Archive for January, 2011« Previous Entries Next Entries »
When Leicester City were promoted to the Championship in the summer of 2009, manager Nigel Pearson quickly identified the centre of midfield as a key area to strengthen.
Loan signings Mark Davies and Tom Cleverley had bolstered this position during our successful League One campaign and left-back Bruno Berner had also filled in with aplomb.
But Pearson knew that the permanent signing of a proven Championship midfielder was needed. He signed Richie Wellens.
A former Manchester United trainee, Wellens had been an excellent lower-league player over a number of years for the likes of Oldham Athletic, Blackpool and Doncaster Rovers.
But, as we have seen since his arrival at the Walkers Stadium, he is a very driven individual with tremendous self-belief who feels that he deserves a shot at the big time.
Wellens got closer than ever in his debut season with City, going within a penalty shoot-out of a Championship play-off final, and now he wants to go one better.
The recent comments that Wellens has made about wanting to stay at City, rather than moving to Premier League clubs he has been linked with such as Birmingham City and his former employers, Blackpool, neatly summarise what every fan wants to hear from their most in-form player.
He is not interested in running the risk of playing in the top flight for four months and seeing his old side pass him in the opposite direction if his new club are relegated.
Wellens wants to play in the Premier League for Leicester City.
Money obviously plays its part, but we should not dwell on this.
We have to try to forget about our new financial status to a certain extent. That is for fans of other clubs to talk about.
We just want the best City side possible to take to the pitch every week and hope that our slow start to the season did not do too much damage.
Wellens has been integral to our recent superiority, dominating the midfield area and laying on vital assists for his colleagues. He has thrived in letting Yuki Abe worry about the defensive side of things and Andy King concern himself with providing an attacking threat.
Wellens is not only the link between the two but the fulcrum around which the whole team functions. He can tackle, he can pass and, as demonstrated in the 5-1 win against Doncaster, he can also shoot. We had not seen that before. Thankfully, it is with Leicester City that he will attempt it again in the future.
Richie Wellens believes Sheffield United are in a false position and is backing them to start pulling away from the relegation zone.
Leicester City travel to Bramall Lane tomorrow to face a Blades side that have not won since December 18, a run of seven games.
New manager Micky Adams, the last man to take City into the Premier League, has been given the task of turning around their fortunes, and Wellens believes he has the tools to do the job.
However, he also knows City have a great opportunity to extend their four-game unbeaten run and keep themselves on track to reach the play-offs.
“They are a big club and, if you look at their players, on paper, there is no way they should be down where they are,” said Wellens.
“I am sure they will turn it around. We need to go there and make sure they stay in a crisis.
“I think it is difficult when you have a manager like Kevin Blackwell who has his own style.
“Everyone knows they are a long-ball team. Then he goes and signs Leon Britton, which was strange.
“I think they are in transition where they have gone from long-ball game and now they want to change. I would have imagined Gary Speed would have wanted them to play football so it is difficult when you change the style of play. We found that out this season.
“But Micky Adams is a good manager and, although he has a big job on there, they should get out of trouble.”
City produced a superb performance at Bramall Lane last season but a stunning late Keith Treacy equaliser denied them.
“We should have won there but Treacy hit an absolute screamer, and he was just about to be subbed as well,” said Wellens.
“Just before they could do the substitution, he hit a 30-yarder into the top corner.
“When you lose points to a great strike like that, you hold your hands up.
“But, when you lose two points like we did at Preston to a last-minute equaliser the other week, that is difficult to take because we could have avoided that.”
In a little under four months, Sven-Goran Eriksson has totally transformed Leicester City and given them the wow factor.
Although there might be sympathy for former manager Paulo Sousa, who had only nine Championship games at the helm, City’s remarkable progress since mid-October justifies the dramatic decision to send for Sven.
Football is a results-driven business, but Eriksson has brought both style and substance to the job, building a team that can excite as well as win.
It is what City fans have been dreaming about for years.
Yes, there have been a few stumbles and missed opportunities during Sven’s 18 league games in charge, but the bottom line is that City are improving all the time and are now pushing strongly for a promotion play-off place.
It is an indication of what Sven has already accomplished that the Blue Army – and many other Championship managers – fully expect City to finish in the top six, even though they still have ground to make up.
What has been so impressive is the quality of Sven’s signings since he arrived at the Walkers Stadium – Darius Vassell, Kyle Naughton, Curtis Davies, Greg Cunningham, Sol Bamba, Yakubu and new addition Patrick van Aanholt, the 20-year-old Dutch left-back who has arrived on loan from Chelsea.
Many good judges suggest that City have secured yet another highly-skilled young player with pace to burn.
Pace is a priceless asset in the modern high-tempo game, and will be an essential commodity should City make it to the Premier League.
Clearly, Sven is preparing the ground.
Like the new owners, he is fiercely committed to reaching the top flight at the earliest opportunity.
It still looks a big ask to do it this season but, with 18 games to go, by no means impossible.
Blackpool finished sixth last season with 70 points – and look where they are now.
But City need to be targeting a total in the mid-70s to give themselves a real chance.
That means averaging two points a game for the remainder of the season. They have nine games at Fortress Walkers and nine away from home, including trips to Cardiff, QPR and Nottingham Forest, who are all chasing a top-two place.
It is City’s away record – only three wins in 14 matches – that has put the brake on their progress.
So it is crucial that they start garnering points on their travels. They should have won their last away game a Preston, but threw it away by conceding a sloppy equaliser in the 90th minute.
Sven’s men have another excellent opportunity to pick up three points tomorrow night against struggling Sheffield United at Bramall Lane. The Blades are now managed by former City boss, Micky Adams, who will be keen to come out on top against his old club.
But when City play as they did against Millwall, and Manchester City in the FA Cup replay, they are more than a match for anyone in the Championship.
Sven’s signings have given them the pace, power and skill to reach that top six.
Sven-Goran Eriksson believes loan defender Ben Mee will be a stronger player after his eventful debut last week.
The 21-year-old played his first senior league game when he made his City debut against Millwall.
The England under-21 international conceded a penalty after two minutes and was harshly penalised again in the second half for a second spot-kick.
Mee could again partner Sol Bamba at the heart of the City defence tomorrow at Sheffield United and Eriksson believes Mee has the strength of character learn from his first game.
“It was a bad start for Ben, but you can see he is mentally very strong,” Eriksson said of Mee, who is on loan from Manchester City until the end of the season.
“It was his first game at this level and he played well after that, and didn’t show any signs of being nervous or afraid.
“He competed and he is a good football player and technically he is very good. He will learn from every minute he plays football at this level.
“I think the second penalty was not a penalty. I think the other player runs to him. I don’t think it was a tackle. So that should not affect him.”
Mee certainly has the support of his defensive partner Bamba, who believes he will prove to be a good signing For City.
“Overall I thought he did very well last week,” said Bamba.
“It wasn’t easy because I think it was his first league game. I have been there myself.
“He obviously got off to a bad start, conceding the penalty after a couple of minutes, but after that I thought he had a good game.
“I thought he was unlucky with the second penalty. I think the boy slipped, but the ref thought it was a foul.
“He seems to have a good temperament, and I don’t think what happened last week will bother him.”
Derek Fazackerley has called on Leicester City to start showing the consistency that will help them pull clear of the promotion-chasing pack.
The City assistant manager believes City have momentum after a four-game unbeaten run ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Bramall Lane.
But he has warned they must now step on the accelerator to ensure they fire themselves into the promotion frame with 18 games remaining.
“Now is the time for consistency and for it to bite in,” he said.
“There are lots of clubs in a similar position to us who feel as if they are in a position to take advantage of the games coming up.
“We take one game at a time as most clubs do but, obviously, we feel we have forward momentum to take us into the play-offs at least.”
City have turned around their away form in recent trips and were unlucky not to make it back-to-back away wins when a last-minute equaliser at Preston denied them.
Fazackerley said good away form to complement their unbeaten home run would stand them in good stead in the final months of the season.
He added: “One of the things that we have been looking to do over the past three or four away games is to improve our performances.
“We got an excellent point at Preston albeit we were robbed of two points very late into the game.
“If we are to sustain a challenge to get in the play-offs and promotion, we need to pick up three points away from home on a more regular basis.”
Fazackerley warned against any complacency ahead of tomorrow’s trip to face a Blades side that are embroiled in a relegation dogfight.
United have a new manager in former Foxes boss Micky Adams and, after their experience at Deepdale when Phil Brown took charge of Preston for the first time, Fazackerley knows the impact a new manager can have on a struggling side.
“The game at Sheffield will be a difficult challenge and similar to the situation we had at Preston when Phil Brown was taking charge,” he said:
“It is always a danger when you go into a club where they have recently appointed a new manager.
“Sheffield will be no different and it is a club with aspirations to be higher up the league.
“But, at the moment, they are fighting for their lives and we have to make sure that we are well prepared physically, mentally and tactically.”
Leicester City’s academy side are in FA Youth Cup action tonight at the Walkers Stadium.
Jon Rudkin’s youngsters face Blackburn Rovers in the re-arranged fourth-round tie, which kicks off at 7pm. Tickets are priced at £3 for adults and £1 for under-18s.
They are available from the main ticket office at the Walkers Stadium.
City defender George Taft will be aiming to cap a memorable week, which has seen him called into the England under-19 squad for next month’s friendly with Germany.
England’s youngsters will be taking on their German counterparts at Chesterfield’s B2Net stadium on Tuesday, February 8.
Taft made his debut for England under-18s in November last year when he managed to score in the Three Lions’ 3-0 victory over Poland, and has again been called up by coach Noel Blake, this time to represent the under-19s.« Previous Entries Next Entries »