Covering every angle

During this international break, Matt Davis from the Trust caught up with Rob Tanner to find out more about his thoughts on Leicester City and what he is doing nowadays.

About LCFC

At the start of the season how did you honestly expect Leicester to do?

I thought they would do well, but I didn’t think they would start this well. There had been no hiding the ambition. Top six and European qualification was the target. Rodgers had said so last season and the club stated it in the last financial report, but now they look like a Champions League challenging side.

There was a sense of the unknown about Leicester this season. Rodgers had a few months to assess his squad last season but we weren’t quite sure how they would line-up this campaign. There was also the question of how big a loss Harry Maguire would be, especially after they walked away from trying to sign James Tarkowski just before the deadline.

However, the football that have played has been wonderful to watch. City’s start, tailored with some of the Big Six having their own issues, gives me confidence they can sustain this challenge all season. 

Why do you think we've had such a good start to the season?

They are well organised. Each player knows what is expected from them both in and out of possession. Rodgers has his philosophy of how he wants to play and he ensures the players understand what is expected of them. It is an effective, intense style of play and while other clubs are still struggling to find their own identity and style of play, most notably Arsenal, City seem to understand who they are and what they are good at. That gives them confidence when they go out to play. Doubt is removed from their minds. They have bought into Rodgers’ way and believe in it.

Who in your view has excelled and why?

There are so many who have excelled. The entire starting 11 have done superbly well, but you would have to pick out Caglar Soyuncu. There were question marks about him stepping in for Maguire but he has been fantastic. Credit to Jonny Evans too for helping him settle straight into that back four. Wilfred Ndidi has been fantastic at screening that back four and his tackle stats are phenomenal, while James Maddison and Youri Tielemans have provided midfield guile. Of course, as ever, Jamie Vardy is the main man and talisman. Twenty goals in just 22 league games under Rodgers is an incredible goal ratio.

What do you think to the buys this season?

Signing Youri Tielemans was important and I am glad they got that deal done. The fee is actually around £32 million, so less than was originally thought too, although there will be bonuses depending on performance. Ayoze Perez has taken time to settle I after his move from Newcastle but if he can replicate the form he showed at Southampton regularly he will be a real asset too. Sometimes it just takes a while for new signings to gel into this squad and get to know Rodgers’ system.

I really like Dennis Praet. He looks ready-made for English football. He is an all-rounder. He is good on the ball but is physically strong too.

We haven’t seen much of James Justin yet because of the form of Ricardo, but from what I have seen he looks a good player and is versatile. His time will come. Overall, I have been impressed with the transfer business. It was the best window for quite some time.

Where do you think we need to further strengthen if at all?

We need to prepare for when Wes Morgan finishes by bringing in another centre back. Filip Benkovic has struggled for fitness in the early part of the season and I would be concerned if there were injuries or suspensions for Evans and Soyuncu. Also, we need more goals from the front three, so that might be an area Rodgers looks at possibly in January but certainly next summer.

 

How do you think this squad compares to the 15/16 squad?

In terms of the whole squad, there is more strength in depth with this squad than the title-winning one, and while I would argue individually there may be more attacking talent in the current crop, that team of 2015-16 were so effective and very consistent. They are legends. They had their counter attacking style and had two amazing match winners in Mahrez and Vardy that season. Time will tell if this generation can achieve something special too.

Where do you think we'll finish this season?

Judging by what I have seen this season so far, and not just from Leicester, I believe a top four place is realistic and achievable. I would love to go on another European Tour. 

What is Brendan Rogers best strengths?

Communication, which was arguably Puel’s biggest weakness. Rodgers is brilliant at making everyone feel part of what he is trying to achieve. His first step was to get the senior players on side, like Vardy, Morgan and Fuchs, and he spends a lot of time talking individually to his players. His door is always open for a chat.

He has done the same with the media. At the first press conference he decided the written media would sit down with him in the players’ lounge around a table and talk on and off the record, rather than in a formal setting. The writers loved that and he still does that today. 

About you:

What's your proudest moment in your journalism career?

Following Leicester’s greatest achievement, the 2016 title win and the subsequent European tour, were amazing and I am very proud of the book I wrote on that season, 5000-1.

Also, right at the start of my career, when I was a news journalist on my hometown newspaper, the Tamworth Herald, I interviewed an old miner about the history of the industry in the area, but he also told me a story about a Tamworth war hero whose actions helped shorten the war. Colin Grazier died while rescuing enigma code books from a stricken u-boat, which were used to secretly decode the enigma machines. His sacrifice was hidden by the official secrets act for decades, initially because they didn’t want the Germans to know they could crack the codes. As a result he never really got the recognition he deserved. I wrote the story and my deputy editor launched a campaign which resulted in a huge memorial being erected in the main square in the town centre. I feel great pride whenever I walk through town now and see it because it all began with that article.

What is your funniest LCFC moment whilst working for the Leicester Mercury?

There were always some pranks going on when we used to do media down the training ground. I have had Craig Shakespeare deliberately call me phone while I was interviewing players, to see if I had switched it off, and when I turn around he has been laughing, watching through the window at me getting flustered with Macca and other members of staff. I have also had tennis balls thrown at me by Paul Gallagher while interviewing and there was also the funny sight of Richie Wellens pinching Macca’s van and driving it away while Macca was trying to load it up. 

Who is your dream LCFC player to interview?

In terms of dream, as in which player I would love to interview as a Leicester player, it would be Lionel Messi, and I was in the Mix Zone after the game in Stockholm, but he wasn’t giving interviews. He was more concerned with getting Vardy’s shirt.

In terms of Leicester players who I have interviewed, there have been some good ones over the years. I always liked David Nugent, because he was a good talker and comical, and he would speak his mind too. Christian Fuchs is entertaining and very friendly. So was Gallagher and Wellens, but the one I speak too the most and get on with the best has to be my fellow Tammie, Marc Albrighton.

I would love to interview Marcin Wasilewski though. I never did in all the time he was at the club. He wouldn’t do them. That has become a mission now.

Who was the easiest LCFC manager to interview?

I had a baptism of fire with Nigel, but over time, as he came to trust me better, he was interesting to interview because he liked to be challenged by questions. If you asked him stock questions he would give you stock answers. If you asked him tougher questions you would get better answers, depending on his mood. Ranieri was the most entertaining in terms of his responses, but Craig Shakespeare was the warmest and friendliest, until Brendan Rodgers. He is very good as he remembers people’s names and uses them when he responds. That may not sound like a big thing, but I see that as showing respect to the journalists. So far it has been a pleasure to talk to Brendan.

About your recent transfer:

Firstly when did you move to the Mercury and why?

I was working for the Birmingham Post and Mail, but I wasn’t really a number one writer for any of the clubs. I would be asked to cover West Bromwich Albion, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Walsall mainly, as the two big clubs, Blues and Aston Villa, were taken by more senior writers. I had an interview for another position at the Mercury a while before, but the position was pulled. Then, out of the blue, Chris Goddard, the former Sports Editor, called me as they were looking for Bill Anderson’s replacement. It was a chance to be a number one writer on a club. I went in and had a two hour meeting with the Editor, Keith Perch, but we didn’t really talk about the job, just football. They gave me the job and I started covering City at the beginning of their first campaign back in the Championship ten years ago. It has been an astonishing ride ever since. I have had so many special experiences and I cherish some wonderful memories.

Where are you working now and can you tell me a bit more about the organisation?

I was approached in the summer to join The Athletic. After ten years at the Mercury I was ready for a new challenge. The local newspaper industry is changing and I wasn’t happy with some of the work I was asked to do, and I was looking at other opportunities when this came along. I am still covering Leicester, which I love, but in a very different way now.

The Athletic began in the USA. It is a sports website and app that focuses on in-depth feature writing and after a successful first few years in the States they have come to the Premier League and recruited some really good writers, such as Oli Kay, Dan Taylor, David Ornstein and Stuart James. They targeted the club writers on local papers covering the Premier League clubs, and that is my brief with Leicester. 

What is the business model for the Athletic based on and why?

It is a subscription service. It is the first time in my career I haven’t been involved in a newspaper. The current subscription discount means it can cost as little as £2.50 per month and for that you get access to all the football features and American sports produced by all the writers.

The original idea was to invest in quality journalism, which has been in decline for some years now, and promote the art of sports writing, but it is not a direct threat to newspapers, many of which still contain some wonderful writing. It just offers something different.

How does your role differ now compared to the Mercury?

The big difference is time. Whereas at the Mercury I would probably produce up to six short stories a day, based around what has been said in press conferences and after games, now I produce three to four in-depth articles per week. I have time to research my stories and speak to as many people in the game as possible so my articles can be in-depth.  For example, I was given the chance to travel to New York and visit Christian Fuchs’ sports complex in Warwick, which used to be a prison. It still looks like a prison in many respects, but Christian and his wife Raluca have big plans for the place. I was able to sit and watch a game with them. That wouldn’t have been possible at the Mercury.

Everything I write has to be different than you can read elsewhere. I don’t do match reports or quote pieces from press conferences, because you can read that everywhere else, so I have to think of an angle for a game. For example, at Luton I watched the game with James Justin’s dad. I hit the jackpot as James scored his first goal for the club that night.

If supporters want to subscribe how do they go about it?

Visit the website: theathletic.com, or download the app. Look out for special offer tweets from our writers which contain codes for discounted subscriptions.

Why should supporters subscribe?

I used to get feedback that fans were fed up of clickbait headlines, pop up ads and videos. The Athletic is advert free and easy to read. It is pure sports writing without distractions, and we have a great team of writers producing a wide variety of content. It is worth checking out with a free trial.

Trust Encourage Participation In EuroFit Programme

Foxes Trust are actively seeking to work closer with Leicester City in The Community (LCitC). Recently LCitC announced the rerun of its EuroFit Programme, https://www.lcfc.com/news/1493758/join-lcfcs-eurofit-programme

We would urge all to consider if the programme suits their needs, if you think it might be for you then you may be encouraged by Martin’s story.

My EuroFIT Experience – Martin Spencer (2nd from left, participant in the very first EuroFIT)

I was an office worker approaching 60 years of age and I was overweight, unfit and a real couch potato.

I desperately wanted to change to a more healthy lifestyle but did not want the intensity of going to the gym. I also needed advice on diet and nutrition and wanted to be sitting down less.

It was February 2018 and a good friend advised me of a 12 week health programme, called EuroFIT that the Leicester City Community Trust were providing and would I like to join him?

I thought it would help me achieve my goals and with sessions being held at the King Power Stadium, it ticked all my boxes. The home of the football club I have loved all my life. What could be better?

I enrolled and it has absolutely transformed my life.

There were 20 of us that enrolled, all with the same goals in mind, the majority of participants are good friends to this day and we went on a journey of learning how to eat and drink healthier and exercise more but not in a too strenuous manner.

We all lost weight (I lost half a stone, but many lost more) and some inches off our waists.

We exercised in the stadium’s concourses, walked around the pitch and around the outside of the stadium, walked up and down the stands and we played walking football in the club car park. Step counters were provided and we were set goals to increase our step count on a weekly basis, both at our sessions and during the course of the week ahead.

This was all done under the careful eye of LCFC Community Manager Matt Bray who was amazing in so far as he was knowledgeable, a good fitness and nutrition coach and he did not ask us to do anything that was beyond us. He took an interest in us all as individuals which everyone appreciated.

At the end of the course and as a reward for our commitment and hard work, Matt arranged for us all to have the opportunity and thrill of playing walking football on the pitch at the King Power Stadium, something that we will all hold as a treasured memory forever.

Since the end of our EuroFIT experience, many of the participants of the course have continued to meet up and play walking football on a weekly basis.

For people like me who wanted to make a change to a healthier lifestyle and are Leicester City supporters, I could not recommend this course more. It is one of the best things I have ever done and I hope to continue to exercise and eat and drink healthier for the rest of my life.

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Football Supporters’ Association Awards 2019 – VOTE NOW

At the end of last week , the shortlists were announced for the FSA Awards. 11 categories are decided by the public, with a further 7 judged by an FSA panel.

In the Men’s Player of the Year category, Liverpool pair of Sadio Mané and Virgil van Dijk alongside fellow Ballon d’Or shortlisted nominee Raheem Sterling of Manchester City. High-flying Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy joins fellow forwards Heung-Min Son of Spurs and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in completing the six man shortlist.

The Safe Hands award shortlist has been chosen by David James featuring six of the best saves from the past 12 months. You can watch the short video at the voting link to choose your favourite from Kasper Schmeichel, Bernd Leno, Bartosz Bialkowski, Sam Johnstone, Courtney Brosnan and Josh Vickers.

Other awards you can vote for include Women’s Player of the Year, Commentator of the Year, Fan Media of the Year, Newspaper of the Year, Online Media of the Year, Podcast of the Year, Pundit of the Year, Radio Show of the Year, and Writer of the Year

Voting is open until midnight on 30th November. You can vote only once in each category, but you don't have to vote in every category, VOTE HERE

Panel judged awards are Supporter Engagement Award, Supporter Liaison Officer of the Year, National Game Community Award, Away Day of the Year, Fanzine of the Year, Club Podcast of the Year and Fans for Diversity Award

The winners will be announced on the evening of 16th December at the FSA awards ceremony in London.

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City’s Firepower Stronger than Gunners

Leicester City 2 Arsenal 0  –  9 November 2019

Report by Tish Krokosz

On yet another rainy evening, City’s match with Arsenal was preceded by the usual acknowledgement to Remembrance Day by the Last Post being played and a minute’s silence being observed by the crowd.

Was it this inclement weather that made Unai Emery bring such a defensive team to the King Power or was it City’s reputation of hammering five goals past Newcastle and nine goals past Southampton in similar conditions? It seemed clear from the outset that the visitors would be playing with five at the back and would be content with a point. I have not seen such a defensive line-up from Arsenal for a very long time and for the first half, at least, it proved effective for them.

As has been seen in recent games, City were happy to attack from the start and would have breached the Arsenal defence a couple of times in the first fifteen minutes if the visitors had not defended in depth. Their quality was poor and they only survived because of the mass of bodies in City’s way. As shown on Match of the Day they also seemed to get away with a decent penalty shout in the 10th minute when Söyüncü was pulled back, but VAR failed to pick up the incident.

It is great to see how City have adapted to the manager’s style of intensive yet patient football. Under Puel, it seemed that a similar style was seen as negative – probably because it would go backwards too many times. Under Rodgers, the City defenders will still pass the ball between them at the back, but will spot the right time to move forward with intensity and quality (where have I heard that phrase before?).

Although City had the majority of possession in the first half and plenty of half-chances to open the scoring, Arsenal had the clearest opportunity to score when they counter-attacked down the right side and crossed the ball into the penalty area where either Lacazette or Aubameyang could have scored from six yards out. Instead, they got in each other’s way and the former pinged the ball wide of the right post.

City, on the other hand, were attacking in waves from both wings and down the middle of the park. With such a poor defence in front of them, we had to get the ball in the net, surely?

Yet despite good free-kicks from Chilwell and Maddison, the latter hitting his just over the bar five minutes before half-time, and opportunities for Perez and Tielemans going wayward, the score remained goalless at the break.

Emery must have said something to his players at half-time as they started the second half more positively and Bellerin, in particular, was trying to push further forward down the right hand side. However, City’s attitude increased in equal measure and the game generally moved up one gear. It’s great to see Ricardo Pereira when he is on one of his runs and three minutes into the second-half he reached the bye-line at pace and crossed the ball towards the penalty spot where an unmarked Ndidi should have made it 1-0. But his thunderous, left-footed shot hit the bar and rebounded to safety.

This prompted the Londoners to put more pressure on the home side and for a while they had the upper hand. Not long after Ndidi’s miss, an Arsenal counter attack ended up with Aubameyang planting the ball past Schmeichel. Luckily for City, the Gunner was marginally offside when the ball had been passed to him and the goal was disallowed. VAR checked the assistant referee’s call and the decision stood.

Five minutes later, Rodgers decided that Perez was losing out to Kolasinac too many times. Indeed, in the first half there were countless cases of the winger going down too easily under an Arsenal challenge. He was replaced by Gray.

In the past, I have been wary of such a change. But recently he has been more effective and so it proved once again. His shooting was more accurate, his choice of passes was more intelligent, his skills were more effective and seven minutes after his introduction he had a small part to play in the build up to Vardy’s goal. His was the first of several neat flicks and passes that involved him, Tielemans and Barnes before the unmarked Vardy was able to crash the ball into the left hand side of the goal. This fast, incisive, accurate passing was the only way that the rugged Arsenal defence would be breached and it was a joy to watch.

This gave City renewed vigour and Vardy was soon thinking he would be celebrating a brace of goals after Gray had found space down the middle of the field, He passed the ball to Vardy who was clear on the right side the penalty area, but his powerful shot was saved by Leno.

Arsenal could see that they might end up losing yet again away from home. Their tackles were more robust and they tried to push more men forward, but it was in one of these moves that Ndidi showed his strength and determination and won the ball on the half-way line as only Ndidi can, using those extra long legs of his. He moved forward and passed to Tielemans, who, in turn, quickly moved the ball to Vardy. This time, the centre forward acted as provider to Maddison and his first time shot went through Bellerin’s legs and into the left hand corner of the goal past a statuesque Leno.

This gave the cushion that City needed to control the rest of the game and toy with an Arsenal team that looked as bedraggled as the media has made them out to be.

With the recent results and the standard of play that City have enjoyed under the management of Brendan Rodgers, it is no wonder that the fans are singing of their hope for another European tour. In the current position of second this is the expectation of many. However, there is a long way to go to the end of the season, but, what if …?

Leicester: Schmeichel, Pereira, Evans, Söyüncü, Chilwell, Ndidi, Perez (Gray 60), Tielemans, Maddison, Barnes (Praet 74), Vardy. Subs not used: Ward, Morgan, Justin, Choudhury, Albrighton.

Arsenal: Leno, Bellerin, Chambers, Luiz, Holding (Pépé 77), Kolasinac, Torreira (Willock 80), Guendouzi, Özil, Aubameyang, Lacazette. Subs not used: Tierney, Papastathopoulos, Martinez, Martinelli, Saka.

Referee: C. Kavanagh                                               Attendance: 32,209

The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation

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Eagles’ wings clipped as City show Top Four Potential

Crystal Palace 0 Leicester City 2

Premier League – November 3rd, 2019, report by Colin Murrant

With the other three teams in the Top 4 of the Premier League all winning on Saturday, it was up to City to get a positive result if they were to regain third place. If this added to the pressure then it never showed as The Foxes produced a solid and accomplished performance against The Eagles.

Selhurst Park has never been a happy hunting ground for City; their 1-0 win in the Premier League winning season of 2015/16 being the only success in recent times. For those who know this part of South London they will know that it is a run-down area. The ground itself is befitting of the area and is old and antiquated with poor seating, inadequate facilities; it is a lot of visiting supporter’s least favourite away fixture.

One saving grace is the fanzone which is open before the match to both home and away fans; on Sunday we were entertained by a South Korean Children’s’ Taekwondo troupe and also the Palace Cheerleaders. So apart from the fanzone not an exciting prospect for Sunday afternoon; not until 4.00pm that is. By then City had climbed back to third place and put on a performance that underlined their top 4 potential.

There were many heroes, Soyuncu and Maddison were immense, but for me the ever improving and consistent Tielemans is increasingly important to this team. The fans’ song suggests that Youri is ‘… dynamite’ but it does him an injustice as he is so creative and in no sense destructive: If Rubens is perhaps the most famous Flemish artist then Tielemans must have come from the same school: his art palette is a rich array of passing ability; short, long on the turn, first time.

Yet the creative play can only prosper if built on a sound defence. The centre back pairing of Evans and Soyuncu provide a rock in front of Schmeichel, Ndidi does the hard miles in front of them, all this allowing Ricardo and Chilwell to attack like wing backs. Certainly, Palace had their moments but like ships in a storm, their attacks broke up as they floundered on the rocks: Schmeichel had no shots of note to save.

Prior to the match there was a minute’s silence to remember the dead of the British Forces; impeccably observed apart from one idiot amongst the home crowd. The match started with Palace attacking the Holmesdale Road Stand which houses most of their singing supporters.

It was City first into their stride and in the 5th minute Barnes was to have a shot on goal from outside the box but it didn’t trouble the Palace goal. The first chance of note came on 18 when a good through ball from Maddison put Vardy in on goal, his touch took him too close to the goal and, at a narrow angle, Guaita was able to block the shot.

City were building pressure and winning a series of corners; from one of these Jonny Evans headed narrowly over. Palace eased the pressure on their goal with a couple of shots up the other end but both went helplessly wide of target. The game was stopped for a minute as plastic objects were thrown onto the pitch and had to be cleared from Schmeichel’s goalmouth; not really what you expect at Palace.

City then got another corner, the ball fell outside the box to Tielemans whose shot was high over the bar: Tielemans and Soyuncu then had shots off target. A high clearance from Maddison in his own box was met, but not completely controlled, by Vardy on the half way line; the ball seemed to break off a Palace defender and put Perez in on goal. Perez did not have the pace to get away and let the defender get back to him when perhaps he should have got a shot away. Vardy was put through after an initial pass from Maddison to Tielemans who in turn split the Palace defence; unfortunately, Guaita just got to the ball before Vardy.

The second half started with Palace having their best period and a bad tackle by Evans on Kouyate earned him a booking but prevented a Palace attack.

By the 56th minute though City had ridden out the brief storm without any real problems. Perez went on one of his mazy runs past several defenders before winning a corner. From the corner, Evans got in a great header but it was pushed over by the Palace keeper. Maddison took the corner again and van Arnholt got a touch on the ball and diverted it to the unmarked and stooping Soyuncu to make it 1-0. What a popular goal scorer Soyuncu was!

Vardy was his usual menacing self and caught Tompkins out as he closed him down. Falling to the ground, Tomkins knocked the ball away with his hand to prevent Vardy getting away; as the incident was only just in the Palace half of the pitch, and a defender may have got back, the yellow card issued was probably correct.

City were looking comfortable and containing Zaha and Ayew but one goal is always not enough to relax too much. Leicester had to wait until 88 minutes for their second and what a goal it was. Good passing into the box, Gray dummied, the ball reached Vardy who played Gray in again; Vardy playing clever had stayed near the penalty spot and was unmarked as Gray pulled the ball back to him; City 2-0. Palace fans had failed to heed the danger when they sing about Vardy or his wife: they hadn’t learnt the lessons of the Burnley and Southampton fans; punishment inevitably follows swiftly afterwards. Vardy wheeled away flapping his arms like an Eagle.

There was just time for another City chance as Chilwell controlled brilliantly a high cross field ball and his shot from a narrow angle hit the far post and shot back into play just avoiding Vardy. The six minutes of added time brought no more pressure on the City goal in what had been a most promising display that they controlled for the vast majority of the match.

In the 2017/18 season, City lost 5-0 to Palace. At the end of the match, Adrien Silva went over to some young Portuguese fans in the home stand near the City fans. He took off his shirt, gave it to the youngsters and was loudly booed by unforgiving Leicester fans who thought it was unwarranted given the result and performance. On Sunday, virtually in the same spot were some Belgian fans. At the end of the match Tielemans went over to the fans and had a selfie with them. This time the City fans cheered him: funny how you can be are more forgiving when you win: after all, Youri is dynamite.

Crystal Palace: Guaita, Ward, Tompkins, Cahill, van Arnholt, McArthur (McCarthy 78), Kouyate (Meyer 74), Milivojevic, Schlupp, Zaha, Ayew (Benteke 78). Subs not Used: Dann, Hennessey, Camarasa, Kelly

Leicester City: Schmeichel, Ricardo, Evans, Soyuncu, Chilwell, Ndidi, Perez (Gray 74), Tielemans, Maddison (Praet 90+1), Barnes (Morgan 85), Vardy. Subs not used: Ward, Justin, Albrighton, Iheanacho

Referee Paul Tierney                      Attendance: 25,480

The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation

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