Reshape of Champions League could spell danger for EPL and EFL

Plans proposed by Europe’s top clubs to restructure the Champions League after 2024 could lead to a Euro ‘super league’ and mark major changes to the shape of English football.

The European Club Association (ECA) meets on 5/6 June to discuss the plans they have formulated, along with UEFA, for the restructuring of European competitions. The proposals would see the Champions League reconfigured to four leagues of eight teams. The Europa League would have a top division of 24 clubs and a second division of 64.

Participation in the Champions League would be based on the performance of the tops clubs in the various national leagues over the previous four seasons. There would then be promotion and relegation to the Europa League of four teams each season.

The main purpose of these changes is to increase the number of Euro matches, securing increased broadcasting revenues. There are also plans to ensure that the elite clubs of Europe are hard to displace from the competition and thus guarantee higher revenue streams – further widening the financial gap that these clubs already benefit from.

Further details on the proposals and information on how this may affect English football – not just the Premier League – can be found on the FSF/SD website at: http://www.fsf.org.uk/blog/view/six-reasons-to-oppose-a-european-super-league

The Bundesliga and Premier League have already voiced opposition to these plans, but a decision on the shape of European football will need to be negotiated within the next 12-14 months.

Leicester City is an associate member of the ECA (along with the current tops six in the EPL, plus Newcastle and Everton) and may therefore have some input to this decision. Therefore, the Foxes Trust have written to the Club asking for information on their position regarding these proposals and stating our opposition to them. A copy of the letter sent can be seen here: 

FT will be monitoring progress of these negotiations and will report on any national campaigns to oppose these plans and any response to the letter sent the Club management.

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End Of Season Review 2018-19 Part Two

Kate Thompson provides her thoughts in the second of our series of end of season review articles

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

I was not very hopeful as I was still ambivalent about Claude Puel.  I wanted him to succeed but his communication skills were very poor, and it says something when even the French speaking players couldn’t understand him (as we have since learnt)!  As every season, I hoped we would have a good go at the FA Cup, but yet again we fell at the first hurdle.

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 ?

Ironically, this was Puel’s finest hour and I thought he was excellent, judging the mood exactly.  Obviously I had never met the former chairman but it became clear how close he had been to the players; Schmeichel and Vardy were in bits, somewhat against their macho images. 

Although I no longer live in Leicester, I came up to see the tributes and was bowled over by the scale of them.  ‘The football family’ is obviously not the cliché I had imagined it to be. 

No member of staff, players or other employees, put a foot wrong and I would particularly single out Susan Whelan who appears to have been a rock.  For the saddest of reasons, the club – directors, staff, players and supporters – became closer.

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

It was a decent result and I am not too unhappy about missing out on the Europa League.  It will be interesting to see how Wolves get on, as Burnley struggled with the extra competition last season and looked certain to be relegated at one stage.

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?

Definitely.  He was my choice and I voted for him on the club website.

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

A bit of a mixed bag.  Pereira had a shocking start to the season (Bournemouth comes to mind) but improved out of all recognition.  I like Maddison but I wish he was less selfish; against Manchester City (A) he ignored Albrighton in acres of space to his right and opted to shoot himself.  If he had been less selfish, the title might have gone to Liverpool.  But football is all about ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’! 

Johnny Evans was a revelation, again after a shaky start, and he seems to have lots of time on the ball.  Of course, Benkovic immediately went on loan and we didn’t see much of Soyuncu; when he did play he didn’t inspire me with much confidence but Rodgers seems to believe in him. 

Ghezzal did OK in patches, scoring a stunning goal in the cup game against Fleetwood Town.  It was good to see Harvey Barnes come back in January and of course Tielemans was another  revelation; if he had come sooner, would Puel have kept his job?

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

For me, Ben Chilwell.  He has made such good progress, demonstrating that these things take time.  From being no 2 to Fuchs, to a full England international in the course of one season is remarkable.

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

Two – Gray and Iheanacho.  Both failed yet again to fulfil their potential and I just hope that Rodgers is able to get the best out of them both.

What was your personal highlight of the season?

The matches against Chelsea (A) and the two home matches against Manchester City and Arsenal.  The latter especially looked very poor and we could have scored more goals, which gives me confidence for the future. 

And I must mention the Cardiff match away, the first game after Vichai’s death.  The kindness of the Cardiff fans, the team coming to the fans at the end and the overall emotion of the occasion will never be forgotten.

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 am much more confident, but I do worry that expectations of him will be too high.  I think we could be a top six team but we will lose games and when this happens, I hope certain fans don’t turn on him.

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

If we can’t get Tielemans permanently – and the vultures are apparently circling – we need another offensive midfielder.  Could Matty James again be the player he was before his injury?  And another striker to take the burden off Vardy.  I don’t see Amartey as a right back, so someone to come in for Pereira if necessary, is required.

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 ?

I like the emphasis on youth.  Until two experienced players from the U-23s went out on loan, they were looking good and Choudhury has shown that it is possible to make the step up.  Having seen most of the U-23 matches online, I think there are a number of promising youngsters who might surprise us.

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

Tielemans – but I don’t think they need me to tell them this!

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

Why not?

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

It is the most important competition for me.  Although I wasn’t around for the 1949 final, I saw the other three (the last one at Wembley) and it is my dearest wish that we could finally win it.

Any other observation you would like to make

Nothing to do with the club, but I hope safe standing is introduced, provided it means that people in seats do not stand for the whole match and block my view.  At 5 foot nothing it is maddening, and I have friends who cannot stand for 90 minutes even if they wanted to.

Several things about the state of football today are irritating but the media storm associating our best players with so-called bigger clubs is particularly irksome.  What right do they have to cherry pick? I know, we do it to other clubs lower down the pecking order, but I wish it would stop.  But I guess I am whistling in the wind!

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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End Of Season Review 2018-19 Part One

Having given our match reporting team a couple of weeks to reflect, today we start our usual series of end of season reviews, which will be published over the next few weeks. To kick off, here are the thoughts of Colin Murrant…

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

The end of season 2017-18, I was beginning to doubt M. Puel’s tactics and his motivational skills, so I was not over optimistic about our chances. Lower half was probably where we would be, I was more optimistic about the cups if we would put our best team out.

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 ?

It was really numbing news that Saturday night, there were no reports of ambulances in attendance, so it was certain nobody got out of the helicopter alive. Khun Vichai meant so much to us all at the Club, the City, and to the world of the underdog he gave hope – the triumph in 2015-16 made everything possible. This was evidenced by being the main news item for several days afterwards and also by the attendance of foreign news crews.

You could not help but get swept up in the tide of emotion. I was at the ground Sunday and the tributes were starting to be laid behind the South Stand, by the end of the week the flowers and shirts laid was beyond belief. The first home match after the tragedy was against Burnley and I was lucky enough to be part of the party that laid wreaths at the shrine alongside fellow LCFC Fans Groups and Burnley Supporters’ Groups. The subsequent tributes at home games from Watford and Manchester City fans was very moving.

The Club in terms of the staff, were probably more devastated than even the fans. I had dealings with Jim Donnelly the SLO and he was deeply moved by the loss of what was his Boss. Other employees of the Club you met were similarly distraught. The way the Club dealt with the disaster was very commendable, I think they got it right, one minute there is life, the next minute it is taken away, it is difficult to continue to work under these circumstances; they were very professional.

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

The loss of Vichai, the demise of Puel, were major impacts on the season, the coming of Brendan Rodgers saved the day in terms of final League position. The results in home matches against Everton, West Ham, Burnley, Southampton, Crystal Palace, Newcastle and Cardiff yielded 2 points. Added to that the disgraceful team selection at Newport and the same in the League Cup against Manchester City, and it could have been, should have been so much better.

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?

I think Ricardo is an exciting player but not the best full back, I would not be surprised if BR puts Ricardo at the right side of a diamond formation next season. I would say James Maddison would have my vote, most chances created in the whole of the Premier League, a genuine talent; his physicality might be he his only weakness. His goals from free kicks was also top of the PL charts.

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

Maddison and Ricardo I have spoken about.

Jonny Evans has surprised me as to how good and solid he has become after an iffy start.

Danny Ward is a competent goalkeeper who played well in the cup matches, although £12m for an understudy goalkeeper was a bit steep.

Rachid Ghezzal took on the mantle of Mahrez, a poisoned chalice if ever there was one, and has not looked remotely like replacing Riyad.

Of the defenders, Soyuncu has looked OKish but prone to occasional lapses in concentration. Benkovic was moved on to Celtic, he looked good in his one cameo appearance against ….lowly Fleetwood.

Youri Tielemans was immense, signed during Puel’s last days at the Club, his impact on the team was substantial, not only in terms of goals and assists, he brought more balance to the side and I think Wilfred Ndidi recaptured his old form playing alongside him.

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

Predictably I go back to Maddison. He has taken the jump from the Championship to the Premier League relatively easily. He started well, then his form dropped but, under Rodgers he seems to have his flair back and his form is more consistent.

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

It would have to be Kelechi Iheanacho. During the 17/18 seasons he played a stunning 20 minutes at WBA scoring once and setting up two goals. He was powerful against Spurs also. There is definitely a player in there, I just hope BR can get it out of him. A person in the know told me he is good in training, I think he has little confidence in front of the crowd. Pre-season could be critical for him.

What was your personal highlight of the season?

I purposely avoided mentioning the Cardiff away game above. The first match after the helicopter crash was amazing. The raw emotion, the T Shirts, the free food from Cardiff City, the Gray winner, the warmth from the Cardiff fans and supporters but, above all else, the team standing in front of the supporters and mutually applauding each other at the end of the game will stay with me forever.

Moving onto next season

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

Immensely positive, simple as that. BR has proven himself in the PL and he has a bunch of bright young talent. The next few years could be a vintage time for City.

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

I think that BR will try his favoured three at the back, diamond formation next season. He tried something similar at Watford in his first match in charge. So I think players to improve will may depend on the formation he plays.

Assuming we sell no one in the transfer window, then a new right back (if he sticks with 4 at the back), Tielemans or someone of his ilk is required in midfield, and another forward.

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 ?

Has to be a balance. Morgan is probably in his last season with the club but we have two expensive purchases in Soyuncu and Benkovic who may well develop alongside Evans and Maguire, particularly if BR goes to his preferred back 3.

I would be more inclined to bring in experienced players in midfield and up front, although Tielemans is not that experienced and played well. I think up top, we have to bring in a tried and tested Premier League forward as we have wasted too much money trying to fill that position with players outside of the League.

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

Tielemans is the obvious one, but probably does not need a word in the owners’ ears.

I would like Rondon who has always impressed me with his work-rate, his ability to hold the ball up and his heading prowess.

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

I have to say yes remembering Manchester United are going to be rebuilding, Chelsea may lose Hazard and have a transfer embargo, Wolves may suffer as Burnley did with the July start in the Europa League.

If we had won 5 of those home matches against teams that finished below us this season, we would have finished 6th.

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

I think it is an achievable target. The fact we played in the final 3 times in the 60s but have not been back in the 50 years since the last one is staggering. I do not get excited by the Cup Final anymore, it was the only time you got to watch your team at Wembley, now virtually all PL and EFL teams have played there. That fact, and other changes made by the FA have zapped the magic for me. Still enjoy going to grounds I have not been to previously such as Newport County, even if the result sickened me.

Any other observation you would like to make

I wrote a tribute to Gordon Banks which was picked up by Central TV who invited me together with a Stoke City fan and a Chesterfield fan to take part in a programme commemorating the live of Gordon. Gordon was my first hero, I remember the pride I felt in August 1966 when he paraded round the Filbert Street pitch with Moore, Hurst and Peters before the WHU game.

I had the pleasure of meeting Gordon on a couple of occasions, he was a modest gentle man.

He was recently voted the second best goalkeeper of all time, Lev Yashin must have been some goalkeeper to be better. Gordon Banks of Leicester and England, R.I.P.

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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Honours even in spring sunshine

Leicester City 0-0 Chelsea

Report by Chris Griffin

Post match opinions differed. Mainstream media saw it as a gentle end of season stroll. Brendan Rodgers, on the other hand, called it “a very good game.” Both sides certainly had chances to score but a point apiece was the right result.

Before the game fans’ attention was on Alan Birchenall and his helpers. For the 39th year Birch was fund raising for charity at the final game of the season  –  this time for Vichai’s foundation. The efforts of Birch and his team drew warm applause around the stadium and in this season of the Chairman’s death served as a fitting reminder of the remarkable community that is Leicester City Football Club. The playing squad joined Birch for one lap and manager Rodgers also took part.

The game started with Jorginho fouling Vardy, the first of three first half fouls that eventually saw him yellow carded. Minutes later Jorginho played in Barkley whose fierce shot was turned aside by Schmeichel. Next Loftus-Cheek headed a Pedro cross over the bar and the early exchanges saw City on the back foot. However City came close in the tenth minute when Albrighton ran past Alonso but Choudhury volleyed the cross over the bar.

City retained possession across their back four but were finding it difficult to play the ball forward due to Chelsea’s high press. After one such occasion the excellent Loftus-Cheek seized on a loose ball and put Willian through but Schmeichel saved the shot smartly.

Around the twenty minute mark City started to look more comfortable. Choudhury lifted the crowd with his aggressive, ball-winning tackling. David Luiz was at full-stretch to cut out an Albrighton cross after good work by Pereira. Then Vardy put in Chilwell whose left foot shot was saved by Caballero.

A superb City move involving Evans, Chilwell and Maddison saw Vardy played through but he was just caught offside. A Maddison corner picked out Tielemans on the edge of the area but Caballero coped assuredly with the shot. At the other end Choudhury’s awareness was welcome when he took the ball from the overlapping Zappacosta in the City penalty area. Willian then played in Higuain who shot wide. Maguire blocked a Higuain shot and then thwarted a Chelsea break after Zappacosta had beaten Chilwell. At the other end Maddison delayed his shot by just a second following excellent play by Pereira and the chance was lost.

Just before half-time Vardy broke past the Chelsea back line. With the crowd expecting him to shoot he chose to play in Tielemans but overhit his pass and Caballero was able to snatch the ball. The best chance of the half was still to come. Willian and Alonso combined and set up Higuain in front of goal but he sent this gilt-edged chance past the post. 

The second half started with Azpilicueta left behind by a Vardy run. The Chelsea man did well to track back and block Vardy’s attempt. Loftus-Cheek’s clearance from the ensuing corner fell to Tielemans but his volley flew just wide of the goal. Chelsea replied with a good move but Alonso’s distance shot presented no danger. Barkley then attempted a shot that went just outside the post.

In the 57th minute another sweeping Leicester move involving Albrighton, Vardy and Tielemans led to a corner from which Ndidi won the header but the Chelsea defence cleared off the line. Maddison then reached the by-line but his excellent pull back was cleared.

In the 66th minute Rodgers replaced Ndidi with Okazaki for his last appearance in a Leicester shirt. The crowd gave a warm ovation to this stalwart of the title year. Chelsea withdrew Willian and put on Hazard – for what might turn out to be his last appearance in the premier league. Barkley then shot from outside the area but the City defence held firm blocking out the danger.

Danny Simpson, another mainstay of City’s title season, came on to a great reception replacing Mark Albrighton with Pereira pushing forward. Chelsea continued to probe with the dribbling of Hazard a constant threat. But City were still in the game. A lung-bursting run from Chilwell saw him cover just short of the length of the pitch to make the Chelsea bye line. Sadly his excellent cut back was met by a mass of Chelsea shirts.

Rodgers put Barnes on for Maddison and the young winger set up a chance for Tielemans but his shot went too high. Both sides maintained their efforts to the end but the game finished goalless.

So City finished ninth. In the ten games since Rodgers took over they have won five, drawn two and lost three. An average of 1.7 points a game which had City averaged that figure over the season would have harvested 64 points. “Ifs” count for nothing of course but fans will look forward to Rodgers ensuring better winning consistency at home to support the drive for an improved position. Many fans remained to show their appreciation of the players in what has been a distinctly draining season following Vichai’s death in October.

Rodgers was clearly taking the positives from the game and from his management of the team so far. "They want to learn. We beat Arsenal, played well against Manchester City and got a point today. People thought we would not get any points from the last three games. It's been a nice induction into the club – the players have been good and the supporters. We'll now add that bit of depth to the squad."

There are some encouraging statistics such as Ndidi making the most tackles in the league (143) and Maddison creating the most chances (100). The talk in the stands after the game and during half time was about recruitment and retention of playing personnel. One lesson from the game came in the danger constantly posed by the high quality wing skills of Willian and Pedro. If we are to seriously challenge for top six then that calibre of player is needed as well as a support striker for JV.

Leicester City: Schmeichel, Pereira, Evans, Maguire, Chilwell, Albrighton, Ndidi, Choudhury, Tielemans, Maddison, Vardy. Subs: Simpson, Morgan, Gray, Iheanacho, Ward, Barnes, Okazaki.

Chelsea: Caballero, Zappacosta, Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Alonso, Barkley, Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek, Pedro, Higuain, Willian. Subs: Arizzabalaga, Hazard, Kovacic, Giroud, Christensen, Emerson, Guehi.

Referee: Anthony Taylor               Attendance: 32140

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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BEATEN BY A BOLT FROM THE BLUE

Man City 1 Leicester City 0

Report by Colin Hall

Leicester City's season on the road during the 2018-19 Premier League season ended in the same fashion in which it began – with a narrow defeat at the hands of a Manchester club.

On this occasion, it was the blue half of the city that inflicted the damage, courtesy of a spectacular strike by home captain Vincent Kompany which may well have ensured that his team, Manchester City, successfully retain their title.

Visiting fans arriving at the Etihad encountered two pleasant surprises. First of all, the weather was dry, in welcome contrast to the incessant downpours that have regularly featured in our previous trips to this venue. Secondly, the club staff were busy handing out free T-shirts bearing the slogan “Together We Are One”.

I've lost count of the number of times our fans have been treated to gifts this season on our travels. Given the challenging circumstances we have faced during the course of this campaign, the club's continued generosity can only be commended.

To little surprise, Brendan Rodgers made no changes from the side that had beaten Arsenal so convincingly in the previous fixture. Meanwhile the hosts were missing the influential midfield duo of Fernandinho and De Bruyne, while their record signing – a certain Riyad Mahrez – was, as so often in recent weeks, left to languish on the bench. Although the former Fox has enhanced his medal collection during the course of the season, he has yet to become the match-winning force that his coach and club hoped he would be.

The game began in a predictably frenzied fashion, with the home side looking to seize the initiative and forcing the Foxes onto the back foot. However, Rodgers had prepared his side well and the visitors displayed considerable fortitude and resilience in resisting the onslaught that came their way.

Indeed, there was only one moment of genuine alarm during the opening half, when a rare lapse of concentration in the Leicester defence allowed Aguero a point-blank header from a Gundogan header. Kasper Schmeichel, though, was somehow able to paw the ball against the underside of the bar and referee Dean ruled, with the aid of technology, that the ball had not crossed the line, much to the relief of both the visiting contingent and those TV viewers eagerly anticipating a setback for the home side.

Despite conceding a string of corners, the Foxes held out until the interval, with Jonny Evans and Harry Maguire looking as solid a partnership as they had been all season. Meanwhile, as home frustrations grew, both Kompany and David Silva earned yellow cards for brutal challenges which may have merited more stringent action.

After the break, the champions continued to pile on the pressure, with Leicester being restricted to rare sporadic breaks. Sterling headed over when he should at least have found the target, before being denied by Hamza Choudhury and Ben Chilwell when looking set to break the deadlock.

Midway through the half, the entire stadium held its breath as Maguire went marauding well into opposition territory He managed to find James Maddison just outside the box, but the midfielder's effort flew just wide of the home goal.

As the tension and intensity rose even further, Aguero was sent clear on goal, only to see Schmeichel's legs divert his goalbound attempt.

The breakthrough was not long delayed, though, as seconds later Kompany burst into the visiting half and unleashed a fierce, swerving, long-range piledriver that gave Schmeichel no chance.

Could the defence or midfield have done more to close him down? Perhaps so, but neither they nor Schmeichel would have expected a central defender to strike a ball with such pace and precision.

During the remaining stages of the game, Rodgers deployed the full range of attacking options from the bench. This could – and perhaps should – have brought due reward with three minutes remaining, when excellent work by Choudhury sent Kelechi Iheanacho through on goal. Sadly, though, the substitute, without a goal since last September, failed to get his bearings right and sent the ball well wide of the target.

Although the former Manchester City frontman has undoubted potential, as his international record indicates, this incident is the latest in a series that suggests that this potential is unlikely to be realised at the King Power Stadium. As with Mahrez, the expectations generated by a hefty price tag have had adverse effect on form and confidence.

Iheanacho's evening went from bad to worse when he was booked in stoppage time following the most theatrical of falls from home sub Jesus. The referee then added further insult by allowing the free-kick to be taken a full 20 yards from its correct position – in stark contrast to his stance previously when he insisted on Leicester free-kicks being taken from the exact blade of grass where the foul had occurred.

The hosts saw out the remaining moments in some comfort and their fans gave a predictably rapturous welcome to the final whistle. Meanwhile, the Foxes, as so often on our trips to the bigger clubs this season, were left to reflect what could have been.

This defeat finally extinguished the faint hopes we had of Europa League qualification, but, in truth, our general standard of performance has not really been high enough to earn that honour. The side is still a work in progress and much will depend on whether Rodgers is able to keep it together during the next transfer window.

At the end of one of the most momentous weeks the Premier League has enjoyed for some time, it remains to be seen whether the Foxes can conclude the season on a high note by seeing off Chelsea in our final fixture.

Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Kompany (c), Laporte, Zinchenko; Gundogan, D. Silva (Stones 90 + 1), Foden (Sane 56); B. Silva, Aguero (Jesus 87), Sterling. Subs not used: Muric, Danilo, Otamendi, Mahrez,

Scorer: Kompany (70)

Booked: Kompany, D. Silva, Jesus. 

Leicester City (4-5-1): Schmeichel (c); Ricardo, Evans, Maguire, Chilwell; Albrighton (Gray 85), Tielemans (Barnes 75), Ndidi, Choudhury, Maddison (Iheanacho 80); Vardy. Subs not used: Ward, Morgan, Fuchs, Mendy.

Booked: Maguire, Iheanacho. 

Referee: Mike Dean           Attendance: 54,506

 

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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