tenure: 1919–26, 1932–34

Accolades: 1924–25 Second Division Champions

It seems fitting that City’s first ever manager go down as one of their best. Back in their early years, the Foxes were a club slapped with a small-time label; low attendances, struggling in the second tier, occasional applications for re-election and so forth. When money worries hit the club, Leicester did away with the use of footballing boards and secretaries in managing the team appointing Hodge as their first ever leader. During a difficult socio-economic period, Hodge brought stability to the club and team. In his first stint, Hodge led the Foxes to their first ever promotion, first ever league title and trebled home attendances. When he rejoined Leicester from Manchester City in 1932, he took the club to their first ever FA Cup final before taking ill over one Summer. He died 18 days after relinquishing the manager’s post.

5. Willie Orr

Average rating: 7.1/10
Win rate: 131-78-126 (39.10%)
Tenure: 1926–32
Accolades: 1928–29 First Division Runners-up

Willie Orr was the manager bookended by Peter Hodge. In his first three seasons at the club, City set a new highest ever league finish, going from 7th in the top flight to 3rd to runners-up in 1929, a record that remains intact today. Orr built on the work started by Peter Hodge and managed the side to a close second to then-named the Wednesday, in true Leicester fashion, they were on course to win the title for much of the season but didn’t quite make it. Form didn’t stay with the Foxes though and Willie Orr bowed out allowing Peter Hodge to return and pick up where he left off.

4. Nigel Pearson

Average rating: 7.72/10
Win rate: 130-64-73 (48.69%)
Tenure: 2008–10, 2011–
Accolades: 2008–09 Football League One Champions, 2013–14 Football League Championship Champions

Current leader Nigel Pearson is one of the best. Before the Foxes, Pearson’s experience as manager was minimal but he was still able to guide the declining Foxes out of the painfully unfamiliar third tier and in style, before guiding the Foxes to the record-breaking seventh second tier title in his second stint. In fact, breaking records was a real feat for Leicester last season when the Foxes smashed points totals, winning runs, consecutive away wins records among many others. In fact, in all of Pearson’s full seasons so far, the Foxes have claimed a top six finish, although we can all agree we won’t achieve that this season, having  finally landed back in the top-flight. As being responsible for a quarter of the club’s league titles, Pearson also boasts the highest win rate of any of the club’s longest serving manager too. And if you can’t appreciate these achievements you can “f**k off and die!”

3. Jimmy Bloomfield

Average rating: 7.74/10
Win rate: 85-104-96 (29.82%)
Tenure: 1971–7

The fact Jimmy Bloomfield has reached the top three is remarkable given his distinct lack of accolades, however this is a strong case to place him in the bronze medal position. During the early 1970s, Bloomfield was able to fashion a Leicester side renowned for flair, skill and free-flowing football, whilst running the team on a shoestring budget. Legends like Frank Worthington, Lenny Glover and Keith Weller were all apart of the side that dazzled the top flight for six years. If there was any doubts about the substance to Bloomfield’s attractive side then note that Leicester were relegated as the bottom club the season after his departure.

2. Matt Gillies

Average rating: 7.77/10
Win rate: 201-123-184 (39.57%)
Tenure: 1958–68
Accolades: 1964 League Cup winners, 1965 League Cup runners-up, 1961 FA Cup runners-up, 1963 FA Cup runners-up

The best of the rest is Leicester’s longest serving manager, Matt Gillies. The savvy Scot led to Leicester to more cup finals than any other manager in history, winning admiration from esteemed contemporaries like Sir Matt Busby and Bill Shankly in the process. In fact, had City not been cursed by being a nearly club, the Foxes may have had three more major trophies to boast about today. In fact, had Gillies been able to carry Leicester over the line, he may have been a place better off. But still, Gillies’ reign was filled with successes, he was the first manager to lead the Foxes in to Europe, where typically they were unstuck by the pesky Atletico Madrid. If all of this wasn’t enough, when Gillies walked out on the Foxes after a dispute with the board, he went up the A46 and relegated Nottingham Forest. Happy days.

 

1. Martin O’Neill

Average rating: 9.09/10
Win rate: 85-68-70 (38.12%)
Tenure: 1995–2000
Accolades: 1997 League Cup winners, 2000 League Cup winners, 1999 League Cup runners-up

Shock horror! From “O’Neill out” to “Don’t Go Martin”. O’Neill’s stewardship at Leicester City is considered something of a fairytale on Filbert Way some twenty years on. Having fashioned an unlucky winning run that took City towards the most valuable shin in football and a place in the Premier League, it was only up from there. The Foxes would go on to rock the Premier League, picking up memorable wins such as the 5–2 thrashing of Sunderland, the 4–0 away romp at Pride Park and the infamous 3–3 at home to Arsenal. O’Neill’s efficient side practically established a monopoly over the League Cup, reaching three finals in five years, and winning two of them. Martin O’Neill was simply never going to be beaten in this race, having been responsible for the most enjoyable period of the Foxes’ recent history and two of the club’s three major trophies, he is rightfully considered Leicester City’s greatest ever manager.

January Sales: Leicester’s Rumoured Targets

I have spent much of the last three months grimacing, cringing and evading any conversation about my pre-season appraisal of Leicester City. Having, in retrospect, naively assumed that stats alone would be enough to see the Foxes in to the 2015–16 Premier League season, it seems I forgot to account for what is now clear, our distinct lack of quality. With the Foxes languishing unthinkably at the bottom of the table, and some FIVE points behind Burnley in 17th, the January transfer window will be simply crucial.

Defence 

SD Eibar’s Raul Albentosa

City’s kamikaze defending since September has largely been the reason for dropped points. Individual catastrophes made from both full backs and centre backs have led to the Foxes conceding soft goals and leaving matches with less than they ‘deserved’. Fans have called out for strengthening in both areas of defence. Tottenham Hotspur’s Kyle Naughton is said to be out of favour, and has thus been linked with a return to the City. However, with two right backs in Ritchie De Laet and Danny Simpson tied up for the long-term, signing another player in this position is unlikely to be a priority. Fellow former loanee Curtis Davies is too being banded about as a potential signing, but given his position as Hull City’s captain is extremely unlikely to replicate Nigel Pearson’s team switching. Elsewhere, lesser known centre backs in Bournemouth’s Steve Cook and SD Eibar’s Raul Albentosa are apparently on City’s wishlist. The Cherries are flying high at the top of the Championship, so tempting him away from the South Coast may be tricky. Albentosa currently plies his trade with La Liga minnows, Eibar and has impressed in their bid to avoid the seemingly unavoidable drop. Both defenders have different strengths, Cook’s attributes are mostly suited to intercepting on the ground and playing out from defence, a weakness of Albentosa’s game, who may be better suited to winning aerial defensive battles, and helping City cope better with set pieces. It’s vital that Leicester bolster at the back, a mobile centre-half such as Curtis Davies would be ideal but we have to acknowledge how unlikely that is to happen. Steve Cook may be a decent replacement in that respect. Reports linking us to Naugthon and Eboue seem lazy and contrived, City are more in need of a left-back given Schlupp’s impending departure to the AFCON and Konchesky’s underperformance. Danny Simpson has coped defensively in place of Ritchie de Laet. 

WhoScored.Com ranks the players’ performances so far this season;
Curtis Davies (7.36), Steve Cook (7.23), Raul Albentosa (7.17), Kyle Naughton (6.57)

Midfield

Besiktas’ Veli Kavlak

Now, midfield is currently where you will find the most of Leicester City’s limited supply of Premier League quality. In central midfield, Argentinian legend Esteban Cambiasso seems to be a step ahead of the rest of the side on many ocassions and could benefit from others with greater vision. Last season’s player of the season Danny Drinkwater is struggling to attain a place in the Starting XI, jostling it out with James, King and Powell for a spot. Riyad Mahrez continues to excite on the wings, as Anthony Knockaert could if he were afforded the chance. Despite protestations from the terraces that the Foxes boast ‘the best midfield in the world’, City have come under criticism for failing to control games from the middle of the park. Tough tackling Austrian midfielder Veli Kavlak has received attention from the Foxes but will have to fight off supposed interest from Everton and Southampton. Current starting wide men, Riyad Mahrez and Jeff Schlupp are set to be called off to the African Cup of Nations in January so City will need to bolster the flanks. A whole host of names have been floated, Manchester City’s Scott Sinclair is rumoured but could demand a wage packet out of the reach of the Foxes. Too, a loan deal for Arsenal’s World Cup star Joel Campbell has also been reported. It’s vital that City get a bit more bite in midfield, Kavlak could be the answer and a real coup given the interest he’s attracting, down the wing, one replacement should be enough with Albrighton and Knockaert fully able to step in to Mahrez’ and Schlupp’s boots in their absence. Sinclair has become a bit of a question mark but may be worth a punt given Arsenal’s likely reluctance to let Campbell go anyway on a permanent basis.

WhoScored.Com ranks the players’ performances so far this season;
Veli Kavlak (6.94), Joel Campbell (6.46), Scott Sinclair (n/a)

 Attack

Milan’s Fernando Torres

Despite the goal scoring exploits of newboy Leonardo Ulloa, the Foxes’ strikers have been largely unimpressive with the three other strikers, Chris Wood, David Nugent and Jamie Vardy scoring just once each. Unsurprisingly, strikers are the many focal point for City’s transfer speculation. There’s nothing to say here in great deal, except that City need a proven goal scorer. Having failed to capture either of Sporting’s Islam Slimani and Watford’s Troy Deeney. However, The Foxes may not have the luxury of attracting a tried and tested formula, despite tenous links with Everton’s Arouna Koné, Chelsea’s Fernando Torres and Toronto’s Jermain Defoe, who seems likely to head to Loftus Road, Leicester may need to take a punt on a wonderkid. Links have been made with Alexsandar Mitrovic of Anderlecht, whose goal scoring exploits this term would command a high fee. Luciano Vietto is said to be on Newcastle’s radar, putting City in the weaker bargaining position. Leicester are too reported to have had a £7.9m bid rejected for Andrej Kramaric, who is too high on league leaders Chelsea’s list. If the Foxes were to buy domestically then raids of Ipswich Town and Crystal Palace have been suggested with a resurgence of links to the Tractor Boys’s striker David McGoldrick, who has netted six goals in the second tier this season. Elsewhere, the Eagles’ back-up striker Dwight Gayle has recently been touted and may find more favour at the King Power Stadium than at Selhurst Park. In my view, strikers like McGoldrick and Gayle, who have failed to stand out in even the second tier of English football, are the strikers we should be avoiding. Admittedly, it will be a lot harder to attract a Jermain Defoe, that still has a lot to offer to a struggling top-flight side, or a wonder-kid like Vietto or Mitrovic but these are the players City should prefer, on the premise they are confident of being able to do a deal.

WhoScored.Com ranks the players’ performances so far this season;
Andrej Kramaric (7.44), Troy Deeney (7.24), David McGoldrick (7.11), Luciano Vietto (7.05), Islam Slimani (6.93), Jermain Defoe (6.92), Aleksandar Mitrovic (6.91), Arouna Kone (6.58), Fernando Torres (6.54), Dwight Gayle (6.26)

What the Bookies think

Here are the bookies odds on some players joining Leicester City in the next Transfer window;
Aaron Lennon – 20/1 (BetVictor)
Danny Ings – 33/1 (BetVictor)
Fabian Delph – 20/1 (BetVictor)
Gary Hooper – 33/1 (BetVictor)
Glen Johnson – 20/1 (Betfair)
Jermain Defoe – Evens (Sky Bet & Bet Victor), 11/8 (Betfair)
Joel Campbell – 16/1 (BetVictor)
Kris Commons – 4/1 (BetVictor)
Moussa Dembele – 20/1 (BetVictor)
Ravel Morrison – 13/2 (Paddy Power)
Scott Sinclair – 12/1 (Sky Bet)
Tyrone Mings – 20/1 (Sky Bet)

Pearson, Sort it Out!

Currently, there’s a widespread feeling of confusion at Filbert Way. After an impressive haul of eight points against Arsenal, Everton, Chelsea, Stoke and Manchester United, the Foxes have failed to pick up more than a solitary point against less fancied outfits Crystal Palace, Burnley, Newcastle, Swansea and West Brom – as well as high-flying Southampton. Begging the question; what on earth has happened to Leicester City?

I’m not usually a fan of phrases like “typical Leicester” or “classic City”. They’re constantly used with pessimistic connotations and are synonymous with the sort of banally arrogant fatalism that’s spouted by nearly every football fan the nation over. However, Leicester’s recent glitch does seem to resonate with our rather regrettable tradition of helping those on a bad run – be they Newcastle, Swansea or Shane Long. At least, that’s all I thought it was until one point in four became one point in five which then became one point in six.

Last season, Leicester were a beacon of stability. The formidable system of 4-4-2 was seldom tinkered with, and the same could be said for the personnel. Crucially, it seemed the Championship’s big-hitters of last term; Leicester, Burnley, Derby etc., all used the fewest amount of players in the league. Consistency in selection led to consistent results.

I’m sure monotony, as you may dub it, is quite in tune with City manager Nigel Pearson’s appearance. However, in recent weeks he seems to have deviated from that image. Leicester have started their last six games in no less than five different systems with the starting eleven from the previous game failing to survive intact for the next game once.

Under-pressure… Nigel Pearson’s tactics have been slated by many Leicester fans

And as much as I admire his work at the club thus far, Nigel Pearson ought to take a sizeable portion of the culpability for the recent blip. The manager’s defensive and dismissive attitude when it comes to discussing tactics with the media has been challenged lately as he’s been keener to explore different set-ups – it appears Pearson may have bought in to the anti-4-4-2 rhetoric of the Premier League’s experts. Persistent tinkering is surely counter-productive, particularly when that very tinkering has the side lining up to match West Bromwich Albion’s threat at home. Talks of a confidence crisis have been rife on City forums, and with the manager not placing ample faith in his side to undo Albion playing to their strengths there would be no surprise if there was some substance to it.

There too have been repeated calls of a reversion to Leicester’s favoured 4-4-2 system, to include more width in to the side’s play, be it tactically en vogue or not.  City’s strikers that started the most recent league outing at St. Mary’s, Leonardo Ulloa and Jamie Vardy have scored six goals between them this season, all of them, bar a penalty against Manchester United have come from wide positions. In fact, since Pearson sacrificed width for whatever he feels the side has gained since, I can barely remember the pair having a shot on target between them.

On top of this, the Foxes seem content enough to continually invite pressure on themselves away from home, looking to absorb any threat and then cannon the ball back out to the opposition – at least we appear to have learned the art of defending set pieces, not that we could score one at the other end in a month of Sundays. Simply put though, Leicester are not good enough to play the containing game away from home and consistently pick up points. Our best players are attackers, and as clichéd as it sounds, they need to be a form of defence for us away from home as much as the defenders do.

Cursed… The out-of-form Foxes have been unlucky in recent weeks

Don’t get me wrong, Nigel Pearson has been a superb manager for the club and to want his dismissal at this moment in time would be lunacy but his decisions of late have definitely raised eyebrows. His persistence with isolating previously free-scoring Leonardo Ulloa up top and his desire to transform our best striker in Jamie Vardy in to a makeshift winger have been thoroughly ineffective and ultimately a waste of time. It seems clear to everyone in the stands that Nigel needs to discover his best eleven and start playing to our strengths, home and away – like he said he was going to before the start of the current campaign.

Of course, it’s also true that this slump is not all the manager’s fault. The current Leicester team(s) haven’t really looked like scoring in their last six matches, summed up perfectly by Chris Wood’s unthinkable miss on the South Coast. On top of that, our passing game has been erratic, rushed and panicked for weeks. Leicester’s attacking and defensive strengths seem to be depreciating simultaneously but despite it not being all down to Nigel Pearson – it’s his job to fix it.

However, it’s important to remember that the sides that fought gallantly against the country’s footballing elite are all still here, they just need to be unearthed again. Maybe, it’s time to do away with what others think and go and play Leicester City’s game, and perhaps, in Football Manager terms switch the mentality from ‘contain’ back to ‘counter’ away from home– it wasn’t working too badly in August and September. I’m not having the suggestion that we aren’t good enough for this level because we are – we’ve seen it, it just needs to be reproduced again and again. But with all this being said, it’s imperative we as fans don’t lose hope and our patience with Nigel Pearson – he’ll sort it all out with time to spare, and so will the players.

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 –

Clubs That *Should* Be In The Premier League

Okay, to clear things up, I’m by no means suggesting that the following seven clubs get automatic admission to the top-flight. In fact, the teams that are in the Premier League, deserve to be there… obviously. So to the likes of Hull City, Swansea City, Cardiff City, Crystal Palace and beyond, congratulations you merit your position. This is just, if I had to start the Premier League from scratch, who I would choose to be the additional founding members.

Leeds United

Current league: Sky Bet Championship
Years in exile: 9

Marching on together… Leeds United are a sleeping giant.

The lilywhites of West Yorkshire are simply one of the most famous clubs in the country. They’ve experienced great success in the past and have a fanbase to much, despite their now dwindling numbers at home. Leeds would bring a great deal of atmosphere to the Premier League with their passionate away support and would ignite the ‘Roses derby’ with Manchester United that the neutral has been robbed of for so many years.

Ipswich Town

Current league: Sky Bet Championship
Years in exile: 11

Unchanged… Portman Road has experienced more than a decade of stability.

The former UEFA Cup champions from Suffolk are certainly unsung when this debate ever arouses. Despite spending the last 11 years rooted in the second tier, Town are still, in my humble opinion, a bigger club than their East Anglian rivals, Norwich City. The Tractor boys may not have the fanbase to match other clubs in this list but they are certainly worthy of gracing the top flight, having finished fifth as recently as the 2000-01 season.

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Current league: Sky Bet League One
Years in exile: 2

Underachieving… Wolves will spend the 2013-14 season in the third tier.

Woeful Wolves have only spent two seasons outside of the top-flight but now find themselves two promotions from returning. The West Midlands club have been in free fall since 2011 and should never have hit the low they’re at now. Wolves remain a club with a sizeable fanbase and a glittering history, certainly worthy of returning to the Premier League sooner rather than later.

Sheffield Wednesday

Current league: Sky Bet Championship
Years in exile: 13

Invasion… Fans celebrate 2012’s promotion to the Championship

If we’re talking underachievers, you can’t look much further than Sheffield Wednesday. Historically, the club can boast eight major trophies and a huge fanbase in a city that shares two fairly big clubs. The Owls ought to reach the Premier League just to spare their long-suffering fans who have seen the third tier nearly as much as the second in the last decade.

Leicester City

Current league: Sky Bet Championship
Years in exile: 9

Geared… City’s impressive ‘new’ home has only seen one season of top-flight football.

I may be biased here but the Foxes are more than worthy of a place in the big time. Despite being steeped in a history of nearlies, Leicester City have always been slugging it out in the top two tiers, in fact, they have spent less time outside the top two divisions than any other club on this list. City have been knocking on the Premier League door since 2009 and have had several excruciating close calls, the fans of one of the Championship’s four biggest fanbase deserve a return to the lucrative 90s.

Nottingham Forest

Current league: Sky Bet Championship
Years in exile: 15

‘World famous’… The City Ground has been more attuned to League One football than the Premier League in recent years.

A painful inclusion to say the least, but one I’d struggle to argue against. The once well-known Reds are former European champions, not that they like anyone to know and have a fair history even without the legendary Brian Clough’s contribution. Forest also boast one of the best fanbases outside the top-flight with Sheffield Wednesday, Leeds and local ‘non-rivals’, Leicester City.

Derby County

Current league: Sky Bet Championship
Years in exile: 5

Blind loyalty… Derby fans sold out nearly every home game of the record-breaking 2008-09 season.

It would be nice to see all of the East Midlands big three back in the top-flight meaning the Rams needed a place on the list. A club that boasts a good history and a recent calamitous foray in the Premier League that I’m sure they would like to rectify. Recognition has to be given to Rams’ fans for their loyalty at home during the dire 2008-09 season and beyond, even if their fans do share a travel sickness.

Against Modern Fads

If you follow English football on Twitter, you’ll know how difficult it is to go thirty minutes without a disgruntled fan lambasting ‘modern football’.  In fact, the term ‘against modern football’ has become somewhat of an internet cliché. The phrase seems to encompass every thing from soft red cards to obscure mascots and is essentially a persistently minor protest against the modern adaptation of the world’s favourite sport.

A lot of the major criticisms of ‘modern football’ are the increasing expenditure of following a club, the almost identical new-style stadia and the lack of atmosphere they produce. It’s fair to say that these are all fair comments and something many football fans share a disliking of. Others bemoan the influence of broadcasting giants, BSkyB in determining untraditional kick-off times instead of the standard Saturday 3pm start. As silly and banal as some of these issues seem, they genuinely matter to many a football fan, even leading to the popularisation of flares at football matches in tune with Eastern European footballing traditions that are similar to English football’s in the 1970s and 80s.

Modern stadium… The home of Cardiff City

However, many don’t consider the ridiculousness of attacking the entire institution of modern football. Many seem oblivious to the fact that emulating football support from forty years ago is also a promotion of hooliganism and intolerance. Others forget that modern football is also superior as a game with huge advancements in facilities paying dividends in creating a more entertaining sport with fitter players.  A deluded sense of nostalgia seems to be the culprit in this absurd movement to disestablish everything football has evolved into.  On the other hand, naive ‘bandwagoning’ from the younger generations may be at fault. I for one would guess that most of the ‘AMF’ crowd are under the age of twenty. In fact, most older football fans I know love ‘modern football’.

In reality, ‘against modern football’ is nothing but an irritating catchphrase used by fans who choose to ignore the historic flaws of the game we love. Sure, we would all like cheaper match tickets, better atmosphere and maybe less characterless stadiums but ignoring that, there isn’t much wrong with the current game. In fact, modern football isn’t something to be opposed at all, it’s something to be embraced.

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.

 

2013–14 Football League Predictions

With every new seasons , comes a new found expectation. Seventy two clubs up and down England and Wales will be dreaming their club will be steeped in glory come May 2014, whether it be a thrilling chase for promotion or a nerve-racking scrap to quell relegation. Here are my thoughts on how the tables may look in nine months time.

The Championship

Bookies’ favourites for promotion: QPR, Reading, Bolton Wanderers
Bookies’ favourites for relegation: Yeovil Town, Doncaster Rovers, Barnsley

Promotion Contenders

Challenge… Redknapp’s talented Hoops may not be enough to mount a promotion challenge.

As always, the relegated Premier League sides are tipped for the top. Reading seem the best placed for an immediate return to the top-flight with a strong squad that excelled in the Championship two seasons ago, strengthened with new additions and led by a talented manager in Nigel Adkins. Queens Park Rangers could dominate the division but risk ‘doing a Wolves’ if the heavily priced squad fail to motivate themselves to the task. Wigan could struggle to break in to the top six with Europe a lengthy distraction next season. East Midlands ‘money-bags’, Leicester City and Nottingham Forest are among those tipped for the top. Forest appeared rejuvenated under Billy Davies and have strengthened in pre-season but the Scotsman has failed on two occasions to lead Forest back in to the top division. The Foxes have added only one player to their roster but stability may be key in their quest for promotion, motivation shouldn’t be a problem for City following their cruel play-off exit in May but frailties seen in the second half of last season will need to be rectified. Bolton too pushed for the top six at the end of last season and a replication of that in 2013–14 will see the Trotters at the right end of the table. Watford’s incessant borrowing from Udinese and Granada will too keep them in contention, providing a play-off hangover doesn’t dent their chances.

The Question Marks

Ram raid… Derby fans should be quietly optimistic for the year ahead.

Several clubs are picked as this season’s ‘dark horses’. Charlton Athletic and Ipswich Town are favoured due to their strong finishes but their late form may prove to be inconsequential in the wake of the coming season.  AFC Bournemouth are predicted by some, including the bookies to consolidate and maybe mount a promotion push but in an even more competitive league than last season, it may prove to be one step too far for the Cherries. Derby County have been quietly going about some good business in pre-season and this may finally be the season that the Rams’ long-term approach pays off. Nobody can seem to weigh up neither Brighton & Hove Albion nor Middlesbrough this season. The Seagulls odd managerial switch may stifle the progress they had made in previous years whereas Middlesbrough’s dramatically different form in either half of last season means they could be either knocking on the door of the play-offs are floating in and out of the drop zone.

The Relegation Candidates

One direction… Donny have little hope of escaping the drop.

Only two of the promoted trio are widely fancied to drop back to the third tier and rightly so. Somerset minnows, Yeovil Town will struggle but may put up more of a fight than expected with manager, Gary Johnson capable of securing the Glovers’ survival. Doncaster’s signing of pop heartthrob, Louis Tomlinson will do little to bolster a squad and manager ready for the drop.  As is customary, Barnsley will be poking around the bottom of the table, but their scrappy nature may be enough to carry them above the dreaded dotted line once more. Millwall seem a lesser threat given their end-of-season form and the transition of manager Kenny Jackett to Wolves. Blackpool are too fancied to struggle with a depleted squad and a manager in Paul Ince rumoured to be unhappy in his surroundings. Elsewhere in Lancashire, Burnley may be the surprise strugglers this season following Charlie Austin’s defect to West London – the striker secured crucial points for the Clarets last term. The blue-striped duo, Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday may have to contend with another relegation battle too.

My predicted table

1 Reading
2 Bolton Wanderers
3 Watford
4 Nottingham Forest
5 Queens Park Rangers
6 Leicester City
7 Leeds United
8 Wigan Athletic
9 Derby County
10 Brighton & Hove Albion
11 Ipswich Town
12 Charlton Athletic
13 Bournemouth
14 Blackburn Rovers
15 Birmingham City
16 Middlesbrough
17 Sheffield Wednesday
18 Barnsley
19 Huddersfield Town
20 Blackpool
21 Millwall
22 Burnley
23 Doncaster Rovers
24 Yeovil Town

League One

Bookies’ favourites for promotion: Wolves, Peterborough, Brentford
Bookies’ favourites for relegation: Coventry, Shrewsbury, Colchester, Stevenage

1 Brentford
2 Wolverhampton Wand.
3 Peterborough United
4 Sheffield United
5 Bristol City
6 Preston North End
7 Notts County
8 Milton Keynes Dons
9 Swindon Town
10 Rotherham United
11 Walsall
12 Crewe Alexandra
13 Leyton Orient
14 Crawley Town
15 Bradford City
16 Tranmere Rovers
17 Carlisle United
18 Gillingham
19 Port Vale
20 Oldham Athletic
21 Colchester United
22 Coventry City
23 Stevenage
24 Shrewsbury Town

League Two

Bookies’ favourites for promotion: Portsmouth, Fleetwood, Chesterfield, Bristol Rovers
Bookies’ favourites for relegation: Accrington Stanley, Dagenham & Redbridge

1 Chesterfield
2 Portsmouth
3 Oxford United
4 Bristol Rovers
5 Fleetwood Town
6 Cheltenham Town
7 Scunthorpe United
8 Burton Albion
9 York City
10 Northampton Town
11 Bury
12 Hartlepool United
13 Southend United
14 Plymouth Argyle
15 Exeter City
16 Mansfield Town
17 Newport County
18 Wycombe Wanderers
19 AFC Wimbledon
20 Rochdale
21 Accrington Stanley
22 Torquay United
23 Dagenham & Redbridge
24 Morecambe

English Football’s Biggest Clubs : REVEALED!

It’s probably the biggest argument among football fans today; who is bigger than who? Rival clubs across the country will claim to be a greater presence in the game than their mortal enemies but who really stands above the rest? Southampton or Portsmouth? Newcastle or Sunderland? Liverpool or Manchester United?

The rankings below are determined by points allocated based on historical success and support – the two main contributors to a club’s stature.

Point system

Bridesmaids… Yo-yo clubs, Leicester and Birmingham are rewarded for their near misses and consistency in league position.

  • Seasons – 4 points for top flight season, 3 points for 2nd tier season, 1 point for 3rd tier season, 0 points for 4th tier or lower, 4 additional points for Champion’s League season and 3 additional points for Europa League season.
  • Trophies – 10 points for top flight championship, 6 points for FA Cup win, 4 points for League Cup win, 12 points for Champion’s League win, 7 points for Europa League win, 4 points for 2nd tier title, 1 point for lower league title.
  • “Nearlies” – 4 points for FA Cup final appearance, 2 points for FA Cup semi-final appearance, 2 points for League Cup final appearance, 1 point for League Cup semi-final appearance, 7 points for Champion’s League second place.
  • Fanbase- Average home attendances had been taken for every club since their inception. A combined attendance has been found to which each club’s record has been converted to a percentage. However, several people have complained that past attendances are now irrelevant and the only accurate measure of fanbase is current home attendance. As such the same method has been used but with average home attendances from the 2014–15 season. To ensure that history and support were measured equally; each club was allocated their percentage of 23,574 points (the total number of success points of all clubs).

Non-league clubs are not included in the ranking.

Rankings

*all data correct as of 20th June 2016

 

Rank Change from 2015 Club Pts
1 Manchester United 2506
2 Arsenal 2057
3 Liverpool 1950
4 +1 Manchester City 1669
5 +1 Newcastle United 1551
6 -2 Chelsea 1492
7 Everton 1466
8 Aston Villa 1436
9 +1 Sunderland 1370
10 -1 Tottenham Hotspur 1308
11 +1 Leicester City 1074
12 +1 Derby County 1066
13 -2 West Bromwich Albion 1043
14 West Ham United 1038
15 Wolverhampton Wand. 957
16 +1 Sheffield Wednesday 951
17 +1 Leeds United 912
18 -2 Nottingham Forest 910
19 Stoke City 906
20 Southampton 902
21 +4 Middlesbrough 865
22 -1 Blackburn Rovers 849
23 -1 Sheffield United 834
24 +2 Birmingham City 786
25 -2 Bolton Wanderers 778
26 +1 Norwich City 765
27 -3 Burnley 753
28 Preston North End 697
29 Crystal Palace 685
30 Ipswich Town 641
31 +3 Portsmouth 632
32 Fulham 627
33 +2 Brighton & Hove Alb. 612
34 +2 Huddersfield Town 573
35 +6 Watford 569
36 +1 Charlton Athletic 564
37 +2 Swansea City 560
38 -5 Cardiff City 554
39 -8 Hull City 540
40 -2 Queens Park Rangers 539
41 +1 Bristol City 524
42 +4 Bradford City 518
43 +2 Coventry City 493
44 -1 Reading 462
45 -5 Blackpool 445
46 -2 Barnsley 439
47 Luton Town 401
48 Notts County 391
49 Millwall 350
50 Bury 330
51 n/a Grimsby Town 326
52 -1 Rotherham United 324
53 +2 Plymouth Argyle 323
54 -2 Brentford 309
55 -1 Oldham Athletic 298
56 +1 AFC Bournemouth 297
57 -1 Swindon Town 273
58 +1 Leyton Orient 267
59 +2 Bristol Rovers 266
60 -2 Port Vale 262
61 -8 Wigan Athletic 258
62 -2 Chesterfield 254
63 +4 MK Dons 248
64 -1 Oxford United 226
65 -1 Walsall 217
66 -4 Doncaster Rovers 211
67 -2 Southend United 208
68 -2 Gillingham 190
69 -1 Carlisle United 181
70 Shrewsbury Town 168
71 AFC Wimbledon 163
72 -3 Crewe Alexandra 162
73 Northampton Town 159
74 -2 Peterborough United 138
75 -1 Cambridge United 129
76 Scunthorpe United 122
77 -2 Exeter City 120
78 -1 Colchester United 118
79 Hartlepool United 113
80 +2 Mansfield Town 108
81 -1 Rochdale 102
82 -1 Newport County 94
83 +1 Wycombe Wanderers 87
84 -1 Yeovil Town 83
85 +3 Burton Albion 78
86 Accrington Stanley 65
87 Stevenage 63
88 -3 Fleetwood Town 62
89 n/a Cheltenham Town 58
90 -1 Crawley Town 46
91 Barnet 43
92 -1 Morecambe 28

Statistics

  • Liverpool just pip Manchester United to the title of ‘most successful club’ in English football, accumulating 1165 points, five more than United.
  • The least successful club in the Football League is Morecambe who didn’t tally a single success point.
  • Everton have spent more time in the top flight than any other club – 111 seasons.
  • Eight clubs have never fallen out of the top two tiers of English football; Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United.
  • The biggest club to have never won the top flight was Leicester City but is now West Ham United.
  • The biggest club to have dropped as low as the third tier is Aston Villa.
  • The biggest club to have never won the FA Cup is Leicester City.
  • The best supported club in England based on average attendance is Manchester United.
  • Rotherham United are the biggest club to have never graced the top flight.
  • Whereas, Exeter City are the biggest club to not have played in either of the top two divisions.
  • The biggest clubs in each of the top four divisions are Manchester United, Newcastle United, Sheffield United and Portsmouth.
  • The smallest are Bournemouth, Burton Albion, Fleetwood Town and Morecambe respectively.
  • The biggest English club to have never won the Champion’s League or European cup is Arsenal. The smallest club to do so is Nottingham Forest.
  • The biggest underachievers in the Football League currently are Portsmouth who are two divisions below their ‘natural level’.
  • The biggest overachievers are Burton Albion and Bournemouth who are competing two divisions above their ‘natural level’.

Football club opinion survey

Just under 300 football fans answered a survey on their hopes for the promotions and relegations of England’s top 5 divisions come May and who neutral fans prefer in the country’s fiercest rivalry.

Who do you want to win the Premier League?

Manchester City (57.14%)

Blue moon…The majority of neutrals are hoping that the Citizens can retain their title

Manchester United (34.92%)
Chelsea (7.94%)

Who do you want to be relegated from the Premier League?

SOTV… Neutrals are hoping that hapless Villa’s time is up.

Queens Park Rangers (27.5%)

Aston Villa (20.9%)

Reading (13.2%)

Others (38.4%)

Who do you want to win promotion from the Championship?

Leicester City (22.6%)

On the hunt… Leicester are hoping to out-fox their promotion rivals.

Cardiff City (12.3%)

Crystal Palace (11.6%)

Others (52.5%)

Who do you want to be relegated from the Championship?

 

Adieu… The Championship wants rid of the Molineux

Peterborough United (17.3%)

Wolverhampton Wanderers (14.2%)

Bristol City (13.6%)

Others (54.9%)

Who do you want to be promoted from League One?

Bournemouth (11.7%)

Up the cherries… Fans want the south coast club to travel north in the league ladder.

Swindon Town (11.2%)

Notts County (11.2%)

Others (65.9%)

Who do you want to be relegated from League One?

Bury (14.4%)

Pay up Pompey… Fans are unsympathetic towards Pompey’s plight.

Portsmouth (13.7%)

Hartlepool United (13.0%)

Scunthorpe United (13.0%)

Others (55.9%)

Who do you want to be promoted from League Two?

BREWERS… Burton are wanted in League One.

Burton Albion (14.7%)

Bradford City (14.0%)

Port Vale (12.7%)

Gillingham (11.3%)

Others (47.3%)

Who do you want to be relegated from League Two?

Aldershot Town (25.2%)

Under the hill… Fans want Edgar Davids playing non-league football

Barnet (19.8%)

Others (55.0%)

Who do you want to be promoted from the Blue Square Premier?

Giant killers… Fans would savour a Luton league return.

Grimsby Town (19.5%)

Luton Town (19.1%)

Others (61.4%)

For the results pertaining to cup competitions and/or rivalries please feel free to contact me on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/ChrisRWhiting and ask for the results. I don’t have time to put them all on here at the moment but they will probably be posted soon.