Archive for January 24th, 2011
Derby County boss Nigel Clough says he is still keen on bringing Leicester City striker Martyn Waghorn to Pride Park.
Duo add an extra kick to Leicester City's Premier bid
Leicester City's promotion bandwagon is gathering momentum as they stretched their unbeaten league run to four with an impressive display …
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Millwall manager Kenny Jackett said he was convinced Leicester City will be in the promotion shake-up.
The Lions boss conceded that Sven-Goran Eriksson’s side were too hot to handle as they ended his side’s nine-game unbeaten run in impressive fashion at the Walkers Stadium.
Yakubu, Lloyd Dyer and a double from centre-back Sol Bamba put a dent in Millwall’s own play-off challenge and boosted City’s promotion push.
Jackett expects City to be up near the top of the table come the end of the season, and said: “Leicester are a very good team.
“When you look at Yakubu, Darius Vassell and Dyer, they have a very strong front three and Andy King is having a very good season in midfield.
“Their centre-half has made a difference presence-wise as well. They are a strong outfit and at home they have a fantastic record.
“You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to work out they won’t be far away at the end of the season.”
Even though it was a disappointing result for Jackett’s side, he said he felt his injury-ravaged side pushed City hard, but lamented some poor defending, and striker Steve Morison’s penalty miss in the third minute.
He also said Jens Berthel Askou’s sending-off for a two-footed tackle on Yakubu, just after the visitors pulled the score back to 3-2, finished their challenge.
“We gave a very good Leicester side plenty of problems going forward, scoring a couple and missing a penalty, but you can’t expect to take anything from a game if you concede four goals,” he said.
“We have had to make lots of changes in defence with a lot of people out injured, but you have to take the positives and keep going.”
“The sending-off killed the game. We conceded a goal straight from a free-kick which followed and that made it 4-2.
“Unfortunately, we missed a penalty after two minutes and we said before the first game that the first goal would be key. They ended up getting it.
“There was no way back and from then on it was just a question of damage limitation.”
Striker Yakubu might be getting top billing at Leicester City after he dropped down from the Premier League to spearhead Sven-Goran Eriksson’s side’s promotion push, but he says there is no star status.
The Nigerian international, who has been the subject of several multi-million pound transfers, just wants to be considered one of the squad after his loan move from Everton, and not considered a big-name acquisition.
Yakubu has certainly made an impact with two goals in his first two appearances for City, including a superb solo strike on his home debut against Millwall in the 4-2 victory on Saturday.
But he does not believe he deserves special treatment.
“For me all my life, even when I was at Portsmouth, we had big names like Teddy Sheringham, but it doesn’t matter how big you are as a player, you have to stick together as a team,” he said.
“There’s no big names when you’re all training together.
“You have to work as a team to achieve something.
“If you start thinking you’re a big star, you’re not doing the right thing on the pitch or in training, and then you’re not going to play.
“I’m here to work so hard. That’s me. I don’t think as myself who’s come here straight from the Premier League. Big star? No. We win and lose together.”
He added: “I had no problems at all about coming down a division.
“I have no regrets about coming to Leicester at all, it’s been really good.
“The training is great and this manager is unbelievable to work with. I’m happy about it.”
Yakubu has certainly made an impression with his team-mates and captain Andy King revealed last week that the Yak scored 11 goals in a training game recently.
However, Yakubu is quick to praise his new colleagues and said he feels like he fits in with City’s style of play. Ominously for City’s Championship rivals, he believes there are many more goals to come.
“For me, the training is good and these players understand the way I play, not just in training, they would have seen how I played for Everton,” he said.
“We understand each other now, we’ve been together for a couple of weeks and we’re getting better and better. We suit each other.
“We still have more to come now. As a striker, if you don’t have the service, you will be hungry. The service is there and I think I can score more.”
Sven-Goran Eriksson said his Leicester City players were truly starting to believe they can win promotion to the Premier League this season.
The City manager said his squad were a lot more positive about their chances of mounting a successful promotion campaign this season after their 4-2 victory over Millwall at the Walkers Stadium.
The win moved City into 10th in the table, four points off the play-offs, and stretched their unbeaten league run to four games. They are also unbeaten at home in the league under Eriksson.
Eriksson said City were in a good position, but he warned there were 18 “cup finals” still to play.
“The team is starting to believe now that it is possible, more than three months ago,” said Eriksson. “We are on the right road and heading in the right direction. There are 18 games left and they should be like a final, each one, for us. I still believe that we can at least reach the play-offs.
“We have to take points to move up the table, and I think we can do it. There are never guarantees in football but I think we can do it.
“It would be a dream to take the club into the Premier League this season. Everyone knows that, if you want to stay in the Premier League, it costs a lot of money, but you earn a lot of money as well. We are ready.
“This year, 2011, we have lost only away at Manchester City and we pushed them hard. Preston was a draw but in the other games we were very good.”
Eriksson said he was still looking to bring in a couple of players before the transfer window closes at the end of the month, and added that the club’s owners were willing to back him. But he warned he did not have unlimited funds.
“They know the cost of promotion and they are willing to do that, but I don’t have a blank cheque-book,” he said.
“Taking in these players we have taken in lately costs a lot of money, but they are willing to support me.
“I also asked them if they thought about relaying the pitch after the Manchester City game. After 12 hours, they asked me if I thought it was necessary. I said it would help the way we play football and they just did it. It will cost about £120,000. Now I can publicly say thank you to them. They have done it and that shows what they believe we can do it this year.
“That is the target and they are willing to put in more money for more players as well.”
Isn’t it nice to head down Filbert Way feeling fairly confident that you will be walking back just over two hours later having seen Leicester City pocket all three points? And how distant the Paulo Sousa days now seem.
The visit of Millwall resulted in a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon’s entertainment, in sharp contrast to the miserable performance at The Den before New Year.
Sven-Goran Eriksson was never going to allow a repeat of the lethargic showing in that fixture and City’s energy was vital in ensuring victory.
The usual players stood out. Richie Wellens and Yuki Abe provided the platform for City’s control of the game from the middle of the park, while Sol Bamba was a rock at the back and a menace from set-pieces, and City’s vibrant front three of Yakubu, Lloyd Dyer and Darius Vassell were superb.
But I also enjoyed the performance of Kyle Naughton.
Millwall posed little threat down their left flank and this meant Naughton could get forward at will. He did not just overlap, though, instead choosing to cut inside on several occasions and provide an extra body in midfield.
Various talking points could be made from the game, particularly the two goals scored by Bamba and the two penalties conceded by his new centre-back partner Ben Mee.
For me, though, the big story is the addition of a classy centre-forward to put the finishing touches to City’s attractive possession play. Again we fed the Yak, and again he scored.
Yakubu is not your typical Championship footballer. He does not charge around like a bull in a china shop when the opposition have the ball, he barely seems to move all game.
But we have plenty of tremendous athletes who will run for 90 minutes.
The main thing we have been missing this season is a goal-scorer. Yakubu has two in two games.
What impressed me most about the Yak’s home debut was the way he went deep and linked up with his team-mates. One swivel and diagonal through-ball for the advancing Bruno Berner was a pass of Premier League quality.
He also finishes like a top-flight striker.
Once he settles into his rhythm, Yakubu will be unstoppable.
For a few fleeting moments, it looked as though the fine dining of two cracking FA Cup ties with Manchester City might have left a touch of indigestion in the ranks as Leicester City returned to the bread and butter of Championship action against Millwall on Saturday.
Ben Mee’s lunge on Theo Robinson handed the Londoners an early penalty but, from the second Steve Morison produced a passable impression of Leicester Tigers fly-half Toby Flood, City’s stomachs settled and there was plenty on the menu for the 23,000 crowd.
“Plenty of goals, a missed penalty and a sending-off. Not a bad afternoon,” was how one City fan viewed it at the final whistle – everything made that bit more palatable by the 4-2 scoreline.
“They’re not a bad side, though,” was the response. “It might have been different had he scored with the penalty.”
But he didn’t – so why worry about that? Much better to look forward.
“What we need now is four or five wins to take us into the top six,” another fan suggested. Fair point. City are already knocking on the door of the play-off places and a string of victories would see them in the mix with the other promotion chasers.
Recent performances suggest that would be thoroughly merited. After the initial shock of conceding that spot-kick, City came back strongly, passed well, moved well and looked capable of slicing through their opponents at will, Lloyd Dyer in irrepressible mood.
“He’s roaming about and they can’t close him down,” summed up nicely the problems that Dyer was posing for the Lions.
Yakubu earned the first chorus at the Walkers of “Feed the Yak and he will score” which, on Saturday’s evidence, is going to be heard on a regular basis in praise of a man who has pace, power and a finishing touch – a heady recipe.
Meanwhile, Sol Bamba already has cult-hero status – not bad for a man with all of four City games under his belt!
And, of the regular cast, Richie Wellens stood out at the heart of all things good – it seems hardly a move of note does not go through him and, the more he sees of the ball, the better for Leicester.
He saw plenty on Saturday as City kept possession, making excellent use of their brand new pitch and making Millwall work flat out just to get a sniff of the ball.
Strangely, such passages of play are still not to the liking of some.
“There’s no movement!” yelled one fan as City played the ball backwards, running down the clock with a healthy two-goal advantage against 10 men.
Others were just hungry for more.
“There’s still time for a fifth,” suggested one supporter as the fourth official’s board showed four added minutes.
There probably was and, had it been an urgent requirement, City might easily have found the net again.
“We’re just too good for you!” chanted the Kop as the closing minutes ticked by. In this mood, there will be a few others who will struggle to contain City at what is becoming a fortress.
Leicester City are marching to a vibrant African beat as they pursue their dream of promotion to the Premier League this season.
And, if they do achieve it, the beaming smiles, exuberance and sheer joy of Sol Bamba and Yakubu, are likely to become the iconic images of the campaign.
Ivory Coast international Bamba really has made a stunning start to his City career with three goals in four games.
“I thought I was signing a defender, not a striker,” joked manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, after City’s 4-2 win against Millwall at the Walkers Stadium on Saturday. Bamba, who scored two of the goals, is already on course to become the Blue Army’s biggest idol since Steve Walsh, as well as the bargain buy of the season. The centre-back has been a revelation in his first four games for City, and managers and scouts around the country must be wondering how on earth he slipped under their radar during his years in Scotland.
So, all credit to Sven, who clearly saw enough during his spell in charge of Ivory Coast to convince him that Bamba was good enough to play in the Championship. That is the secret of top-class management – the ability to spot talent and then having the courage of your convictions to sign the player.
The capture of Yakubu, on loan from Everton, is another coup for Eriksson. The Nigeria striker made it two goals in two games with another clinical finish on Saturday and again looked what he is – a class act.
The exciting thought for City fans is that Sven is not finished yet. With eight days left before the transfer window closes, he made it clear he was planning further signings ahead of City’s next game at Sheffield United a week tomorrow.
But it is not just the new players who are making a big impression. Several who were already at the club are now playing better than ever since Sven arrived.
Richie Wellens, Andy King and Lloyd Dyer certainly come into that category.
If the vote for player of the season were taken now, Wellens would surely be the hot favourite.
Given the freedom he craved in midfield, Wellens has probably flourished more than most under Sven and become City’s most influential player. He was outstanding again on Saturday.
The fact that King has already scored 10 goals from midfield speaks for itself, while Dyer is now starting to use his blistering pace to devastating effect. He scored City’s first goal against Millwall in the eighth minute and could have had a hat-trick by half-time.
There were mixed views about the debut performance of Ben Mee, selected ahead of Jack Hobbs, in the centre of the defence. Conceding a penalty inside the first three minutes really was a nightmare start for the youngster.
He showed immense character to bounce back from that. And I think those blaming him for a second penalty in the 69th minute can think again. Replays suggested he made no contact with Chris Hackett and that a penalty should not have been awarded.
Fortunately, it did not change the outcome of a game City thoroughly deserved to win to make it 10 points out of 12 in 2011.