Useful run-out with some promising signs of things to come

Scunthorpe United 0 v Leicester City 1

 

Glanford Park – 16 July 2019

 

Match Report by Colin Murrant

 

Pre-season friendlies can often be disjointed affairs, with nine changes at half time this was in part the case. However, there was a lot to admire in the first half with lots of possession and some excellent link up play.

A less experienced line up in the second half failed to build on the dominance of the first half.

 

The team for the first half was Jakupovic, Ricardo, Evans, Soyuncu, Fuchs, Mendy, Tielemans, Albrighton, Leshabela, Perez and Vardy. The surprise was central midfielder Thakgalo Leshabela, a South Africa U20 international. The side started in a 4-1-4-1 formation with Mendy being the holding midfield player.

 

City quickly got into their stride in a game that was played at a good tempo, on a warm night that would certainly test the early season fitness levels. The passing was a bit loose at times but as City got into their stride, there was some excellent interplay. As early as the 2nd minute, the excellent Albrighton fed Vardy who played it back to Fuchs, his cross was just intercepted before it reached Perez.

 

Perez’s first real chance came in the 10th minute a good ball from Ricardo found Perez, his good first touch allowed him to turn and shoot but early season rustiness saw the ball clear the bar. It was all City now and Vardy did well to win and then retain the ball in the corner, his cross to the far corner of the box found Ricardo who fed Leshabela, the midfielder got his shot away but straight at the Scunthorpe keeper. Down the City end, Perch found himself in space and running at the Leicester goal, his shot from the edge of the box was weak though and was wide of the post. This was to be the only attack of any substance that The Iron had in the first half.

 

At this stage City were playing some good first touch football, the link up play between Ricardo and Perez developing, Perez seemed to have a free role: he was looking lively and tenacious whilst delivering ample skills.

 

City piled on the pressure with shots from Tielemans, Albrighton before the goal came in the 35th minute. A wonderful cross field pass from Albrighton to Ricardo in space, the full-back advanced then played a firm ball into the box which was hit first time by Perez past Eastwood in The Iron’s goal. Three minutes later and Perez could have had a second when he headed another Ricardo cross which this time Edwards managed to divert over the bar.

 

At half time there were nine changes for City as Jakupovic, Justin, Morgan, Maguire, Elder, King, Ghezzal, Amartey, Leshabela (60), Muskwe, Iheanacho lined up: sub Knight (60). The big surprise was Harry Maguire, an enormous statement from Rodgers, showing he is in his plans and any suitor will have to pay that world record fee if they want him.

 

The second half was less flowing although there was plenty of endeavour. Justin was fast and using both his feet, he showed this to good effect on 51 minutes when he raced down the wing using his right foot, cut back inside of the defender and curled a left foot shot inches wide of the far post. On 82 minutes a great ball in from Justin found King in space near the penalty spot but his first-time volley was wide of the goal.

 

Scunthorpe caused a little pressure from two set pieces and had a hand ball penalty claim turned down. They also had a corner on 90 minutes which was taken short with Leicester switched off, the ball was chipped in but headed straight at Jakupovic.

 

Too early to make any assessments as this outing was about game time and increasing fitness levels. The Ricardo/Perez combination looks exciting, Justin looked everything we have heard about him, Tielemans grew into the game, Albrighton was very bright and Leshabela put in a good show: Rodgers must have had good reason to start him both halves. On the injury side it was pleasing to see Amartey back in the side. Playing a Second Division side it is difficult to tell, but Soyuncu looked assured alongside Evans and might save City a lot of money.

 

The City fans amongst the 3,142 crowd would no doubt return from North Lincolnshire happy with what they saw, particularly with the first half performance.

 

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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JJ – An Extremely Impressive Young Man

We have obtained the views of the Luton Town Supporters Trust on our first signing of the new season, James Justin. Media Officer, Kevin Harper gives us an insight….

“Although he is still only 21, James Justin is someone I have followed for a number of years given that he came through the youth setup at Luton Town FC.

As Luton fans, we take great interest and pride in our academy products, not least because as our club fell on hard times after being condemned to the Conference 10 years ago, funding for the youth teams was cancelled, and it was us supporters who rallied together to finance it.

I first came across ‘JJ’ when he was part of the youth team in the 2015-16 season. Against the odds that side saw off bigger academy sides to reach the quarter finals of the FA Youth Cup, where they were knocked out 1-0 by Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park. Justin was a midfielder who caught the eye throughout that run and it was pretty obvious then that he would go on to graduate to our first-team.

He made his senior debut off the bench in the final game of that season, and then made his first start in the Capital One Cup against Aston Villa the following year, where he played left-back due to injury. By then he had established himself as a right-back, so his versatility was obvious from an early stage.

He has been a regular in the team in the last two campaigns, both of which resulted in promotion. His first season was in the right-back role and then last term he made the left-back spot his own.

Playing in a diamond, his energy and comfort on the ball was always hugely important and as time went on he took on more responsibility. He was the taker of our set-pieces in League One last term and contributed a number of assists and some important goals. He has the natural athleticism to take a player on, but doesn’t lack for defensive ability either.

You will see his footballing attributes at their best in no time at all, but it is the person behind the footballer that impressed me as much as his skills. They say never meet your heroes but I’m delighted I’ve met JJ and got a chat to him on a number of occasions.

He is a very grounded young man, who possesses a confidence in his own ability without allowing any sort of ego to take over. He is a hard working individual who constantly wants to improve and be the best he can be, all of which are admiral traits but at no stage did shirk his responsibilities off the pitch.

At the Supporters’ Trust we do a monthly podcast which the club allow us access to the players for. Each season we have done it we have asked JJ if he would join us and he never said no. We also run the club’s end of season awards night where JJ has won awards and he has put himself up for interviews without issue.

Last season our awards evening clashed with the EFL one, and with him being in the League 1 team of the year he had to go there but still made time to pre-record a speech accepting his young player of the season award. On top of all that he is the patron of the Luton Town Disabled Supporters Association.

Whether on the pitch or off it, JJ is an extremely impressive young man who is destined to go to the very top of the game. He leaves Luton with our best wishes, and Hatters supporters around the globe will follow his progress with interest.” 

To see the latest news from the Luton Town Supporters Trust click here

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Fan’s Groups Angered By Lack Of Consultation Prior To ‘Stealth’ Increase In Ticket Purchase Fees.

The Foxes Trust and Union FS have come out strongly in condemnation at the fact that Leicester City did not consult Fans’ Groups prior to the substantial increase in fees introduced by the Club for 2019/20 for Match Tickets (Home & Away), Stadium Car Parking, Foxes Travel and other services.

The Turnover of a Premier league Club is dominated by TV Rights. The last reported accounts of Leicester City FC showed 78% (£129m) of its revenue coming from TV Rights and only 8% (£13m) coming from Ticket Sales. So only a “tiny” percentage of its “income” comes in the form of these Fees.

It was welcomed that LCFC announced that in 2019/20 season there would be a freeze on both Season Ticket renewal and new-purchase prices. It was generally thought that there would be another year of paying the same price, given the lower significance of ticket sales revenue and increased TV revenues, as stated above.

As tickets became available for pre-season friendlies however, it became apparent that LCFC were introducing increased fees per ticket purchased on line or via phone, where as previously this had been a single £1 per transaction fee. The Club have since announced that Season Ticket Holders and Members will pay £1 for all tickets purchased for all away and home cup tickets (excludes Home League Matches), all General Sales tickets for home and away will have a £1.50 charge applied. It is understood that additional fees will not apply to tickets purchased in the Fans Store (which is not a practicable option for many supporters). In simple terms – A family of four travelling on Foxes Travel would now be paying a minimum of £8 in fees for their tickets rather than £1 previously.

At this point The Foxes Trust and Union FS, along with other Fan’s Groups started to receive concerns from their Members as to what was perceived as this apparently ‘stealth’ way of increasing ticket sales income. A letter was sent to the Club asking for the rationale behind the increases and asking why no consultation took place. The Club have responded, to this letter, but with insufficient details as to the actual reasons behind their implementation and the reply is deemed unacceptable.

The two Groups accept they are unlikely to get the introduction of the fees reversed. However, they are now seeking an urgent meeting with the Club to discuss if there is any chance of the fees being restructured, as they believe there are several ambiguities in the way the fees have been implemented.

“The most disappointing aspect of this is that a joint Fans’ Group meeting has been established by Leicester City, but they chose not to consult the Fans’ Group prior to the introduction of the increased fees and structure. This is in stark contrast to other Premier League Clubs such as Everton who actively discussed these types of matters with their fan representatives or, in the case of Wolverhampton, revised fees in light of fans’ concerns.”

Alan Digby of The Foxes Trust said “Although the club in their reply admitted that this should have been better communicated, to the Fans Groups and wider fan base, the increased fees, the way they have been structured, and the timing of their introduction are extremely disappointing. The fact that the Club chose not to consult, again, on such an emotive issue is also very concerning. The reality is for those supporters who cannot make it to the Ticket Office to purchase their tickets this is in fact a £1/£1.50 increase on the price of the ticket, as Away tickets are capped at £30 under the Premier League agreement, are LCFC not breaking that cap, for those supporters? We, also accept the club has to charge for this service, to cover its costs, but an increase of this size, is not acceptable and is indeed a “stealth tax” on those Fans’ who wish to use the internet or phone, mainly, not out of choice but necessity”

Union FS Statement “As the new season approaches, there is a sense of anticipation about what we can achieve on the pitch and a general consensus that the forthcoming season will be a positive one. However, whilst we see positive change on the pitch, we fail to see this off it. As ticket prices were announced we welcomed the price freezes but what we didn’t welcome was the greedy transaction fees for every single ticket purchased. In an era where finances in Football Clubs are at an all-time high Union FS do not see the logic nor the fairness in implementing yet another charge on the match going fan. In physical numbers a family of 4 would be paying £8 for the pleasure of buying tickets and travel through the football club, this charge remains if these tickets were printed in a fan’s own home. This is not acceptable. The football club are quick to play the rhetoric of how important our overall support is but once again all we see is a lack of consultation or responsibility for their actions. The wider supporter groups believe that, nobody is above criticism”

The Football Supporters Association (FSA) said  "This is important work by Foxes Trust and the issue of hidden costs has been discussed by fan groups on our Premier League network.
The FSA successfully campaigned for an away price cap and keeps a close on eye on anything that increases matchday costs such as transaction fees or membership schemes.
Ticket prices are of fundamental importance to fans – some matchday costs are optional but if you can't afford a ticket, you can't watch your team.
This will be on the agenda in our formal discussions with the leagues and Foxes Trust will play a central role in those discussions."

Both Union FS & The Foxes Trust strongly encourage the club to engage with their fanbase and reconsider. Match-going supporters are more than just revenue streams and football without fans is nothing.

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Ayoze Perez: The Jury Is Still Out

When LCFC makes a new signing, we turn to our network of Trust’s to get an expert opinion. Steve Wraith, board member of the Newcastle United Supporters Trust provides his assessment of…

“Ayoze Perez. The man, the enigma, turned down Real Madrid and Barcelona to sign for Newcastle United on the 5th June 2014 for an estimated fee of £1.5m. In the last 5 years the Spanish import had played 136 times for the Magpies and bagged 27 goals at the time of writing.

So was he value for money or a waste of Euros, and have Leicester City bagged themselves a bargain?  He was certainly a player that caused frequent heated discussions in the bars on Tyneside after a defeat. “He lacks vision”, “He’s soft as sh&*e and doesn’t get stuck in”, ‘He’s a lazy f&*ker and doesn’t track back man”, just a selection of comments I’ve heard about Perez in the last few months. His recent goal celebration where he puts his fingers in his ears suggests that he has read a lot of criticism online and has decided to laugh at it and prove people wrong by putting in good performances and putting the ball in the onion bag. I’m all for that by the way. That’s what a player should do.

Ayoze was born in Santa Cruz De Tenerife, Canary Islands. He started his career at Tenerife and made his senior debut with the B-team in 2011 in the Fourth Division. He made his professional debut in August 2013 in a 1-0 defeat at Alcorcon. His first goal came against Real Madrid Castilla in the September of that year and it was the match winning goal with Tenerife running out 1-0 winners. He went on to play 50 games for his home town club scoring 17 times and was recognised as the ‘Breakthrough player of the year’ in 2014.

This put the young Spaniard firmly in the World spotlight and scouts from Porto, Barcelona and Real Madrid who had been keeping tabs on the youngster had filed their reports and three of Europe’s biggest teams were battling for his signature. So who would he sign for? Which manager could persuade this young prodigy that he could be the man to guide him to the very pinnacle of his chosen career?

Alan Pardew of course at Newcastle United! Who needs the sun, sangria and siestas in Porto and Madrid when you can have Brown Ale, stotties with pease pudding and a manager who dances like your Dad after the buffet at a wedding.

The 20 year old arrived at St James’ Park and was part of ‘blueprint number 96’ in the Mike Ashley era. That was to create a development squad in the Under 21’s that would eventually be good enough to play in the first team so that we could reach the heights of Aston Villa. (I know I know!) He was under the guidance of Peter Beardsley who Ayoze hit it off with immediately, and who better to teach an up and coming goal getter.

So how has he faired since he arrived on Tyneside? Well to be fair he has been very consistent when you look at the stats season by season.

2014-15 saw 36 appearances with 11 as sub and a goal return of 7. He took a while to settle into the English style of play but grabbed his first goal at Spurs in a 2-1 win in October and followed that up a week later with the winner against Liverpool (1-0) and then his third in as many games in another away win at West Bromich Albion ( 2-0). His goals helped Newcastle escape the drop with John Carver now at the helm after Pardew’s departure.

The following summer 2015-16 saw the arrival of the ‘Wally with the Brolly’ Steve McClaren and Perez statistics for this season are more or less identical as his first. 34 appearances with 12 as sub and 6 goals. Once again Perez scored a couple of crucial goals with the winner at Bournemouth in a 1-0 win and an injury time winner at Tottenham which briefly took United out of the drop zone. The season ended in relegation and saw the arrival of Benitez. This season also saw Perez extend his contract with the club to 2021.

The ‘Rafalution’ started in earnest in season 2016-17 and Ayoze played his part again with 25 appearances with 11 as a substitute in the Championship scoring 9 times. His knack of scoring key goals continuing with a goal against promotion rivals Brighton and notching the winner against Barnsley on the final day of the season to clinch the title.

2017-18 saw him make 36 appearances including 8 from the bench, and another 8 goals in a black and white shirt. He got the only goal of the game away at Stoke, grabbed a brace against Luton Town at home in the FA Cup and scored the crucial goal against Huddersfield in a 1-0 win.

This season 2018-19 our Spanish maestro played 40 games, 3 as sub and finished top scorer with 12 Premier League goals to his name, his best season yet in a Toon shirt.

So is the jury still out on Ayoze Perez after reading the facts? I think it always will be, but for me he has proved to be good value for money. In football you get what you pay for. Our £1.5M outlay has been more than repaid with those crucial match winning goals he has scored for us away from home which have gone a long way to keeping us in the top flight on more than one occasion. He has flourished under the guidance of Rafa and has benefited from the arrival of Almiron. He will drive you mad one minute and have you cuddling a complete stranger in an away end the next. For £30M Leicester City you have got a bargain.”

You can read the latest news from the Newcastle Supporters Trust here www.nufctrust.co.uk @stevewraith @nust

The views expressed in this article are the opinions of the Trust member and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation

 

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End Of Season Review 2018-19 Final Part

Colin Hall completes our series of our match reporting team’s end of season reviews.

Before the season started what were your hopes on what we could achieve?

I hoped that with the potential that existed within the squad, and the boost of several summer signings, we would be able to close the gap between ourselves and the clubs above, with perhaps the boost of a decent cup run.  

However, as noted in my review of the previous season, there were misgivings about whether Claude Puel was the manager to see that potential fulfilled.  Sadly, as events transpired, those doubts proved well founded.

When looking back at last season, the loss of our Chairman Vichai in late October has to feature in this review, what are your personal thoughts on the chairman, the subsequent reaction of fans to the tragedy and how the club handled proceedings at this difficult time?

The news of the helicopter crash hit me particularly hard. I had the honour of welcoming Vichai and Top to their first home league game in August 2010.  I'm not sure whether they knew what they had let themselves in for, but the subsequent eight years or so proved to be some journey!  

Years later, I had the privilege of meeting Vichai again, as well as two of his aides (who perished with him in the crash) before the Champions League game in Bruges in 2016.  The joy he took in that momentous day was evident for all to see.  After all, he did more than most to make it possible.

Vichai gave everything that fans of any football club could wish for.  He provided financial stability, battled to protect our interests whenever he needed to, and resisted the temptation to cut and run  – which many other owners may not have done – during some challenging times in the early years. His patience was rewarded many times over.

The incredible turnout on the “Walk for Vichai “ before the Burnley game showed the depth of gratitude that the whole city, not just the club fanbase, had for him.

Everyone at the club deserves appreciation for the dignity and respect they showed in the aftermath of the crash, especially in response to the massive global media interest that ensued.  They did him proud.

Given the events of last season what were your overall thoughts on finishing 9th ?  

Considering the impact of the crash, and then a particularly ignominious FA Cup exit, 9th place is about as good as we could have hoped for.  We competed well against the biggest teams, beating Manchester City and drawing at Liverpool, but this was too often offset by indifferent displays against teams in the lower reaches of the league.

Ricardo Pereira won the Player of the Year Awards, would he have been your choice and who else do you think deserves praise for their performances?

Ricardo had some awkward games early in the season, as he struggled to adapt to the Premier League, but he gradually found his feet and over the course of the season was probably our most consistent player.  So I'd say he was certainly a worthy choice as player of the year.

Elsewhere in the side, Jamie Vardy went through a few turbulent times, but ended up as the league's top English goalscorer, finishing fifth overall in the race for the Golden Boot.  James Maddison and Wilfred Ndidi also came through difficult spells to post some impressive stats which won't have gone unnoticed by potential predators.

What were your views on the signings made during last season?

As in previous seasons, some proved to be more successful than others.  Ricardo and Maddison made a positive impact, Jonny Evans overcame a tough debut to become a solid figure in central defence, while Youri Tielemans added quality to the midfield during his loan spell.  

The jury is still out, though, on Caglar Soyuncu, who didn't quite meet the expectations that went with his price tag.  Filip Benkovic had rave reviews when on loan at Celtic until injury halted his progress.  Rachid Ghezzal made a bright start with a couple of early goals, before finding the task of filling Riyad Mahrez's shoes too much for him.  Danny Ward looked good in the penalty shootouts against Wolves and Southampton, but couldn't repeat the heroics against Manchester City and was another who remained on the periphery of the squad.

Which player do you think made the most progress last season and why?

Last year the notion of Ben Chilwell emerging as an established left-back for the national team would have been met with widespread incredulity among the City fanbase.  Yet, in the early weeks of the season, it was clear that he had put considerable effort during the summer into improving both his fitness and his overall game.  

When the call-up came, he seized his opportunity and played a full part in some exceptional England performances.  There are still some areas where there remains room for improvement, but it is to be hoped that he retains his position for both City and England for some time to come.

In addition, Hamza Choudhury and Harvey Barnes both performed with distinction and show every signs of following Chilwell into the full national side in due course.

Which player did you think underperformed the most last season and why?

Demarai Gray was given numerous chances in a variety of positions by the former manager, but rarely looked comfortable in any of them. It was hoped that during his fourth season at City, he would finally start to fulfil his potential, but he continued to frustrate with a lack of end product.  Maybe a change of environment, to a club indulging him a little less, would be in the best interests of all.

Kelechi Iheanacho was another major disappointment, with just one league goal all season (and even that was against Huddersfield).  He's never settled since joining the club and although he has the quality and finishing ability to become a decent Premier League striker, it's highly unlikely that he will do so in a Leicester shirt.

What was your personal highlight of the season?

Wins at Chelsea don't come around too often, so our victory there was something of a Christmas bonus, especially as the side had been struggling desperately for form during the preceding weeks. It was a fortress which no other visiting side could breach during the league campaign, so to outshine the top two was an especially worthy achievement.

Moving onto next season

In comparison to this time last year, how positive do you feel about next season with Brendan Rodgers in charge?

I'm cautiously optimistic that if he has a full pre-season to work with this squad, we will see a significant improvement in results.  However, much depends on whether he can keep hold of key players and if not, whether he can secure – and successfully integrate – adequate replacements.

What changes do you think are necessary to improve on this year’s squad?

The biggest challenge facing the manager – and one that has played a significant role in the downfall of his three predecessors – is how to expand the attacking options within the squad. Many of the players recruited since promotion, including some purchased at considerable expense, have proved to be incompatible with existing personnel.

The priority in this transfer window should be to bring in players who know their way around the league, and are able to assert themselves in what can sometimes be a challenging dressing room.

If we are unable to sign Tielemans on a permanent basis – as appears to be the most likely outcome – then I'd be content for the club not to make a big signing during the summer, and instead look to bring in additions from more modest areas of the market.

With several experienced players having left the club, would you be looking to add some experience to a fairly youthful squad or would you continue bringing in younger players and develop them?

There were times last season where the balance we needed between youth and experience wasn't there.  Some of the older players brought in weren't able to settle, while others who had served the club well in their time were no longer able to perform at the level we required.

While we need to be seen to give young players a chance – not least to encourage recruitment for our academy – fielding too many in the side has an adverse effect on results and confidence.

If you had a chance for a word in the owners ears, which player(s) would you be advising to sign?

The manager and the team of staff he has working with him should have enough knowledge of what is needed to fill the current gaps within the squad.  There are a number of experienced former international players looking for a new Premier club right now and if it is felt that one or more of them could fit in at City, I'll be happy to welcome them.

One prospect who caught the eye in the lower leagues was Che Adams of Birmingham.   A lifelong Fox, he's a pacy finisher in the mould of Jamie Vardy and would be well-placed to take over the reins as the main striker when the time arises.

Do you think we can realistically break into the top 6 next season? 

It's certainly a viable possibility, with several of the elite clubs currently going through a period of upheaval both on and off the field.  But the competition will be fierce, with Everton, Wolves, West Ham and perhaps Newcastle also likely to be in the mix.

While looking at targets for next season, how important to you is the FA Cup?

Even before last season's nightmare at Newport, our recent record of underachievement in this competition had become an embarrassment.  A succession of managers had made it evident they didn't see the cup as a priority and this often filtered through to the players.

However, if Brendan Rodgers is to leave the legacy that he hopes for at City, this should be his prime target.  With over 50 years since our last appearance in an FA Cup Final, a return appearance is long overdue.

Any other observation you would like to make

I'm glad to see the introduction of VAR for Premier matches next season, but, having seen its operation in UEFA competitions, would like to see it restricted to correcting clear and obvious errors.  Its use in correcting the most marginal offside calls, often to the disadvantage of attacking teams, places too much of a premium on the accuracy of technology. 

I also hope that this will be the season when the club finally.proceeds with plans to expand the stadium.  If we wish to continue as a top-10 Premier club in the medium to long-term, we need to ensure that our fanbase – and hence our revenue streams – is sufficiently competitive to allow this.

Finally, as stated in previous reviews, I feel the club should have nothing to do with the Checkatrade Trophy in any way, shape or form, especially given the recent emergence of alternative competitions for our development squad to take part in.

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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