David Cameron Walker

Posts Tagged ‘leicester city’

We Are Actually Going Up

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Leicester players vs Yeovil

On May 15, 2004, the Invincibles of Arsenal brushed aside a plucky, but in truth, not good enough Micky Adams Leicester team, and the inevitable questions that relegation ask began.

The chief one asked was how long? And normally in these instances a doom monger will pipe in with comments like “it could be 10 years before we get back.” Well, all hail the doom monger!

Many have tried and failed. Micky Adams, Craig Levein, Rob Kelly, Martin Allen, Ian Holloway, Paolo Sousa and Sven Goran Eriksson. The answer was obviously a manager that was the only one who had a Leicester City promotion to his name in the last decade. After his League One triumph of 2009 he sailed straight into the play-offs only for Cardiff to break his and Leicester’s hearts.

With a sale to mysterious Thai owners on the cards Nigel Pearson was apparently a jilted lover with Paolo Sousa given the job. Off to Hull he went only to return at the Thai owners request in late 2011. He finished the season weakly but still in the top half. The following season seemed to be more solid until a second half season collapse saw us scrape into the top six only for Watford to break hearts this time. Numerous pundits and in truth most Leicester fans were expecting that to be Pearson’s last game in charge. Only it wasn’t.

Pearson and his Leicester City squad have been simply outstanding this season, with 27 wins from 40 league outings this season. Currently they are on a 21 game unbeaten run, of which 16 of those have been victories. The football has been scintillating right throughout the squad with quick intricate passing and an incisive, explosive counter attack.

The attitude from the players has been exemplary as their reaction to the Watford defeat last season spurring them on with every point. The squad also push each other on, as when injuries and suspensions occur their deputies outperform them and end up being first choice with Wasilewski, Schlupp and Mahrez profiting from Moore, Konchesky and Dyer’s absences.

When all the outfield players underperform against a tactically astute Yeovil Town, Schmeichel the second, rises like a salmon to inspire an equaliser wrongly given to the alert Chris Wood. The squad has also profited from the intelligence and experience of Gary Taylor-Fletcher, Kevin Phillips and Dean Hammond. As well as this quality we are blessed with captain fantastic Wes Morgan, the now impenetrable midfield partnership of Drinkwater and James.

Add this to Vardy’s rise and Nugent’s consistency and we’re only lacking a French wizard who finished last season in tears and returned this season with a maturity to his ability. Oh wait; we’re covered there as well with Anthony Knockaert.

Nigel Pearson has spent the last two-and-a-half-years crafting and sculpting this squad. Gone are the frustrating and the disruptive likes of Matt Mills, Jermaine Beckford and Neil Danns. We now have a squad of players playing for each other who actually like other. Several of them all met up on Saturday to watch Jeff Stelling and the Soccer Saturday team map out the drama.

As Derby faultered and the strangely unsackable Harry Redknapp‘s QPR went down at Bournemouth, promotion after 10 years was confirmed.  The players delight is emblazoned on social media for all to see as they screamed like girls and hugged each other en masse. This is a team that is in it together. Yes there has been money spent on this squad but it would be churlish and disrespectful to Nigel Pearson to label them as a team simply assembled with many “pound notes” (Sean Dyche I’m looking at you).

Pearson has had a careful scouting process coupled with a progressive coaching policy which has seen a move to a style of play more suited to success in a higher division. Pearson is also fully aware of the word “team” as he treats his coaching staff as equals and encourages debate. He is also guarded with the media but candid recognising that taking on the media in mini crusades serves nothing but his own ego (hello to Billy Davies).

What the future and the next 10 years holds can be debated another day, but with a season hopefully heading towards the league title and a 100+ points tally only an idiot or someone who hasn’t watched Leicester this season would proclaim that we’re certainties to come straight back down. Nigel Pearson and Leicester City have quite simply been the best in the Championship this season – so far.

Written by Damon Carter, We Are Going Up’s Leicester City blogger

Damon tweets at @dimski

Contractual obligations

Saturday, January 11th, 2014

King power stadium

With the mighty Foxes dispatching of “form” team Derby County in a modest 4-1 score line, Leicester finished January 10th top of the league, 7 points clear of Burnley and 8 points clear of QPR in 3rd. 5 wins in a row and goals from all over the pitch with 7 different scorers in the past couple of weeks.

Things are certainly looking rosy and I could list a whole raft of statistics that point to the fact that “it” might just be happening. But I’m not going to do that. We were top of the table going into February last season and collapsed like Oscar in front of goal. We scraped the play offs after a shocking run of form and amassed a total of 68 points (only 14 more than we have now).

Things seem different now with the team having a settled look to it. Kasper Schmeichel is still one of the best goalkeepers in the country. The back 4 is settled with Liam Moore growing in stature with every game alongside Captain fantastic Wes Morgan. Konchesky has started to look more solid and switched on. De Laet is constantly bombing down the right hand side and was rewarded with his first goal of the season against the Rams. James and Drinkwater are the settled central midfielders with Drinkwater picking up the December player of the Month for the Championship. Add to that the lightning pace of 31 year old Lloyd Dyer and the sublime skills of (sometimes frustrating) Anthony Knockaert and there is a genuine attacking threat to the team. That’s without the formidable partnership of David Nugent and the Championship’s most improved player Jamie Vardy.

So why am I nervous? Kasper Schmeichel, Paul Konchesky, Wes Morgan, Lloyd Dyer and David Nugent (as well as another 6 fringe players) and most crucially of all, the manager Nigel Pearson will all be out of contract this summer.

According to Nigel Pearson this isn’t a problem and he doesn’t think this will cause a problem with the players. This may be okay for himself as his stock is pretty high at the moment and you would hope the clubs Thai owners are negotiating at the moment. But nothing would surprise you at the moment with manager’s jobs changing at some pace it will only be a matter of time before a club tries to take advantage of his contract situation.

With all of the 5 core players likely on decent wages the club has had to restructure their wage structure since financial fair play. Which might explain their reluctance to stick a contract under the player’s noses. If they concur with financial fair play then a reduced wage may be offered which very few agents or players for that matter are likely to accept. Offer a fat contract and the worst case scenario happens, we will be left with players on massive wages in the Championship.

Many Leicester fans do not think the contract situation is a problem but I am not convinced. Nobody is questioning any of the player’s commitment to the club. It would only be natural when a tackle is there to be made and the potential for long term injury is there if the player would at the very least question the wisdom of potentially breaking their leg and being out of contract. Considering the players have done superbly this season contracts will almost definitely be offered. The players are now free to talk to overseas clubs and it is down to them to remain concentrated on their football.

Written by Damon Carter, We Are Going Up’s Leicester City blogger

Damon tweets at @dimski

Stepping up to the plate

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

MoorePearsonAs I write this, Leicester City have just beaten Fulham 4-3 to reach the quarter-finals of the League Cup. The previous league game saw a 2-1 victory for the eighth time this season to jump above transfer juggernauts QPR. It would be very easy to discuss our chances for promotion at this point, but as a team who were one penalty away from getting to Wembley, you’ll forgive me if I start getting carried away in late October. Nigel Pearson has largely kept the same squad that scraped 6th place last season and mistakes so far have been limited to two mad moments from normally reliable goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

Goalscoring has marginally improved with penalties being the main chunk of David Nugent’s eight goals for the season. Defensively there has also been a marginal improvement despite clean sheets being very elusive. So how have Leicester managed to maintain such consistency? A stronger mental attitude, which two players have embodied more than any other individuals at the club.

In January, when Wes Morgan needed a central defensive partner of strength he was handed the potentially gifted Michael Keane on loan from Manchester United. Keane was a decent player who was possibly thrown in to the Lion’s den too quickly. Around this time the promising Liam Moore was pushed to the bench and in February was sent on loan to Brentford. He did return and provided a bit-part role in the end of season run in.

During pre season Moore was interviewed and displayed a determination that belied his years and was a sign of what was to come. At the start of the season Moore was called off the bench after 19 minutes due to an injury to Zak Whitbread and hasn’t looked back since. Solid displays next to Wes Morgan have made Leicester a tough nut to crack at the back. Moore’s composure on the ball is complimented with intelligent distribution. Add to that his strength and pace gets him out of tricky situations when his over-exuberant nature gets the better of him. Against Wigan Athletic, when he rose like a salmon to head Leicester into a 1-0 lead (and score his first ever league goal) his passionate celebration will live long in the memory as he kicked a hole into the local Marks Electrical advertising board.

He subsequently won the Football league’s young player of the month for September. In recent weeks he has had to fill in at right back with Ritchie De Laet suffering a leg injury, excelling there too. Even Gareth Southgate has been looking into recalling him to the England Under-21 squad. Moore is proof that a player with the right attitude and application can succeed in a quality side. Experienced Polish player Marcin Wasilewski is now playing at centre back alongside Morgan but it is a fair bet that Moore will slot back in as Morgan’s regular partner when De Laet returns.

A position that once looked perilous if Morgan got injured is now looking competitive. The normal speculation of Premier League interest is being touted with Newcastle United sniffing around. But the 20-year-old is developing fine playing football on a regular basis for a team in with a shout of Premier League football. Plus he has the adulation of his hometown support as we proudly sing, to the tune of ‘Sloop John B’;

“He’s one of our own, He’s one of our own, Liam Moore, and he’s one of our own!”

Moore always had potential and although it’s surprising how well he has developed it was always expected. Jamie Vardy didn’t have the same luxury though as a striker who had a fantastic non-league goal scoring pedigree, the step up to the Championship was always going to prove tough.

Nigel Pearson picked him at the start of the 2012-2013 season and whilst he showed much hunger and application, the step up in pace was clearly troubling him. Defenders were reading his runs and bullying him off the ball. Poor decisions were being made when tracking back and for a striker the killer instinct in front of goal was elusive. 21 appearances only led to four goals and eventually the bench for the second half of the season.

The pre season seemed to invigorate Vardy and when Nigel Pearson surprisingly started the season with him there were many eyebrows raised. The eyebrows almost leaped off the head when Vardy started to show a hidden turn of pace that was battering Middlesbrough and which led to the winning goal and a shot against the post.

Vardy has assumed a new role as Leicester’s pacey pest. He works the channels well and is starting to bully defenders. His use in the front line is imperative and he has been a key factor in the amount of penalties won this season. The only thing slightly lacking is a more consistent goal scoring record with four goals from 14 appearances, which is still better than last season.

But for the full turnaround hitting double figures for the season will be a minimum target and a productive season. Vardy is still only 26 and has his best years ahead of him and if he continues to work hard in training and in the matches he is sure to improve. Many fans last season had written Vardy off as not good enough for this level but he has proven many of us wrong.

It gives me great delight when a player who is cast aside can come up with the goods and surprise us. It makes us believe in the underdog again. This was a player who was released by Sheffield Wednesday at 16 and had to work his way up through the non-league ranks to being a Championship player in ten years. It’s been a long road for him and his continued improvement is a lesson to us all. But is he satisfied with being a good Championship player or are his sights set higher?

Written by Damon Carter, We Are Going Up’s Leicester City blogger

Damon tweets at @dimski

Can Leicester bounce back?

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

It is with great delight that the 3rd August 2013 is upon us. Even if we open with a horrendous defeat at Middlesbrough, Sky Sports will surely have to come up with a remarkable excuse to play “that” Troy Deeney goal for the gazillionth time.

But despite that outstanding memory of last season it did somewhat mask what was a terrible end to the season. Individual errors, poor tactical choices and (as always) some questionable refereeing decisions meant we only just scraped into the play-offs. Poor, when you consider we were top 2 in January. Good, if you were offered that at the start of the season.

Despite the naysayers Nigel Pearson will go into the new season as manager, although the cynical side of me says this is because it would cost more to get rid of him than keep him until his contract runs out. How else does a manager keep his job with such a terrible finish to the season?

So to the one thing that every other fan wants to know about their rivals. What are Leicester fans expectations for the coming season?

Mediocre.

This probably sounds strange and negative to most other supporters from a club whose current manager has overseen two top 6 finishes and a decent pool of players. Since we were promoted back to the Championship in 2009 each season’s expectations have been very high with Thai owners coming in and flashing the cash and talking very openly about the aim of Premier League football. But talk of promotion has gone very quiet at the King Power stadium and this is mainly due to the restrictions of financial fair play across the leagues.

Not that I am complaining. Personally it is refreshing and about time that football forced clubs to get their house in order and given the way wages and transfer fees were being bandied around (even under Pearson) it is more than welcome at Leicester and hopefully ensures the long term future of the club.

The club have therefore been slightly sleepy in the transfer market. By sleepy I mean almost comatose. There has been no mass exodus with only Jermaine Beckford and Richie Wellens being the notable exits. Our big summer signing so far is Zoumana Bakayogo. A free transfer from Tranmere Rovers who thought it was a joke when Leicester went in for him. Forgive me if I get over excited. It is blatantly obvious that we will not be competing in the transfer market and are just trying to get our books in order so that we escape transfer embargo’s that would enable us to sign more surprised League One free transfers. To be fair to the owners when they bought the club they could not have foreseen this dramatic shift in rules and it is to their credit that they are trying to work within the system. Also they have not panicked and sold prize assets Kasper Schmeichel and Wes Morgan when money in the bank could have been more appealling.

This has left the squad in a very interesting state with players that were apparently frozen out now in contention. In pre-season Neil Danns has appeared frequently as has Martyn Waghorn and reports have been good. But the squad is desperately in need of some fresh faces even if just to give the current crop of players a kick up the proverbial. The back 4 or 3 (more of which later) is in serious need of some cover. Wes Morgan proved to be an outstanding defender last season but when he was out of form the team was shaky. Sean St.Ledger reads the game well but his lack of pace is not helpful. Zak Whitbread still hasn’t proven his worth and youngster Liam Moore is still inexperienced. If Leicester are to be in the shake up and no signings are coming then at least one of those three has got to start playing consistently well.

One of the many criticisms levelled at Nigel Pearson is in his inability to change a game and it has been crudely suggested that he has no plan B. It is interesting then to see him trying a 3-5-2 formation during pre-season. A formation that Watford used very effectively last season. Certainly on the right hand side Ritchie De Laet is effective in this position but Konchesky is not so comfortable. Lloyd Dyer could play there but given how quickly he burns his energy just as a winger, a wing back position wouldn’t play to his strengths. But it is refreshing to see a different approach and one that would free up central midfielder’s to be more forward thinking can only be a good thing. But as with all of these experiments there will be questions.

Pre-season has been unspectacular with a few wins and a few goals against lower league opposition. A 3-nil defeat at home to Monaco could mean many things but overall there has definitely been a lack of goals in pre-season with just 3 scored and 3 conceded after that Monaco game. This might point to a boring style of play with keeping tight at the back and snatching points where we can.

Leicester’s season will be difficult to predict and the overall feeling is that mid table is where we will end up. Essentially nobody is convinced with how Leicester will do and feel they’re not good enough to go up and too good to go down. Given how tight the Championship normally is and Nigel Pearson’s Championship credentials, a safe bet would be a flirtation with the play-offs. But it can’t be forgotten that Leicester are still in the midst of a poor run and they will need to seriously surprise the critics to achieve the impossible. But with the whole league (bar the relegated trio) having to tighten the purse strings it could be the tightest Championship season of all time.

Not being favourites and unfancied could well play into Leicester’s hands as they are dismissed as a soft touch…

Written by Damon Carter, We Are Going Up’s Leicester City blogger

Damon tweets at @dimski

Leicester’s end of season review

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Well. Where do we start?

Writing this after seeing Crystal Palace defeat Brighton to make the play-off final I can’t help but feel slightly jealous of Brighton. A 2 nil defeat with no fuss unlike the drama at Vicarage Road. But the Watford match doesn’t tell half the story of a strange season at the KP.

Last summer the rebuilding process began as Nigel Pearson prepared for his first pre season back and a chance to clear out the players he didn’t fancy and notably reduce the wage bill. Out went fringe players John Pantsil, Steve Howard and Matt Oakley. Along with big names Matt Mills, Sol Bamba, Lee Peltier and Darius Vassell. They were soon to be followed out into the loan market by Jermaine Beckford and Neil Danns In August.

In came Manchester United players, full back Ritchie De Laet and midfielder Matty James. Centre back Zak Whitbread joined as a free agent.  Up front came Fleetwood Town’s Jamie Vardy for £1 million. An interesting name in the way of France under 21 international Anthony Knockaert joined with several Premier league clubs chasing his signature.  Add this to January signings Danny Drinkwater, Ben Marshall and stalwart Wes Morgan this squad was beginning to show a more Nigel Pearson stamp. Many Leicester fans had doubts about the lack of quality in defence. Both full backs had no understudy and our centre backs consisted of Morgan, Whitbread, Sean St.Ledger and youngster Liam Moore.

The season started unevenly with 3 defeats in the first 5 league games all away from home. The pressure built on Nigel Pearson but eased when he went on a run of 6 wins in 7. From November to December there was a stuttering element to the performances with a 6 nil thrashing of Ipswich only ten days before a defeat at Leeds United.  After a flattering display to beat Derby 4-1 a mini slump ensued with defeats against Millwall and Cardiff. By the end of December Man United’s young centre back Michael Keane arrived on loan. Results picked up and on new year’s day a 6-1 thrashing of Huddersfield where new signing Chris Wood (£1.5million from West Brom) made his debut with a couple of goals. At this point the Foxes hadn’t been out of the top 6 since September. January was a fine month with Bristol City, Middlesbrough and Wolves despatched to leave Leicester in 2nd place going into February and finely poised for a push at automatic promotion. We had one of the best defences and home record’s in the league and would surely be able to push on.

What followed in the remaining 3 months can only be described as a collapse. Strikers suddenly stopped scoring and players started making massive errors.  It started with 2 late goals at Peterborough and never seemed to end. Add this to late goals against Charlton, Ipswich, Sheffield Wednesday, Cardiff, Millwall, Brighton and Birmingham that cost us roughly 13 points. Of Course we had late winners of our own against Bolton and crucially Nottingham Forest (first league win at the City Ground in 41 years) to scrape into the play-offs. In a 3 month spell we had won 4 of 17 games.  But after the drama of final day a wave of optimism sprang through the city and into the stands with an incredible atmosphere and a first leg display against Watford dispelling the previous football lessons Watford had already served us twice this season. We took a slender 1 nil advantage to Vicarage Road. The second leg started promisingly and after a brilliant first half Vydra goal was cancelled out again by David Nugent the second half was set. What followed was a constant bout of Watford possession and pressure. They had few chances but when Vydra gave Watford the lead the inevitable defeat seemed to be looming. We looked leggy and unable to string passes together and barely troubled Almunia in the match. Knockaert found some space and went down admittedly easy to win a penalty. What followed was farcical from inexperienced players. How a penalty novice can be allowed to take a penalty of such importance is surely an oversight by the management team, the players and ultimately the man in question. The penalty save is easier to take than the one yard rebound that was there for the taking. The players allowed the drama to get the better of them and several were caught ball watching rather than marking players as Watford’s classy Anya attacked the channels unchallenged where composure was found in Hogg and Deeney and another team added to the list of late goals against. Pandemonium at one end. Despair at the other. Season over. Ten years outside the Premier League guaranteed.

The Pressure was on Pearson throughout the final 3 months from external forces but it should be noted that the owners left Pearson to get on with his job and allow a Leicester City manager to start and finish a season for only the sixth time in thirteen seasons since you know who. The season from the owners, playing staff and management team’s point of view was a failure. The whole club talked about Premier League all season and in truth we were never really close. We managed only 2 points more than last season but somehow finished in the top six. In terms of achieving promotion we could and should have had a shot at the play-off final but the margins were small and not in our favour this time. It would be wrong not to acknowledge that the better team will be playing at Wembley on May 27th. Gianfranco Zola has had financial backing and used creativity in the loan market but to build a quality team in such a short space of time needs to be noted. Steve Bruce at Hull again had financial backing and a decent squad and in his first full season takes Hull City back to the summit. Ian Holloway only joined Crystal Palace in November and will be having a crack at Wembley for a third time in four seasons.

Nigel Pearson has had to pick up the pieces of Sven Goran Eriksson’s reign which was littered with many silly contracts and certainly not the sort of players he would have sought had he have been left in charge in 2010 after the previous playoff defeat. But when we look at the managers that have achieved more in less time on similar budgets it’s hard to not ask questions of Nigel Pearson.

The squad was and has been too small all season. Not enough rotation was made nor was sought particularly when players were consistently playing badly. It hasn’t gone unnoticed by many Leicester fans how tired the players looked compared to Watford in the play-offs. This is what lead to many late goals and therefore points lost.

Defensively we were strong for large parts of the season but this mainly due to the excellent Kasper Schmeichel (who is surely destined for the Premier League with or without Leicester) with no less than 3 penalty saves (8 in 2 seasons)and Wes Morgan who is one of the best defenders in the Championship. Morgan was outstanding for most of the season but when he went on a dip in form we needed more than a Manchester United youth player to partner him. Michael Keane could well be a fantastic defender in the future and he has by no means been terrible but to ask him to perform to promotion winning levels was ultimately naive and what lead to the dip in form. Is he any better than our own youth product Liam Moore? A defender who we actually produced through the youth system. It’s debatable I know but we cannot be carrying players. It will only have become useful if Keane returns next season stronger and switched on when marking strikers.

Midfield was severely lacking in experience of a calm assured passer of the football. Drinkwater, James and King are all good players but they lack the composure and strength to keep the ball in possession and win it back when not. Also, the lack of goals from this area has become painful adding to unnecessary pressure on strikers. They needed an older more experienced head directing the play. Pearson’s answer in March was to play Ritchie Wellens, it did not work.

Bizarrely Nigel Pearson started with Jermaine Beckford and Jamie Vardy at the start of the season despite Beckford’s mind being elsewhere. It’s not Pearson’s fault that Beckford was uninterested and he was correctly moved on and hopefully for good this summer. What really puzzles me is the signing of Jamie Vardy to spearhead the attack. A jump of three divisions and straight into the team is an incredible amount of faith to put in a player but it ultimately proved too much with only 5 goals all season. Come December Pearson decided to purchase Chris Wood who certainly started with a bang before the goals started to dry up along with David Nugent. If Chris wood was that good why were we not signing him last summer? Also allowing Jeffrey Schlupp to go to Manchester United for an extended training loan is still puzzling and an indication why would have been nice.

Tactically 4-3-3 has been our undoing away from home as we have at times ended up asking David Nugent to play wide in this system when he clearly works best as a central striker. 4-3-3 inevitably becomes 4-5-1 with at least one of these players playing in midfield that doesn’t belong there.  A long ball in this system rarely works either as Chris Wood is expected to hold the ball up surrounded by defenders with team mates usually more than 20 yards away.  And when this doesn’t work where is our plan B? Steve Howard used to ruffle some feathers but his direct replacement Marko Futacs has barely featured. Nor has former fans favourite Martyn Waghorn.

But is it always the manager’s fault?

David Nugent can be solely blamed for 2 missing points after a rash challenge in the Birmingham game. Wes Morgan as well brings down Andy Keogh and gets sent off after 2 minutes against Millwall costing us a potential 3 points. And don’t get me started on missed penalties.

Nigel Pearson has built the nucleus of a side with an emphasis on youth. They will surely only get better and this heartbreaking experience should serve their characters well for another shot at the top 6.

Ritchie De Laet, Matty James, Jeffrey Schlupp and Anthony Knockaert have improved as players throughout the season and seem more and more geared to being forward thinking players. When Knockaert is on form he is virtually unplayable with the 2 goals against Huddersfield at the start of the season being truly spectacular. He will only get better and needs to show his quality more often to allow us to dictate games.

Unfortunately as a Leicester fan I have been made impatient by the owner’s ambition and their attitude. It could well be that they aim for the best every season and may well have a long term plan but it’s difficult to judge on their lack of public appearances. I think whoever is in charge next season everyone needs to shut up about promotion and just try and take pressure off the players and concentrate on winning matches.

So should we get rid of Nigel Pearson?

I’ve asked a lot of the supporters this question and not one of them has said yes. The key word has been ‘stability’. This makes a lot of sense as we all know managers bring new ideas and tend to overhaul the playing squad; with Financial Fair Play about to start it seems a wise move.

But it has to be stressed that not many people are overly impressed with Pearson, merely that he seems to be the best of slim options that are available.

But if we stick by our man we need to see a Nigel Pearson that has learnt from his mistakes and gets the players to learn from theirs. He needs to make sure the squad is ready with more players of better quality.  We need to see he won’t stubbornly stick by players regardless of form. We need more cover in key positions and more experienced quality throughout the spine of the team. Plus a more confident approach away from home. Also the irony of seeing a manager unemotional and very monotone in interviews and on the sidelines must have Sven Goran Eriksson scratching his head at why he was criticised so much. Pearson has got to work harder with the fans or they will turn on him much quicker than he has been allowed

This is all very nice in practice but every day I am scanning Sky Sports News to see if Leicester are again looking for a new manager. The sooner the owners make their mind up the better.

Written by Damon Carter, We Are Going Up’s Leicester City blogger

Damon tweets at @dimski

The race for the playoffs – the Fox corner

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

How accountable is a manager for player’s individual decisions?

On March 29th with barely two and a half minutes on the clock Wes Morgan hauled down Millwall’s Andy Keogh while through on goal. He rightfully saw red and despite a hard working performance, Millwall eventually went on to deservedly win the game 1-0. Wes Morgan could easily have let Andy Keogh go through on goal.

Had he have scored or not we would have had eleven men on the pitch including our captain and rock in defence. Instead it cost us the game and he would be missing for the following match. Nigel Pearson didn’t do himself any favours by letting Sean St.Ledger go out on loan to Millwall that day, with no option of recalling him, meaning young centre-back Liam Moore was recalled from a loan spell at Brentford.

During the next two and a bit days I checked my phone on an hourly basis to see if the inevitable came for Mr Pearson.

Oakwell, April 1st and with barely four minutes on the clock Scott Wiseman delivers a cross into the box, where Michael Keane, rather than wrapping a weak left foot on a clearance, goes with his right foot facing the goal and gifts Barnsley the lead. That could be forgiven but what could not be was the utter abject and uninspiring display that followed from all in a blue shirt as Leicester were soundly beaten 2-0 by a team fighting relegation. Kasper Schmeichel even saved a penalty and Barnsley had efforts ruled out for offside.

The following night Brighton jumped above us in the table and we were out of the top six for the first time in six months. I tried to search for a ‘manager sacked alert’ app on my phone but to no avail.

Amex stadium, 6th April and the first few minutes rolled by with no real incidents. Nose bleed territory. The performance was far more pleasing this time around but a worrying trend started to set in with key players Andy King and Jeffrey Schlupp wasting clear opportunities. But when in Matty James wriggled through the box and finished neatly in the 73rd minute, hopefully Leicester could put an end to the bad run.

But with a psychotic insistence on giving possession of the ball away it was little surprise when Kazenga Lua Lua collected the ball and fired it into the net to equalise for the hosts. Maybe Richie De Laet could have closed down tighter and maybe Schmeichel would normally have saved it, but my opinion is that winning teams don’t let the opposition have the ball as much as we do.

Back to the King Power on 12th April for another Friday night game on Sky (seriously I think the Sky crew have found a restaurant they liked) and Leicester are heading into injury time 2-1 up and heading back to the playoff places. Despite giving Birmingham possession at every opportunity I couldn’t have imagined David Nugent taking three bad touches and then upending Wes Thomas to concede a penalty. It was inexplicable from a normally consummate professional and I was sat there thinking how harsh it would be to sack Pearson after that. Especially when television replays proved the challenge to be outside the box.

On April 16th Bolton were the visitors to the KP Stadium, on a fantastic run and sitting in sixth place. A defeat was unthinkable as the potential to be five points off the play offs by the end of the evening would be more or less insurmountable.

Back to reality within two minutes when barely a minute has passed and Morgan is adjudged to have fouled Chung Yong Lee. It may have been a penalty but Lee spent an awful amount of time looking at the ref during the game which makes me wonder. The supporters got right behind the team and after Chris Wood’s penalty equaliser came a moment that all Leicester fans needed, a rip roaring strike from Lloyd Dyer that nearly broke the crossbar to make the score 2-1.

The roar from the crowd was one of frustration and relief. Of course there was still plenty of time to let an equaliser in, so all the better when Jeffrey Schlupp unleashed a volley into the bottom corner to send the home fans into raptures. Seven minutes of injury time was mostly agony as Bolton laid siege on the goal, but this time the defending was more resolute and possession wasn’t given away so cheaply.

After that win Leicester sit in sixth place, absurd when you consider that was our first win in 10 games, but results went in our favour. Like all supporters in the league we can draw on ifs, buts and maybes. The facts are as Nigel Pearson has observed “the margins are so thin.” A player getting sent off after two minutes or conceding an own goal or a penalty is really out of a managers control, as is a rip roaring strike in off the crossbar or a left foot volley outside the box.

I have thought long and hard about what this means for the remainder of the season and the truth is like any of the other play off chasers there are arguments for and against nearly all of them – except for Watford who seem destined for the play offs unless Hull spectacularly fail.

Leicester have shown many different personalities this season along with several others. This collective schizophrenia makes the Championship the most entertaining and hard to predict division in world football. As the relegation fight can still take two of any fourteen teams, the play offs could still yet include Millwall in 15th place.

As Cardiff City celebrate their promotion to the Premier League (well done Redbirds), one can’t help but think that the real reason for Craig Bellamy’s tears of joy is that they will not have to endure a fight for promotion through the playoffs. Cardiff never managed to crack the playoffs and now they can celebrate their promotion whilst watching the four teams battle out for one solitary place with amusement and relief.

The playoffs turn what would be a boringly old fashioned (and admittedly fairer) system of the top three winning promotion into a hectic fight for a place at an end of season lottery. It gives everyone a chance at dreaming right up until April. It turns a game like Leicester v Bolton into a humdinger of an affair and there will be plenty more of these before we even get to the playoffs.

The run of games start on Saturday with an away day at Crystal Palace and a certain ex-Foxes manager who once told supporters to calm down and have a sandwich at fears we might be relegated to League One – Ian Holloway. Ignorance and arrogance can be a lethal combination. I wonder if he’ll tell Crystal Palace fans to do the same thing as they start to consider the possibility of them now dropping out of the top six?

Considering Leicester were sat in second place in early February it is a travesty that we are even in this position and Nigel Pearson still faces a fight to keep his job. The win against Bolton was crucial not only for him but for the fans who at the end of the whistle cheered like we’d made the playoffs. It might be a false dawn but there was belief again that the season isn’t quite over – for now.

Written by Damon Carter, We Are Going Up’s Leicester City blogger

Damon tweets at @dimski

Roll The Dice

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

With the managerial sack race claiming managers every week, it is surprising to see the usually precarious position of Leicester City manager has been untouched since October 2011. Of course this could all be about to change with a massive match at The King Power Stadium at home to Millwall on Good Friday in front of the Sky Sports cameras.

Nigel Pearson and the Foxes contingent are currently in one of the worst runs of form of the season with just one win in 9 games that has all but ruined a crack at the top 2 and is now threatening to push them out of the play-off picture.

With an abysmal display against Derby County (again in front of Sky’s cameras) being the last time the Foxes were in action it would not have surprised me to see Nigel Pearson to have been shown the door. An over reliance on a 4-3-3 formation away from home has seen Leicester attain the worst away form out of any of the top 6 teams. Also a panic button seems to have been pressed by Nigel Pearson in turning to stalwart Richie Wellens in a 3-man midfield. Wellens has been a good servant for the football club over the last 4 seasons but with the Derby game being only his 4th appearance of the season it does smack of desperation. Forwards David Nugent and Lloyd Dyer were pushed so far wide in that game that Chris Wood was consistently isolated in the centre. Pearson did at least have the ability to see these problems at half time and switched things around with Jeffrey Schlupp being introduced to great affect. Unfortunately Leicester were already 2-nil down thanks to some atrocious defending and the game was an uphill battle. There were far too many problems in the Derby defeat to fit into one blog but most Leicester fans seem to agree, it was possibly the worst performance since a 3 nil home defeat saw the end of Sven Goran Eriksson’s Leicester tenure. The team that inflicted it on them. You guessed it. Millwall

It should be said for the record that I don’t want Nigel Pearson to be sacked. But with rich foreign investors who are still yet to get a return on their investment with the golden egg of Premier League football the pressure is absolutely huge on Pearson’s shoulders. This is a manager who has good pedigree at this level. He took Leicester to the play-offs in 2010 and was only a penalty shoot out away from a Wembley appearance. This though is as close as he has come to taking a team up and out of the Championship and this statistic will not go unnoticed by the owners.

It is imperative that Nigel Pearson finishes in the top 6 this season. The investment at the club has been massive. Not all of it by Pearson it has to be said. Big money gambles by Sven last season didn’t work. Matt Mills, Jermaine Beckford and Neil Danns have all been shown the door by Pearson. Whilst they have been succeeded by Wes Morgan, Danny Drinkwater and Chris Wood. The Leicester squad is now more youthful and no doubt better off wages wise although there are still big earners at the club. But despite the investment and shuffling of players there does seem to be stubbornness to Pearson’s approach. He has whittled the squad down to such a level that injuries invariably force us to play square pegs in round holes. Sean St.Ledger is not a right back and Lloyd Dyer not a Left back but both have had to ply their trade there recently when called upon. We also seem to be stockpiling strikers and giving the ones that do very little several chances (Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane).

Sven has taken a lot of the criticism for the state of the playing squad but Pearson did profit from Sven’s signings as well with David Nugent, Kasper Schmeichel and Paul Konchesky all heavily selected by Pearson. Beckford and Mills clearly had attitude problems and will hardly be missed but it still bugs me to see Neil Danns, an energetic, agile and tough tackling midfielder on loan at Huddersfield when Danny Drinkwater and Andy King seem to be frightened of any player who gets in their face.

It is worth remembering that back in January we were sitting pretty in second and were scoring goals for fun. Chris Wood looked as sharp as ever with 6 goals in his first 3 games. David Nugent was scoring crucial winning goals and Anthony Knockaert was controlling games with a swagger that is usually only found in Premier League wingers. Wes Morgan at times is the best defender I have seen in a Leicester shirt and Kasper Schmeichel has pulled off crucial saves with penalties being his specialty. When we flow, Nigel Pearson has had us playing some outstanding football with The King Power Stadium seeing no fewer than 40 league goals by the boys in blue and having the joint best home goal difference. We seem to play really well for 8-10 games and then not so well for 8-10 games. If that stands up we will turn things around against Millwall and go on a storming run to finish high in the top 6 (in theory at least).

But with eight games to go it can’t be forgotten that our away form just hasn’t been up to scratch and that is a worry with trips to Brighton, Crystal Palace and Nottingham Forest (our bogey ground) still to come.

So why stick with the manager?

It is simply too late in the season to change the management team. These are their players and only they will know what they expect from them in the run in. At the moment at least Leicester haven’t been outside the top 6 since September which isn’t bad going. There is also the added element of changing manager’s midway through the Championship season and where that most likely leads you. It has been 6 years since a manger has taken charge of a club midway through the season and taken them into the Premier League. Roy Keane was that manager with Sunderland and he still had the reigns from late August of that season. So it isn’t impossible it’s just unlikely.

Of course there will be many supporters of the red persuasion in Nottingham who think Billy Davies may well buck that trend. Forest are currently flying with 6 wins in a row and sit above us and in the top 6 for the first time this season. Now they will be there to be shot at and it will be interesting to see how they do. In a way the pressure is now off Leicester as so many pundits are lazily predicting that Brighton are destined to take the remaining play-off spot. This could work into Nigel Pearson’s hands. But it needs to start on Friday. If Millwall beat us for the fourth time in a row I fear the Thai owners will give Eriksson and Pearson another thing in common.

Happy Easter.

Written by Damon Carter, We Are Going Up’s Leicester City blogger

Damon tweets at @dimski

The King Power Diaries

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

On Saturday, along with over 3000 other Owls, I will be making the short trip to Leicester as we take on the promotion hopefuls. Our Championship status for next season is far from certain. I’d settle for a point or two from this weekend and the subsequent visit of Cardiff. A win in either game would be greatly received, heading into a run of fixtures against teams in and around us. This league continues to be as unpredictable as ever. Our upcoming opponents are both having a bit of a dip in form, but the quality in their squads will mean that they can and likely will get back on track.

Heading to Leicester, I have mixed memories of previous games at the King Power (formerly Walkers) Stadium. Since they left Filbert Street in 2002 we’ve travelled to played The Foxes five times, winning twice, losing twice with one draw. Given our troubles over that period it’s not a bad return.  Even the goals scored during those games are level with 8 each.

I can vividly remember all those games for a variety of reasons, however three stand out; two of which I attended, the other I didn’t, but I’ll come to that.

My first experience of the King Power Stadium was in December 2006. This is one of the best away performances I have seen. An emphatic 4-1 victory only tells half the story. Granted, Leicester spent most of the second half playing with ten men, but that didn’t take away from what followed with three spectacular long range goals. Chris Brunt added to his first half penalty with a trademark left foot screamer. Glen Whelan crashed one in off the bar with a ferocious shot from all of 40 yards; this was the best of the bunch for me. Finally Marcus Tudgay put the icing on the cake as he completed the rout cutting in on the angle to beat the keeper from distance. A fantastic away day with the Owls.

To say my last visit was a disappointment would be a slight understatement. Whilst Brian Laws had overseen our marvellous 4-1 victory, he also managed his last game against Leicester. In a season that ended in eventual relegation, we were well beaten and lucky to get away with a 3-0 defeat.  I remember a massive feeling of dejection at the final whistle and the writing being on the wall for our gaffer. I was certainly fed up of hearing Kasabian song ‘Fire’ being played over the tannoy after each goal.  Laws had led us to our first victory at Bramall Lane in my lifetime and our first derby double in 95 years.  It was sad to see him depart in such circumstances.

The third game that sticks in my memory was in April 2008. I was in Ireland and had to listen to the game in an internet café in Carrick on Shannon. I was gutted to be missing the game. We were deep in the relegation mire at the time. This was our penultimate match and we were just below Leicester in the table. Defeat would have made them safe whilst leaving us in a perilous position. Southampton were also in the mix but we knew victory would put our fate in our own hands. We went 1-0 down early in the game but crucially got an equaliser on the stroke of half time. Bartosz Slusarski…hardly a name synonymous with the club, but he has his part in our history. Steve Watson gave us a crucial lead before the much maligned Leon Clarke made one of his few key contributions to the club by sealing a 3-1 victory in the dying moments. In a game that saw two missed penalties and so much at stake, Wednesday pulled through showing character and fighting spirit. We stayed up; Leicester went down.

So we’ve had a love hate relationship with the King Power Stadium. This Saturday’s game could be a pivotal moment in our battle for Championship survival. Leicester have spent a huge amount of money on players yet still seem destined for a repeat of last season with the play offs. They will be under pressure from their fans given their current run of form, whilst the travelling Owls will have hope rather than expectation. Let’s hope we make it our third victory at the East Midlands club’s current home.

Up the Owls!

Written by Carl Mullooly, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield Wednesday blogger

Carl tweets at @MulOwl

Deja vu at Leicester City

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

The international break was made to feel even more laborious as the decision to appoint Nigel Pearson as Sven-Goran Eriksson’s permanent replacement at Leicester City seemed to take forever. Understandably Hull didn’t want to lose their manager on the cheap, especially to the club he left before joining the Tigers in the summer of 2010. Eventually though, it did happen, and Pearson made a superb start in his new role with a 3-0 win over Crystal Palace on Sunday afternoon. Two excellent strikes from Paul Gallagher, who Pearson brought to the club in his first spell in charge, made for an ideal start to his second stint in the East Midlands.

The manner of the win is an encouraging one and some of that could be down to the well discussed notion of ‘New Manager Syndrome.’ Although it’s too early to declare Pearson the saviour that will lead the Foxes to The Premier League, his management style is very different to that of Eriksson’s, perhaps part of the reason he was given the job. He builds his teams around a philosophy of keeping things tight at the back and a notable change to a much more rigid 4-4-2 was evident against a Palace side – who play much of their football on the counter attack, especially away from Selhurst Park – and it paid dividends.

Some Leicester fans have voiced their disappointment at a move away from the cavalier style of Sven’s teams, towards a manager who oversaw the club’s promotion from League One by grinding out results in a much less aesthetically pleasing fashion. The point remains that Pearson guided the club back from the third tier at the first attempt. The 48-year-old has a great record in the Championship, only leaving Leicester the first time because he felt his position had become untenable as Paolo Sousa sat in the stands at the play-off semi-final game against Cardiff City.

He may not be the most exciting appointment amid rumours of a return of Martin O’Neill, or a high profile name such as Rafa Benitez or Mark Hughes, but Pearson knows how to manage at this level. Under his management Jack Hobbs became one of the most promising young centre backs around but was marginalised under Sven’s regime and followed Pearson to Hull after several big names were brought in. I for one can’t wait to see how Matt Mills develops under his stewardship; his partnership with Sol Bamba at the centre of defence will be the cornerstone to any potential play-off challenge this season.

The tools are there for Leicester to be in and around the promotion places in May. Pearson has got a more talented squad at his disposal than that of 2008 and after just one win City now sit just two points off sixth place. He will be under no illusions that the brief for the season remains the same, despite a somewhat slow start, particularly after losing three of the last four games before the former manager’s return. But as everyone knows, the Championship is one of the most unpredictable leagues around, if the new man can get the best out of the expensive acquisitions who the club brought in to chase the dream of Premier League football there is no reason that it couldn’t be a reality in a few months’ time. For now though, I’ll settle for watching Paul Gallagher’s goals on repeat….

Written by Jim Knight, We Are Going Up’s Leicester City blogger

Jim tweets at @JimKnight88

Hands Off!

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

Over the last few weeks, Huddersfield Town fans have endured media and press reports linking manager Lee Clark with the managerial vacancy at Leicester City. Thankfully, nothing came of it and Clark remains at The Galpharm. However stories are now emerging linking Scottish international striker Jordan Rhodes with a move away from the club. While on one hand it is nice to have other clubs covet Town players and the manager as it shows they are doing something right, it isn’t half annoying!

Lee Clark has recently said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph that he had talks with Leicester City, but opted to stay at Huddersfield as he has unfinished business. He also said that he owed a lot to club owner Dean Hoyle, who could easily have got rid of him after a second failed promotion attempt. Currently, Clark has overseen a phenomenal unbeaten run of forty two regular league games, equalling the great Nottingham Forest side of the late seventies under the legendary Brian Clough. In fact, Clark has delivered a better run, as he has 24 wins and 18 draws, while Forest got 21 wins and 21 draws.

Unbeaten run aside though, it is surprising he was apparently Leicester City’s first choice as Sven’s replacement. He has only been a manager for three years, having been appointed at The Galpharm in December 2008. He has failed to win promotion in his two full seasons in charge and his only real achievement so far is that unbeaten run. Impressive though the run is, does that mean he should be favourite for a club pushing for promotion to the Premier League? Don’t get me wrong, I am a massive Clark fan and hope he stays for years to come, but it did surprise me just how much he was linked with The Foxes.

He definitely made the right decision in terms of his career though. Had he had gone to Leicester and failed to get them promoted, he would undoubtedly have been shown the door, and that could have had a huge detrimental effect on his fledgling managerial career. There is no guarantee that Hoyle will dispense with him if Town don’t achieve promotion.

There is no surprise Jordan Rhodes is being linked with a January move after his recent form and Town fans everywhere will be praying he does not leave. He has recently become a full Scottish international, making his debut as a substitute in their away game to Cyprus last week. He has also become the Under-21′s joint all-time top scorer this season, netting six times.

The big worry about the stories linking Rhodes with a move surround the fee. Certain reports have said he has a release clause in his contract of just £2million. Town have refuted those claims, with Lee Clark telling the Daily Record that amount wouldn’t even buy Rhodes’ socks! It is easy to agree with Clark on that one, Rhodes has to be worth a lot more than that fee, especially if he scores the goals to fire Town into the Championship. Ironically, perhaps both manager and player’s futures at Huddersfield depend on the goals Rhodes scores between now and the end of the season.

Written by James Bartaby, We Are Going Up’s Huddersfield Town blogger

James tweets at @jamesb5374