Great to be back

Leicester City 2 v Tottenham Hotspur 4

Report from the King Power Stadium by Ian Bason

After 14 months away, my mindset as I drove to my usual parking spot was to enjoy the day, getting to see the FA Cup trophy in person and not worry about events away from the ground which would be more likely to determine if we played in the Champions League next season.

So a familiar path trod over many seasons, past where a Fox seller would usually be (I subscribed this season as I imagine many usual match purchases did), past the long established not official merchandise seller, doing a fine trade just after 2pm with an FA Cup Winners range and good to see my usual matchday programme seller.

Having had my ticket checked just past the Fan Store, I then did my usual circuit of the ground to chat to my Dad’s brick, annoying still hard to access behind a food outlet, however there was much to catch up on, he had only seen a further 10 years of not reaching the FA Cup final, I doubt he would have expected a further 42 years before making another final, yet alone win it.

After entry into the ground at 2.30pm, I was pleased to settle in my seat which was only 1 row below and 4 seats along from where I have sat since the stadium opened. While some who usually sit close to me would have been at Wembley, I managed to speak to a couple and see 3 more from a distance, however the usual “in depth” discussion of the starting line-up was a noticeable missing element.

A quick glance at the programme, a nice touch that Brendan’s column consisted of a list of every staff member who all contributed to the successful season. Then the players were out for the warm- up, so finally got to see Fofana, Castagne and Thomas in person.

There appeared to be a few tweaks to the warm-up routines, but the most noticeable element was the finishing of Tielemans who netted all bar one shot, unlike the strikers who failed to convert many.

Having watched a new montage of this season’s goals, the more familiar one appeared on our screens, perhaps Birchy’s goal was a slightly longer distance than Youri’s FA Cup winner.

The match had a lively start before settling down with City having the majority of possession, just after a quarter of an hour, Vardy tumbled in the box, ref Taylor waved away the appeals, and play continued for a couple of minutes, but Vardy looked to be so angry that the penalty wasn’t given, that when the ball went out of play and VAR kicked in, I was convinced a penalty would be awarded and so it proved with Vardy convincingly converting it.

No one around me was monitoring the other scores, but with no crowd positive reactions for the rest of the half, I assumed the other results weren’t going our way.

On the pitch, Luke Thomas was impressing me, making me wonder if an additional left back was starting to go down the priorities of the summer shopping list. Fofana had looked good too, until suddenly he was on the floor and couldn’t continue.

The choice of Mendy to replace him was a clear indication that Wes couldn’t last 60 minutes and I was instantly worried about set pieces which we struggled with in the early part of the season when Ndidi played centre half, as we had one less player on the pitch in Mendy who could compete for any high balls, that soon proved to be the case.

It was a strange experience, complete silence when Kane scored, what was his inevitable goal against us to equalise. I do think it was the correct decision for each club to maximise home support attendance for the 2 sets of fixtures, but it clearly demonstrated why the game isn’t the same without 2 sets of fans. This also worked against creating atmosphere as the lack of banter chants between the rival fans meant the only frequently used one was the predictable 3rd in a 2 horse race.

The flatness of the crowd was soon lifted as news of Villa taking the lead spread just before the half time whistle.

At half time we had the first trophy celebration as the LCFC Women’s team walked around the perimeter of the pitch, as they were not allowed to enter the pitch which was a red zone under Covid venue restrictions, displaying the trophy of their title win which means they will play in the top tier WSL next season.

An unchanged team came out for the 2nd half, not unexpected as Brendan rarely makes changes that early and we had already had the one enforced change. Not long into the 2nd half and we were awarded a fairly obvious penalty when Vardy had his arm pulled by Sanchez, and Vardy coolly converted to take us back into the lead. Another noticeable roar in the crowd soon followed, I wasn’t sure whether this meant Villa has scored a second or Palace had equalised, the former proving to be the case.

Probably with both factors in mind, just after the hour Ricardo replaced Maddison to give a more defensive set of wider players. I thought Maddison looked well short of his best and often quite frustrated, certainly Tielemans is the clear boss in the centre and set pieces now.

Once Bale and Moura came on, Spurs got more of a grip of the game, however the equaliser was down to another failure to handle a corner, whether Kasper would have attempted a punch if we hadn’t lacked height in the box only he will know.

As Liverpool were now 2 up, a draw was not good enough even if Chelsea lost, so we had to chase a 3rd with Perez replacing Albrighton, but in pursuing the winner, gaps were appearing at the back and the experience of Kane & Bale exploited it to the full, conceding 2 late goals.

So it became quite a flat end to the season, probably more so knowing that Chelsea had lost and we had missed a golden opportunity of a return to the Champions League.

This meant the FA Cup parade and presentations by Top to Youri as player of the season and goodbyes to Fuchs and the playing career of Wes were more muted. Certainly the image of the season will be from Wembley withTop holding and looking into the FA Cup with clear thoughts of his Dad.

While we will have to wait and see what impact missing out does on summer transfer activity, hopefully European football will mean we retain all the players Brendan wants. It means the financial rewards for another European adventure are significantly less, however if the owners aim is to “win things” we are far more likely to succeed in the Europa League and another year’s exposure to European football can only make us stronger when (and not if) we do return into Europe’s top competition.

Winning the FA Cup was always my dream result, so I need a new one and given previous comments made and then Andrea Agnelli’s lead role in the ESL proposal, playing and knocking out Juventus has become my next target, perhaps they will fall into the Europa League next season, I’m sure we would all give him a “welcome” to the King Power.

Leicester City: Schmeichel; Castagne, Fofana, Soyuncu: Albrighton, Ndidi, Tielemans, Thomas: Maddison, Vardy, Iheanacho. Subs: Ward, Ricardo, Morgan, Amartey, Fuchs, Choudhury, Mendy, Praet, Perez.

Tottenham Hotspurs: Lloris; Doherty, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Reguilon, Hojbjerg, Winks, Alli; Bergwijn, Son, Kane. Subs: Hart, Rodon, Dier, John, Lamela, Bale, Lucas, Scarlett, Vinicius

Referee: Anthony Taylor               Attendance 8,000

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