Sunshine After The Rain

Manchester United 1 Foxes 2

Match Report by Graham Tracey

Just as all confidence and belief seemed to be swirling down the season’s plughole, with a third and probably final golden opportunity set to go begging in our last 3 league games, a commanding second half performance brought a potentially pivotal victory that would have looked unlikely for various reasons until the final whistle blew.

Ridiculously unable to sleep for thinking about football at age of 50, I had read the Danny Simpson interview in The Fox the night before, when he spoke about Wes, Kasper and Jamie locking the door and speaking about we wanted to remember ourselves prior to the Great Escape. I imagine that Brendan’s talk at half time must have been similarly profound.

The backdrop to the match was strange even by this season’s strange. United had been expected to make changes, but not as many as the 10 they made from their last game (including an injured Slabhead). Solskjaer played the “don’t blame me for the schedule” card, ignoring that it was self-inflicted by their fans postponing the Liverpool game (unless he is such a lap dog to his owners that he doesn’t think fans are part of the club).

Either way, I would be livid if I was say a Liverpool or West Ham fan, and how United have avoided a points deduction for various aspects of the last few weeks is wrong to me. Nevertheless, anyone who thinks any visiting team winning at Old Trafford is a foregone conclusion hasn’t got much knowledge or experience of football. However, it is a beautiful irony that the plan for a European Super League, driven by a desire to exclude clubs like us, has inadvertently helped us to qualify for the competition they don’t want us in!

For us, Perez started instead of the obviously unfit for 90 minutes Maddison, and Thomas played on the left flank. I was surprised to see Castagne and Albrighton both playing instead of say Amartey, but the way this allowed us to change from a back 4 to 5 worked pretty well.

Things got off to an amazing start after 10 minutes with a goal befitting pre-match video montages. Tielemans escaped down the right, and although his cross was too high for Vardy, Luke Thomas arrived with an incredible cushioned volley into the top corner. This set the tone for a strong performance throughout by the youngster, who particularly after speaking well after the match I certainly feel is mentally up to playing in the cup final if picked.

Sadly, the lead lasted only 5 minutes as just in the quarter final, Greenwood equalised from nowhere, his weak cross shot prompting Schmeichel to inexplicably try to save it with his legs when he could have comfortably diverted it with an outstretched arm. With rain teeming down (and apparently into the press box), it felt like the sky was falling in on our season, as we played miserably for the rest of the half. United’s combination of inexperienced youngsters grew in confidence, and ageing midfielders were put under no real pressure. When we were not slipping on the wet, we were sloppy on the ball. While United were creating nothing up front, we showed no real cohesion and many players were not in the game (particularly Perez).

However, the second half was a revelation. Ndidi now commanded the centre of the pitch, while Tielemans was hungry for the ball. Albrighton was always available in a position to cross, and Iheanacho dropped deep to link and probe at defenders. De Gea had to block from him at point blank range as we turned the screw. United responded by bringing on some big guns – their 9 substitute bench could maybe have beaten their full starting 11 – but committed a legendary error you read about in Roy of the Rovers when you are about 10 by making these changes at a defensive corner. Albrighton (so much better than Madders or Tielemans at corners) swung it over and Soyuncu rose about Rashford to redeem himself for Friday’s horror show.

There was even a brief period when a conclusive third goal seemed a matter of time. Maddison came on and did enough to suggest he is the better bet to start with than Perez on Saturday. Vardy headed back across goal and Tielemans – like Gazza in Euro 96 – slid in and missed by millimetres. Luckly he was not injured as he collided with the post, and unlike Gazza’s it was not a miss we will still remember in 25 years.

Naturally, we decided to keep what we held with 10 minutes to go, Hamza replacing Vardy. But this was not the tidal wave of United attacks, as I remembered watching back in 1998 as we somehow held on to Tony Cottee’s goal for our last victory there. Indeed, the best United could muster was a couple of corners, and ended the game with only their goal as a shot on target. Credit to our defenders without Jonny to marshal them – Soyuncu was still dangerously careless at times, but Fofana was excellent and an extra reason for him to celebrate completion of Ramadan.

Like many of my age, winning the FA Cup would entirely dwarf Champions League qualification, and so my utter joy at this result is as much to do with momentum and confidence ahead of Saturday as the league table, good as this now looks ahead of Liverpool’s catch up opportunities. I do not envy Brendan his selection headaches, which are at least now from a position of greater strength than weakness before this match. A fit-enough Evans has to play for me – we will not be beating Chelsea 5-4 as we could have done to Newcastle eventually – but this means presumably leaving out Albrighton or Thomas which would be incredibly harsh. Maybe VAR won’t spot if we take the field with 12 men. Come on City!

LEICESTER: Schmeichel 5, Castagne 7, Soyuncu 6, Fofana 7, Thomas 8, Albrighton 7, Tielemans 7, Ndidi 7, Perez 4 (Maddison 6), Vardy 6 (Choudhury 6), Iheanacho 7.

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

Foxes Trust Lobbying For Change

Much media coverage has been given to fans protesting outside grounds, with those from the six English clubs who originally signed up to the European Super League (ESL), demonstrating their strong opposition to their club’s involvement. Whilst the actions of some have led to condemnation (after all, football fans always get blamed for something), it serves to show the depth of feeling and desire for change in the way football is governed.

While the threat of the formation of the ESL has been halted for the immediate future, the net result has provided a focus in political circles for the long promised but not delivered fan led review of the game.

Ian Bason and Steve Moulds from the Foxes Trust board recently met with Liz Kendall MP for Leicester West and her team, to discuss the reforms that need to take place to ensure fans have a real say in the running of their club. Steve had meetings with a group of Labour MPs, headed by Keir Starmer and with executives of the Premier League. Foxes Trust has also been party to information shared by the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) regarding a meeting with the Prime Minister. Steve also attended an open meeting with Football Supporters Europe on its proposed action regarding UEFA.

Having confirmed, along with FSA, that we were supportive of the Terms of Reference for the fan-led review of football governance, the initial outcomes Foxes Trust are seeking are:

  • A commitment to a timetable for that review to be completed, and that timetable should be short, ideally 3-6 months, but it clearly needs to cover all issues relating to all levels of the game.
  • There should be a commitment to legislation to enact relevant recommendations from that report, ideally including a statement to that effect in the Queen’s Speech.
  • That any findings result in the instigation of independent regulation of football clubs.
  • The recommendations of the report should include either Board membership or some other form of enforceable oversight, so that properly-regulated fans’ organisations have a meaningful role in the running of professional football clubs

Liz Kendall gave a commitment to write to Tracey Crouch MP, who is leading the fan-led review into football governance, putting forward our views and also to continue dialogue with us as the review progresses. The Trust also wrote to each MP in Leicester and Leicestershire, receiving positive responses – to date – from Labour and Conservative MPs, namely Alberto Costa , Jon Ashworth , Andrew Bridgen, Neil O’Brien and Jane Hunt. All have agreed to write to Tracey Crouch and the latter has suggested a future meeting with Foxes Trust to discuss this matter.

The indications from FSA are that we can expect an interim report some time in the summer, with a view to a full report in the autumn.

At present, we are fortunate that LCFC has responsible owners. They have clearly demonstrated they understand the importance of the club to the city, its communities, culture and history. Our fans have a good relationship with the owners and the Trust has regular and meaningful dialogue with the club’s executives. However, owners are only temporary custodians and we have seen at other less fortunate clubs, you can be only one bad owner away from extinction. In the coming months, we can expect moves by the owners of some clubs to try and avoid the imposition of government legislation and any change in management structures that would involve fan representation.

In a press statement on 3 May, the Premier League stated it will be looking to make rule and regulation changes, including an owners charter, that prevent the likelihood of an ESL emerging again. Whilst agreeing to work with the FA and the government on these matters, this is only small part of the change required throughout football. As plans for the defunct ESL emerged, Steve Parish, Crystal Palace Chairman, commented on BBC’s Newsnight that the last thing clubs wanted was for legislation to be imposed and fans to be allowed on to club boards – well Mr Parish, we shall see about that!

On the 7 May, UEFA agreed to welcome back the nine clubs that decided to desert the ESL. As the saying goes, ‘Ts & Cs apply’ with the clubs committing to support UEFA competitions and domestic leagues. It also appears that UEFA will impose fines on these clubs ­ albeit fairly minimal, as these will amount to 5 per cent of the revenues received from UEFA competitions this season. However, it is rumoured this could amount to around 15m Euros, that could be shared amongst grassroots football across Europe. So far, of the six English clubs involved all but Spurs are indicating that the costs of withdrawing from the ESL, will be met by the owners and not the clubs.

The UEFA announcement provoked a response the following day from the remaining three clubs supporting the ESL, with Real Madrid President, Florentino Perez, making an extraordinary press statement still claiming the aim of the ESL is to save football and reform UEFA not ruin the game. It remains to be seen if these clubs will be part of the Champions League or Europa League next season or what sanctions UEFA will invoke. What is clear is, the plans for an ESL are not yet completely dead.

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HORROR SHOW AT THE KING POWER

LEICESTER CITY 2 NEWCASTLE UNITED 4

Match Report by Paul Weston

After the disappointing display against Southampton I looked forward to the match against Newcastle with apprehension and anxiety- I expect similar to most City fans. Pundits continued to remind us of last years meltdown at the end of the season. Surely it would not happen again? Four games including a Cup Final awaited in a short period of time which would define our season. Top was there for the first time in a year and it was great to see him at the ground.

However, the match that unfolded was probably City’s worst performance of the season. All players seemed riddled with anxiety. Mistakes were made in all areas and no-one played well. It was a real horror show- embarrassing and humiliating for the players and fans alike.

Rodgers brought in Ricardo for Thomas. Newcastle were virtually safe from relegation but worryingly had Wilson and St Maximin back fit.

Evans pulled up injured after the warm up so Rodgers had to have a quick re-shuffle, bringing in Albrighton and switching Castagne.

City started quite well with early attempts from Tielemans and Maddison. Soyuncu, who had a nightmare match, was within a whisker of giving away a penalty. Fofana, looking equally nervy without the guidance of Evans, gave a foul on the other side of the pitch, St Maximin should have scored early on but Schmeichel made a fantastic save but the omens looked bad- City’s defence was being carved up at will as Newcastle broke through our midfield. Ndidi was having a poor game by his standards and Maddison looked unfit, too slow and had little impact on the game.

It was not long before Soyuncu made a howler, trying to be too clever, which let in Willock who scored well despite Schmeichel’s efforts. 0-1. Just as we thought it could not get worse it did in the 34th minute when Dunnett beat Fofana to a header from a corner with Schmeichel floundering. Could he have come for the cross? 0-2.

Despite creating few chances Iheanacho and Vardy had shots saved but Newcastle led 2-0 at half-time which was well deserved. I felt for Top, travelling all that way to watch such a poor display. Surely City would up their game in the second half?

City started the second half at a better pace with Maddison and Ndidi going close. Rodgers brought on Perez for Ndidi in an attacking move which was high risk and quickly went awry. Ricardo, who is nothing like the player he was at the moment, lost the ball upfield and Wilson scored from a breakaway. 0-3. City responded with a shot from Perez well saved by Dubravka. Ricardo was withdrawn for Thomas. However, soon afterwards Wilson scored from another breakaway after his first shot rebounded off the post. 0-4. At this point I was hiding behind the sofa as our defence disintegrated and a cricket score loomed.

Strangely City players then decided in desperation to win some tackles and upped their game when it was too late. From a good cross from Thomas, helped on by Vardy, Albrighton scored with a screamer from long distance. 1-4.

Then as Newcastle retreated without 3 minutes left on the clock Iheanacho scored with a superb shot. 2-4. Perez should have scored a minute later but superbly saved by Dubravka. 3-4 would have sounded close but make no mistake this was a wretched performance by City.

What conclusions do we come to on the morning after the match? Are our defenders so dependent on Evans as our organiser? If so then Chelsea, Man United and Spurs will steam roller us in the matches to come if Evans is absent. Are the players distracted by the forthcoming Cup Final. If so we will go into the match out of form and will be easily beaten by Chelsea.

Despite Rodgers’ fine words on our “mentality” the looks on the players seemed haunted as if they could not believe what was happening around them with memories of last year’s disappointing end of season still vivid. Are we carrying too many players with injuries? Vardy, Ricardo, and Maddison are nowhere near the performance levels we saw earlier in the season. And yes we are really missing Justin and Barnes which would give us some more options.

I am normally a glass half-full person but as I write I cannot see how we can either win the Cup Final or secure a Champions League spot. It would be a depressing end to what has been a great season in the strangest of circumstances. How I would love to be proved wrong!

Leicester: Schmeichel, Castagne, Fofana, Soyuncu: Ricardo Pereira (Thomas (69), Tielemans, Ndidi (Perez 63), Albrighton; Maddison (Mendy (77): Iheanacho, Vardy. Subs (not used): Ward, Amartey, Under, Choudhury, Praet, Fuchs.

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

Statement from Foxes Trust regarding the FA Cup Final 2021

The FA Cup Final 2021 will be played in front of 22,000 spectators. However, each club will only be allocated 6,250 tickets (12,500 total). The remaining 9,500 tickets will be distributed to residents in the Brent area of London, key workers and a normal distribution to FA affiliates, partners and sponsors. Foxes Trust is thoroughly disappointed at the allocations each club has received for the final.

Just 57% of tickets have been allocated to supporters. Foxes Trust and Chelsea Supporters’ Trust agree that this is unacceptable.

We call on the FA to make transparent exactly how tickets have been allocated, to whom and in what quantities. For some time now, the Football Supporters Association has been concerned about the level of ticket allocations to the competing teams in the final and this year indicates the status quo remains.

We understand that the cup final is part of the government’s Events Research Programme (ERP) and as such, certain Covid-19 precautions and restrictions must be in place, with the safety of those attending being paramount. However, we believe that the ERP presented an ideal opportunity to work with clubs and the FA to amend its usual distribution policy and allow clubs involved to have a larger allocation of tickets.

It is a further disappointment to the fans of our club that more supporters could not attend what is an historic occasion, having reached the final for the first time in 50 years.

There is no criticism implied of Leicester City Football Club, who have dealt with the ticket allocation at short notice and have mitigated some of the travel costs imposed on our supporters.

Only two weeks ago the FA commented: “the game is and always will be, for fans.” It is disappointing that more loyal supporters of Chelsea and Leicester City will not be able to attend its premier event.

CITY GIFT POINT TO 10-MAN SAINTS

SOUTHAMPTON 1 LEICESTER 1

Report by Eddie Blount

City had every reason to feel confident about this fixture given their recent return to form, including a semi-final win over opponents Southampton, a good recent record at St Mary’s (0-9 and all that) plus the news that Danny Ings, regularly a thorn in our side was unfit. So the omens were good though it did not appear so as the Saints had the ball in the net after a mere two minutes! Fortunately Walker-Peters, destined to be Sky’s MOM, was definitely offside though Thomas came close to playing him on.

This somewhat sleepy start from City continued and five minutes later a mistake by Soyuncu led to an excellent chance for Saints’ Tella which he scuffed badly straight at Schmeichel. Little did we know that this was to be as much attacking as the Saints were going to muster for the whole of the remainder of the game

In the 10th minute the course for the remaining 80 minutes was firmly set when Southampton were reduced to 10 men. It came out of nothing and gave rookie referee Rob Jones in only his tenth Premiership match an awkward decision. Saints’ centre-back, Vestergaard, allowed a simple pass to escape his control and tried to atone for his error with a studs up lunge for the ball which connected with it but also the ankle of the predatory Vardy lurking close by. The incident took place just outside the box though Vardy finished up well inside it! It looked a red card and you could take your pick from ‘serious foul play’ to ‘denying a clear goal-scoring opportunity.’ Apparently Jones and VAR determined it was the latter. All this of course was reminiscent of 2019 apart from the absence of the pouring rain on that memorable day.

City under Rodgers have done well when faced by 10 men but this was one which bucked the trend. Southampton were obliged to park the bus with two banks of four and Che Adams given the unenviable task of being a one-man attack as Tella was substituted for a replacement central defender. City persisted with three men at the back which was changed at half time but arguably should have been done earlier. The changes produced a sterile passage of play with constant City attacks faltering on the edge of the Saints penalty area.

Only Vardy had the pace and confidence to take defenders on and crosses were meat and drink to opponents who cleared them with ease. We needed the injured Barnes particularly as Maddison by his own admission was not up to full match fitness after his injury problems. We attacked of necessity down the flanks, there being less traffic on the M1 than was to be found in more central areas, though it was noticeable that Castagne on the right flank was much more effective than Thomas on the left though he did combine well on occasions with Vardy. Thomas has become becalmed as far as his progress is concerned perhaps unsettled by reports that we are looking to sign a left back!

Shots were few and far between and ones on target even rarer! Maddison had several attempts from distance during the match but all lacked conviction and accuracy. It was only after 33 minutes that we managed a shot on target and that was barely worthy of the description ‘feeble.’ It tells you all you need to know that the most noteworthy occurrence was the one minute break to allow Fofana to break his Ramadan fast. He was soon able to tuck into something more than juice and a banana when substituted at halftime for Perez who has apparently scored two hat-tricks against the Saints. The interval was an opportunity for reflection and two thoughts w ere uppermost. The first that we would need to be very patient and not over-commit and the second that we must not go a goal down.

Talk to yourself! In the 58th minute the climb got steeper when Saints managed a rare sortie into our half of the pitch culminating in a free kick near to the corner flag. What followed was quite dreadful with no redeeming features. City clearly decided that there would be cross into the box so Armstrong was allowed to stand on the edge of our box completely unmarked. In a training ground move the ball was played to him causing a degree of panic in the City defence. Fortunately the shot was going wide though not by too much. Less fortunately a City attacker, Iheanacho, was in line with it and raised his arms to block the ball ostensibly away from danger. It was a clear penalty under current regulations and a lifeline to the Saints which was eagerly taken by Ward-Prowse with a low shot past Schmeichel’s right hand. A test of character now ensued.

This was passed with flying colours within ten minutes when a superb cross from the atoning Iheanacho was met by the head of Evans for his second goal of the season.  This led directly to the substitution of Thomas for Albrighton and what followed was City’s best spell of the game with two clear chances and several promising moments. A cross by Albrighton was brilliantly defended to keep Vardy out but the striker should have scored minutes later when he wrong-footed a defender and had his shot from close range blocked by their keeper’s legs. He then made up for this miss by teeing up Ndidi for a clear shot from the edge of the penalty area but Wilf went for sheer power rather than placement and dragged the ball wide. By this time you knew it was not to be our day.

You can debate whether this was another point in our quest for a Champions’ League place (not that bad an away point) or two points needlessly dropped. Saints clearly saw it a s a moral victory and celebrated it as such at the end whilst Maddison when interviewed after the match made no effort to hide his disappointment. Rodgers tried to be more positive as is his way but there’s no hiding from the fact that this match should have been won even though it was as he pointed out our 4th game in 13 days. My guess is the chasing pack will also have challenges and it is still all to play for despite out testing final fixtures

City: Schmeichel . Fofana (Perez 46), Evans, Soyuncu , Castagne, Thielemans, Ndidi, Thomas (Albrighton 67), Maddison, Iheanacho, Vardy

Southampton: McCarthy, Walker-Peters, Bednarek, Vestergaard, Stephens, Tella (Salisu 10), Ward-Prowse, Armstrong, MInamino (Diallo), Redmond, Adams (Lundulu 90)

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